Hello! This is Megan Lendman serving in Grand Rapids as a Service Learning Coordinator with The LEAGUE. My host site is Grand Rapids Montessori School but I have been asked to work with all Grand Rapids Public Schools, Kindergarten through 12th grade. As some of the other LEAGUE members know, I have been having a difficult time identifying which of the 45 schools and hundreds of nonprofits in Grand Rapids to work with and how deeply I can with such a divided effort. With a big heart, I start every day looking closely at the city I am from and do my best to connect the dots as I see. Throughout these past three months, I have met with over 20 organizations to identify what the need is in this community and how can kids of all ages fill that need. Capacity building is the core concept I hope will resonate throughout all my efforts as I work with these organizations and teachers to do this work out of their own interest and efforts, but that is far from easy.
November 10th is the day that I had my very first service learning project. For Veteran’s day at Grand Rapids Montessori, I partnered with the Heart of West Michigan United Way (HWMUW) to facilitate a card making project for veterans and a discussion with a veteran in the classroom. Having a veteran open up with the kids made the whole project more meaningful. HWMUW invited the media to come and document the experience and to advertise for their 2-1-1 informational campaign that can help veteran’s find resources. If you haven’t worked with the media yet, this is my suggestion: be sure you know what the main focus is. There were 4 media teams that showed up which changed the entire atmosphere among the group activity. Only one of the media outlets even MENTIONED the school and the project. If I would have known that was the case, I would have asked them to conduct their interviews outside of the classroom. The kids were definitely disappointed to not find their classroom on any of the news stations and I was disappointed their attention was so divided during the project. Overall, the kids were opened up to Veteran's day in a way they have never been before. I definitely think they will be thinking of it in the future! Check out more pictures from the event at this link: https://goo.gl/photos/ySCQrqMcX3Xp8jko6
Learning my role, identifying the needs of the community, and understanding the educational system are my biggest challenges thus far. Getting closer with my community, seeing different teachers educational styles, being around kids all the time, and planning real events in my community are all activities that are cultivating an inspiration, productivity, and motivation to dive deeper into Grand Rapids. Some big events to look out for in Grand Rapids are as follows: a very large Read ‘n Give campaign, a collaborative environmental stewardship art piece I will create and children will facilitate during the River City Water Festival, a Global Youth Service Day that will involve a beautification project at In the Image with student volunteers from Central Michigan University and GRPS, and an exhibition featuring service-learning projects as my VISTA Year Initiative.
If anyone wants to connect with me, I always love to host people in Grand Rapids or discuss projects via the phone. I am wishing you all the best!
Each blog post was written by one of our VISTAs!