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Team Spotlight Aug 15

Be Healthy, Be Giving Volunteer Spotlight: Dané Wakefield, Justin Roney and Ellen Schrock

As high school seniors look forward to college, most know that community service is a key component to any college application. Admission officers look for well-rounded students who are active in their communities. However, today’s college admission gatekeepers are savvy and are looking for consistency, passion and impact—not simply a weekend of donated time. St. Joseph High School (SJHS) is helping their students rise to the challenge. This year, SJHS seniors Dané Wakefield, Justin Roney and Ellen Schrock joined the Clubs in a coordinated effort to educate our community about health and wellness with a Community Health Fair.

As a graduation requirement in the 21st Century Literature and Writing course, students at SJHS are required to complete at least one community service 
project. After meeting with Club program director Liji Hanny, Dané, Justin and Ellen decided to direct their efforts toward helping plan a Community Health Fair. While they knew it wouldn’t be an effortless project, no one could have predicted the amount of passion and hours the teens would put into making the event come together.

Each day, the Clubs focus on helping members achieve healthier lifestyles. Through the Triple Play initiative, instructors focus on increasing physical activity and self-esteem, making smart food choices and smart healthcare choices, and building stronger relationships with good role models. Through the support of the Michigan Health Endowment Fund, the Great Health Starts Here. campaign serves more than 60,000 kids and their families who are a part of the Clubs in Michigan. Nearly 2,000 of those kids are right here in Benton Harbor. The health fair is an opportunity to support that year-long learning with collaborative partners joining the Clubs to reach out to the entire community.
The teens began planning the event by meeting with the Club’s Leadership Council, a group of twelve young men and women ranging in age from 9-13. The Leadership Council is member-government with elected officers who work together to implement activities that impact education, social recreation, service to Club and community, and health and fitness. The group meets weekly and was joined by at least one of the teen volunteers for each meeting from March through July. 

Their volunteer hours lasted several months after graduation. Some of the other groups in their class chose to do smaller, yet still impactful, projects like making scarves for the women’s shelter or holding fundraisers. However, Dané, Justin and Ellen committed five months to brainstorming, finalizing ideas, reaching out to community partners, organizing logistics and setup, and managing the Community Health Fair held at the Fettig Youth Campus in July. 

“We came into the project wanting to touch a large number of people in the community,” said volunteer Dané Wakefield. Partners from the Benton Harbor Fire Department, Berrien County Health Department, YMCA, Lions Club, and Planned Parenthood shared that vision by setting up booths, displays and activities at the health fair to engage both Club members and the local community. The day was made even more special with a live two-hour remote from local radio personality Mark Durocher and 97.5 Y-Country. 

Visitors had the opportunity to visit various booths where they learned about healthy lifestyles and general safety, as well as the chance to tour the Fettig Youth Campus. 

Staff at the Clubs are always working hard to find fun, new ways to keep our kids healthy. Dané, Justin and Ellen definitely made that job a little easier this summer through their hard work and dedication to the Clubs and our members. As the teens head on to universities across the country with lofty goals and great aspirations, we are confident that they will conquer their dreams with the same tenacity they committed to the kids right here in Benton Harbor. 
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