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Liaison Position a Natural Progression for Longtime Volunteer, Community Organizer

Sheila Wiitala has volunteered, worked part-time, and helped start programs for students at Holly Park Academy. For someone so familiar with the many entry points of the school community, it was only natural for her to be the person fostering engagement as the student and family liaison.
“It was nice to be able to extend that because I already know a lot of their backgrounds and what's going on with their family,” she said. “It’s nice to be able to say, ‘Hey, here's a resource’ or ‘How can I help get through this as a family,’ so this role fits me perfectly for what I like to do.”

Wiitala with students
As a parent, volunteer, or employee, Sheila Wiitala has been involved with Holly Park Academy since 2009 when it opened.

Wiitala has been at Holly Park, formerly Lansing Charter Academy, in some capacity since it opened in 2009. She helped start the parent program and Girl Scout program, has been a substitute teacher and library technology specialist and became the student and family liaison this year.
Her role might change from year to year, but she is always there to help.
“For some reason I can’t leave,” she said. “I think it’s because I’m so attached to the kids. Many of them, I’ve watched them go to kindergarten all the way up. Some of them that are in this building right now, I saw when they were teeny tiny babies in a baby carrier coming to drop off older siblings. For me, it’s the community that we’ve created here, and it just keeps me here.”
Wiitala’s son was in the school’s first kindergarten class. It was then that she started to volunteer and got to know the school community better through Registrar Angie Bass, who is still there today as a friendly first point of contact for those who come to Holly Park.
“She was just so welcoming and made you feel like you wanted to be here,” she said. “It was exciting coming to a school that was just starting.”

Wiitala with students
Sheila Wiitala has helped start programs for parents and students in her time at Holly Park Academy.

Wiitala is proud of Holly Park for having an active group of Girl Scouts, having been one herself since she was 7 years old. She enjoys taking them to places they might not go to otherwise during family activities, such as Mackinac Island and the Binder Park Zoo for an overnight sleepover in Africa.
As student and family liaison, Wiitala has organized opportunities for families to exercise together at the roller rink and ice skating rink, along with activities such as a Halloween Trunk or Treat. And while she isn’t teaching, she is helping Holly Park, which has outperformed the local district since 2011-12, in other areas.
“The kids weren’t happy with me that I wasn’t teaching anymore,” she said. “They wanted me to come back and be their teacher, but I explained it to the kids I’ve had so many years just loving the children that now I get to love on the whole family and make sure everything is good as much as we can here at this school and support the families.”
Keep up the excellent work, Mrs. Wiitala!

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About Holly Park Academy
Holly Park Academy is a tuition-free, public charter school in Lansing, Michigan, serving students in kindergarten through eighth grade. It is part of the National Heritage Academies network, which includes more than 100 tuition-free, public charter schools serving more than 65,000 students in kindergarten through 12th grade across nine states. For more information, visit

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