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Students think bigger by doing good

Godfrey-Lee — In their biggest project of the year, every student at East Lee Campus gets involved in helping their community through an annual service project.

East Lee is an alternative educational setting focused on project-based learning and collaboration between staff and students. The community legacy project helps expand students’ perceptions of going to school and the world around them, explained East Lee teacher Kelly Cornell. 

“We believe so much in getting kids involved in their communities,” she said. “Teachers work out the logistics of the legacy project and the end goal is up to the students for how everything works out.” 

Godfrey-Lee Early Childhood Center first-graders raised $550.30 in a penny wars fundraiser and won a field day planned by East Lee students (courtesy)

Staff and students previously partnered with Plaster Creek Stewards to help restore the watershed, and with a local women’s shelter to support survivors of domestic violence. 

This year, East Lee connected with four local agencies — Hand2Hand, Arbor Circle, Family Promise of West Michigan and Bethany Christian Services — to introduce students to service efforts happening in their own neighborhoods. 

Over the first six weeks, students learned about the work their agencies do for the community. In the last six weeks of the project, students selected one of the four agencies to work with and eventually organize a fundraiser.

“We’re trying to build an awareness of service in our students,” Cornell said. “We want to plant seeds and have students think bigger than themselves.”

Lily Fossel, Community Development Manager from Family Promise, presents to a group of East Lee student about their services

‘Everyone Needs Help Sometimes’

East Lee student Mecada Davis said she chose to work with Family Promise because of their connection with Mel Trotter Ministries, where she works after school. 

She and her classmates made informational fliers about each agency to post inside the Godfrey-Lee Early Childhood Center and Godfrey Elementary. They also organized a penny wars fundraiser between the kindergartners, first- and second-graders as a community engagement event. 

In one week, ECC students raised over $1,000 and the funds were split four ways to donate to the community agencies. 

First-graders raised the most, $550.30, and won a field day planned by East Lee students as a reward for their efforts. 

Mecada said she and her classmates planned everything for the field day, from choosing age appropriate games to blowing up all the rubber balls.  

Twenty-five high schoolers may have been outnumbered by 120 first-graders, but she said it was rewarding to see their hard work come to fruition. 

“I like planning things and you don’t always see the outcome, you just hear about it,” Mecada said. “This was way better.” 

Another positive outcome from this year’s legacy project, Cornell said, is that Hand2Hand is partnering with East Lee next school year to provide nutritious food for students over the weekend and extended school breaks.

“Something I’ve learned from the legacy project is that someone always needs help or a donation,” Mecada said. “No one is perfect and everyone needs help or reassurance sometimes.”

East Lee Campus students got into the mindset of community service by packing food at a food bank (courtesy)

Read more from Godfrey-Lee: 
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• Preschoolers get to paint, plant and play in the great outdoors

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Alexis Stark
Alexis Stark
Alexis Stark is a reporter covering Byron Center, Caledonia, Godfrey-Lee, Kenowa Hills and Thornapple Kellogg. She grew up in metro Detroit and her journalism journey brought her west to Grand Rapids via Michigan State University where she covered features and campus news for The State News. She also co-authored three 100-question guides to increase understanding and awareness of various human identities, through the MSU School of Journalism. Following graduation, she worked as a beat reporter for The Ann Arbor News, covering stories on education, community, prison arts and poetry, before finding her calling in education reporting and landing at SNN. Alexis is also the author of a poetry chapbook, “Learning to Sleep in the Middle of the Bed.”

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