Students build bridges in summer program

By: Maria Allard | Warren Weekly | Published August 7, 2023

 Matthew Bolf displays the Zen garden he created in the Building Bridges camp.

Matthew Bolf displays the Zen garden he created in the Building Bridges camp.

Photo by Patricia O’Blenes

 Building Bridges student Breyah Reed created a glitter flower when making her melted crayon project.

Building Bridges student Breyah Reed created a glitter flower when making her melted crayon project.

Photo by Patricia O’Blenes


WARREN — Fifteen-year-old Alex Deherder is a true optimist.

His motto is, “Be hopeful. There is always hope even in bad spots or places. Even if you can’t see it, you can believe it.”

So when it came time to add a personal quote to the Zen garden he made in the Building Bridges summer school program, he chose, “I am hopeful.” The L’Anse Creuse High School student was among 40 ninth through 12th grade students with special needs who participated in the program held at Warren Woods Tower High School.

The three-week program ran July 10-27, and was coordinated through the Macomb Intermediate School District. Sessions were held from 8:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. Mondays through Thursdays. The students came from various Macomb County schools, attending class under the guidance of teachers, social workers and speech pathologists.

“It was fun. I made friends quite fast,” Deherder said. “I drew a lot. I sang karaoke. There’s just so many feelings when I sing.”

The Building Bridges summer camp was held in partnership with the Make it Work program. Make It Work collaborates with Michigan Rehabilitation services, Michigan Works, and Warren Woods Public Schools to provide opportunities to students.

For the last six years, Make It Work has partnered with Building Bridges.

“This is to teach them social skills, interpersonal skills and to develop friendships over time,” said Michele Morgan, occupational therapist/transition coordinator at Warren Woods Tower and Enterprise High School.

During the summer session, the campers got in touch with their creative sides by making two pieces of art: personalized Zen gardens and melted crayon art. The students used a variety of machines and materials available in the school’s occupational lab.

For the Zen gardens, they were able to engrave positive self-statements onto mini wooden boardwalks. They also incorporated 3D-printed garden rakes and LED campfire tea lights. Taking it one step further, the students colored the sand.

Another component of the program was attending field trips. The campers let the good times roll at the Great Skate in Roseville, enjoyed “Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny” at a local movie theater, bonded playing whirlyball and participated in a scavenger hunt with therapy dogs at The Mall at Partridge Creek in Clinton Township.

“We also did a tour of Macomb Community College,” said Morgan, which got positive feedback. “They really liked the tour.”

On July 26, the students’ families were invited to a showcase to view the students’ artwork. They also stopped by the cafeteria to munch on appetizers and desserts made by the students with assistance from Warren Woods Tower culinary arts teacher Suzanne Smith.

Warren Woods Tower student Liliana Kostadinovski, 17, brought her younger sister Violet Kostadinovski, 11, and mom Coco Kostadinovski to the showcase July 26.

“I think it’s awesome,” Coco Kostadinovski said. “It definitely empowers her, and it lets the students know there’s really no limit to what they can do.”

For Liliana Kostadinovski, the camp was a chance to reconnect with old friends and meet new people.

“I learned and had fun,” she said.

Call Staff Writer Maria Allard at (586) 498-1045.