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Students in St. Clair Shores to give back as part of Positivity Project

By: Kristyne E. Demske | St. Clair Shores Sentinel | Published November 4, 2019

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ST. CLAIR SHORES — As the leaves pile up this fall, yardwork can seem insurmountable, but hundreds of local middle school students are ready to help those who need it.

Kennedy Middle School Principal Chad Johnson said that he first instituted community service requirements for graduation when he was the principal at North Lake High School, but he felt that middle school students could also benefit from service learning.

“It’s just us trying to show the students that there’s more to what we say here at school — there’s actions that we need to put forth — as well,” he said.

That’s why four buses full of more than 200 eighth graders will fan out across St. Clair Shores Nov. 22 for Give Back Day.

“Our goal is to reach out to the community, obviously, senior citizens who have a hard time getting their yards done,” Johnson said, calling it an opportunity for students “to do some community service and give back to our senior citizens.”

Senior citizens and others in need of assistance can call the school at (586) 285-8800 to schedule an appointment so the school can map out a route.

The day is part of an initiative across Lake Shore Public Schools called the Positivity Project.

Superintendent Joe DiPonio said that the district is trying to establish a culture that’s supportive of social-emotional learning of students as part of its strategic plan. The Positivity Project encompasses 24 different character traits, focusing on three traits each month of the school year.

“They’re different things like gratitude, self-control, humility, kindness, teamwork,” he said. “We try and highlight that characteristic throughout the district.”

Johnson said that they are working hard to emphasize character strengths like humility, kindness, leadership and love at Kennedy Middle School, and he said that it seems like a “big cultural shift” is happening in his school and throughout the district.

“It’s something we’re really proud of doing, and it’s working out really well here,” he said.

DiPonio said that there is more to education than just academics.

“We believe, in addition to developing students academically and skill-wise, that we want to develop the whole child and give kids the opportunity to be their best self,” he said.

The project has exceeded his expectations, however.

“Anytime you do something like this, you weigh the impact and effectiveness of time that’s being spent devoted to things that aren’t content specific,” DiPonio said. “Our teachers are behind it. Our students are behind it. Our families are behind it. It’s been nice to see this commitment to this.”