From left, Kennedy Middle School eighth graders Grace Castle, Madison Geib and Ruby Fetko participate in Lake Shore Public Schools’ annual fall cleanup.

From left, Kennedy Middle School eighth graders Grace Castle, Madison Geib and Ruby Fetko participate in Lake Shore Public Schools’ annual fall cleanup.

Photo by Deb Jacques


Students help rake neighbors’ yards in St. Clair Shores

By: Kristyne E. Demske | St. Clair Shores Sentinel | Published November 10, 2020

 Sean Ellison, an eighth grader at Kennedy Middle School, bags leaves on St. Margaret Street.

Sean Ellison, an eighth grader at Kennedy Middle School, bags leaves on St. Margaret Street.

Photo by Deb Jacques

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ST. CLAIR SHORES — The tradition began three years ago with a club at Kennedy Middle School — students taking time out of their day to help those in need of some physical assistance in the community.

The students raked leaves in the yards of neighbors who weren’t able to do it themselves, not asking for anything in return.

In 2019, the initiative expanded and more Lake Shore Public Schools students cleared the leaves from dozens of homes throughout the surrounding neighborhoods.

This year, the district kicked off its now-annual Lake Shore Fall Cleanup in October with members of administration and staff lending a hand. For more than a week, students from all three levels in the district fanned out to spread some fall cheer and give assistance where it was needed.

“We’re a district that’s all about giving back to the community,” said Tasha Candela, virtual learning and media coordinator for Lake Shore Public Schools. “We’re always trying to find different ways to help residents.”

She said residents called asking for help, so the district developed a neighborhood route, busing students from house to house. But they didn’t stop there.

“A lot of times we also see the need of a next door neighbor and we help those, as well,” she said. “We get a lot of late call-ins (and) we try to accommodate them.”

Lake Shore Public Schools has an initiative throughout the district called the Positivity Project, which promotes 24 character strengths. The cleanup is tied into that initiative.

“With these projects, we’re appealing to the whole child, so it’s not just academics,” she said, adding that raking leaves outside is an activity well-suited to social distancing.

When eighth graders were bused to St. Margaret Street Oct. 23, they said they enjoyed the opportunity to help the community.

“Some people can’t get out and rake the leaves, so I thought it’d be nice,” said Brendan Fernhout.

“Some people can’t do it because they’re older and it’s nice,” agreed Sean Ellison.

Kennedy Middle School teachers Mary McGuire and Dave Warehall said it’s a way for the students to thank the community for their support.

“It’s about ‘other people matter,’” said Warehall. “We want to teach them to be good citizens.”

Madison Geib said she enjoys volunteering, which is why she signed up to help.

“I like helping the community,” she said.

Haleigh Fountain agreed.

“It’s a great opportunity to help people and (the) community that I don’t know, to let them know people can be helpful,” Fountain said.

Warehall said whenever a homeowner comes out and notices the good deeds the students are performing, it makes the time spent worthwhile.

“This is an experience the kids will not forget: getting outside, raking with your friends,” he said.

The students really enjoyed the experience, Candela said.

“Kids are laughing and creating a pile of leaves and jumping in it,” Candela said. “They’re excited about being out here. I don’t think they realize the impact they’re having.”

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