Footsteps program way for students to give back
Instilling a sense of community within its students is an integral part of the school’s education program. It is accomplished through several course offerings and extra-curricular activities.
Among them is Volunteer Footsteps, a program developed to gave students volunteer within their community and fulfill the school’s physical activity requirements.
“We don’t have as many traditional sports, so we offer this as an option,” said Joe Blondia, director of development. “It’s a great way to keep our students active while getting them involved in the community.”
The alternative course is offered in both spring and fall from 4-5:30 p.m. during the school’s designated sports time. Students participating in the course will leave campus with two “coaches” and volunteer their time with an area organization.
According to Elizabeth Blondia, students have helped remove docks for the Inland Seas Association and participated in various work within the Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore.
“We’ve helped clean and sweep up the buildings in Glen Haven to get ready for the busy season,” said Elizabeth, a teacher at Leelanau and Footsteps coach. “We’ve also gone to the Lakeshore and removed invasive species like garlic mustard.”
The group was also involved in planting dunegrass in Glen Haven and for a family in Leland.
Both Elizabeth and Joe hope the program continues to grow and develop relationships with other organizations interested in working with Volunteer Footsteps.
“There’s potential to work with many different organizations,” Joe said. “When you show up with 12 kids and two adults that are excited to be out helping the community, you can accomplish a lot in an hours time.”
Volunteer Footsteps isn’t the only way students and teachers at the Leelanau School are getting involved. According to Joe, the Fresh water ecology class has been involved with the Glen Lake Association (GLA). As part of their course work, students conduct water quality tests and pass their findings along to the GLA.
The school’s National Honor Society (NHS) also collaborates with NHS members from Glen Lake High School to put on their Habitat for Humanity brunch. According to Joe, the fundraising event, which is held on Mother’s Day, raises over $5,000 annually and proceeds are donated to help fund the construction of a home for a local family.
These programs provide students with a high-quality college prep education. Joe and Elizabeth believe that getting the students to see and understand the bigger picture is key in creating a well rounded individual.
“We try to teach our students that it’s about more than just them,” Elizabeth said. “That’s an important part of what we do at Leelanau. We want our students to be part of something bigger.”
According to Joe, the volunteer programs associated with the school help students connect lessons taught in the classroom to their lives off campus.
“In class we talk about being a creator of knowledge instead of just a consumer of knowledge,” he said. “That theme is an underlying aspect in all of our programs and offerings such as Volunteer Footsteps is an excellent example.”
Volunteer Footsteps begins after the third week in October and goes until Christmas break in December. The program resumes again after the students return from Spring break and extends until the end of the school year. Those interested in working with them are directed to contact Elizabeth Blondia at firstname.lastname@example.org.