GVSU-authorized charter school volunteers for park project
On a chilly April morning, a school bus filled with teenagers and teachers from Byron Center Charter School pulled into the Lake Macatawa Campground in Holland. The visit was not a recreational excursion, but as a part of the Michigan Cares for Tourism’s volunteer initiative.
Since its foundation in 2012 by hospitality and tourism management professor Patty Janes, Michigan Cares for Tourism unites industry professionals from across the state to build connections and to help refurbish Michigan’s state parks and recreational areas.
But with more than 40 high school students participating in the two-day effort to spruce up Lake Macatawa Campground, Holland State Park, Muskegon Luge Adventure Sports Park and Muskegon State Park, Janes said she saw an opportunity to present the hospitality industry as a possible educational or career path.
“To introduce the industry to young people, especially at a time when our industry is suffering with labor shortages, only made sense,” Janes said. “So why not work together and collaborate?
“The students get to casually meet people who work in the industry, and then maybe this is something that they never even thought about for a career, let alone a summer job.”
The collaboration between the Michigan Cares and the school was perfectly timed. Janes was looking to expand to include a younger demographic when GVSU’s Charter Schools Office contacted her last fall.
“We said, ‘Hey, we've got a ton of high school students who Grand Valley supports and they all need volunteering hours for their degree,” said Michael Cousins, the Charter Schools Office’s assistant director of communications and external affairs. “It’s been a wonderful turnout, that’s for sure.”
One of the GVSU-authorized charter schools, Byron Center, was eager to participate when presented with the opportunity, said guidance counselor Holly Cravino.
“We’re always looking for ways to give back,” Cravino said. “That's a really important part of our culture, our mission and our vision for our kids.
“We have very generous students who have big hearts, and they love to give back. They were really excited to be able to come and work outside for a couple of days, meet people in the different tourism industries as well as the DNR.”
Students spent time on April 18 at Lake Macatawa Campground and Holland State Park, painting office buildings and picnic tables, hauling fallen trees and branches, cleaning up boat access sites and refreshing the campground’s playgrounds. They were back at it on April 19 with a trip to Muskegon Luge Adventure Sports Park and Muskegon State Park.
Like Janes, Cravino said she hopes the students appreciated the inside look at what the hospitality and tourism industry entails.
“There are a lot of opportunities in the industry for them, even at their age,” Cravino said. “I hope they see the value of volunteering and also have some good career exposure.”