College students lend helping hands

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Central Michigan University seniors Kacie Boggs, left, and Morgan Zalewski share a laugh Monday while staining a picnic table at Baskerville Elementary School. Boggs and Zalewski are participating in the Alternative Breaks service learning program.


Staff Writer

Tuesday, March 7, 2017

A dozen students from Central Michigan University are using their spring break to do good in the Twin Counties.

The group of 12 young women met Monday with staff members at the Down East Partnership for Children to learn more about the work of the partnership and to get their work assignments for the week. The students will be working primarily at sprucing up outdoor learning environments in the Twin Counties and will be serving at G.W.Carver Elementary School, G.W. Bulluck Elementary School, Williford Elementary School and Coker-Wimberly Elementary School during the coming week.

On Monday, the students worked at Baskerville Elementary School under the direction of Tom Moss, the the landscape architect who has helped design the outdoor learning environments.

Henrietta Zalkind, executive director of the Down East Partnership for Children, said she is thrilled to have the students volunteer to help out during their spring break.

“These outdoor learning environments take a lot of maintenance — especially in the spring, so it is a real help to have these girls volunteer their time,” Zalkind said. “It takes a lot of hands to do this work and we are happy their hands are part of the process.”

Zalkind said she also is pleased that the students from Central Michigan choose the partnership as a focus for their efforts.

“People are hearing about what we are doing here all across the country,” Zalkind said.

Debra Lanham, research and development director at the partnership, said this is the first time a group of students has chosen to work with the partnership as part of an alternative break program but she hopes the effort will inspire other groups to come in the future.

Katie Crane, a junior psychology major at Central Michigan University, said the students did not know where they would be going when they signed up for the alternative break. 

“We set a specific date and students sign up for the issue they would like to work with on their break. All of these girls signed up because they wanted to work with the issue of children’s health and wellness. The chairperson of the alternative breaks program looked for an organization that would be a good fit for us and chose the Down East Partnership for Children because it looked as if it would provide good enrichment opportunities for us,” Crane said.

Crane said she is impressed with the work the partnership is doing.

“Poverty is a huge issue everywhere,” Crane said. “This organization looks as if it is doing a great job of providing access to services to those who may not otherwise have it.”

Courtney Carr, a Central Michigan University senior majoring in community development, said she sees the organization as a model for other parts of the country.

“I wish we had something like this where I am from,” she said. 

Carr also said she was struck by the way that volunteers contribute to the efforts in the community.

“I was impressed with how much this organization relies on volunteers and community partners,” Carr said. “Seeing the impact volunteers have on this work inspires me to want to continue to volunteer.”

Mae Parker, a retired woman who volunteers at the partnership and other area organizations, was one of several volunteers who spoke to the students Monday about the work of the partnership and the joys of volunteerism. 

“I always love talking to young people,” Parker said. “I always tell them to ask themselves the question, ‘Am I necessary?’ That always helps people put what they do in perspective. Young people are all so smart and have so much potential. They just need someone to open the door for them so they can do good things.”