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The Ridge Park Community Receives a Gift & Gets Active In Service Projects

Ridge Park Charter Academy staff and scholars have been busy doing and being involved in so many projects recently. Here’s a highlight of a few of them.
Preferred Credit Union Donates $1,000 to Mrs. Albaitis’ Class
Ridge Park is fortunate to have a great partnership with many community businesses and organizations, among them is Preferred Credit Union (PCU) which recently presented Mrs. Albaitis’ second-grade classroom with a $1,000 grant. The class applied for the grant by making a video about what items or tools would make learning easier for them.
 Ms Albaitis class accepts $1000 from Preferred Credit Union

The class used the funds to purchase Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) activities. They bought Magna Tiles, basic LEGOS with a LEGOS Ideas book, Brain Flakes, and Picasso Tiles. “All toys that kids can use to build and create things while using their own imagination instead of a premade kit,” said Albaitis.
“STEM is so important because right now we are teaching students who, in the future, will have jobs that don’t even exist yet,” said Albaitis. “We need to be able to teach kids the skills of discovery, creativity, problem-solving, and curiosity, so they will be able to handle future challenges.”
Preferred Credit Union’s Vice President of Member Experience, Chris Pratt, took time to visit the class, present them with a giant check, see some of the STEM toys, and hear directly from the students who were as grateful as they were excited.
The class has about $500 still to spend and will decide together how to use the money to improve student education. It will be fun to see what they choose.
Sixth-Grade Class Organizes Bottled Water Donation
Ridge Park's sixth-grade class taught by Shequillia Hall participated in a special initiative over Thanksgiving Break. One of the novels that scholars read in sixth grade across the NHA network is called “A Long Walk To Water,” by Linda Sue Park. The novel tells alternating stories of Salva and Nya, two Sudanese children living in different, but difficult times. Among the many tremendous challenges the characters face, one is finding clean water.

Packages of water bottles. 
In November, news reports highlighted a water crisis closer to home. Benton Harbor residents are struggling to get access to clean water because of their lead pipe infrastructure, including their schools. Tragically, students in our own region do not have access to consistently safe water.
Mrs. Hall grew up in Benton Harbor. She and her students hatched a plan to collect cases of bottled water from the school community. These students set up a collection area outside for three weeks as parents dropped off their scholars.
Also, with November’s moral focus value being Gratitude, Ridge Park demonstrated that in a tangible way said Michele Van Duyn, dean of middle school. “We collected 140 cases of water, exceeding our goal of 100 cases, and drove a truck full of water to Benton Harbor during Thanksgiving break.
When the Ridge Park U-Haul truck filled with bottled water arrived at Fair Plain Middle School, the principal was so grateful. “He told us he was down to the last 10 bottled water cases and didn’t know where he was going to get more,” said Van Duyn.

trailer full of water bottles.
“It was such a blessing. All the credit goes to Ms. Hall for organizing this with her family who are great supporters and our wonderful Park Ridge community!”
Mel Trotter Ministries Placemats Service Project
It’s a 20-year tradition says Lisa Walejewski, Achievement Behavioral Specialist, where Ridge Park students decorate placemats for the Mel Trotter Ministries Thanksgiving meal at DeVos Hall. The goal is to provide 1,500 personally decorated placemats to all guests at the dinner.
“It’s a real honor to be asked to make the placemats for the Thanksgiving meal and an opportunity to bring a smile to the guests,” says Walejewski. “This has been a tradition for 20 plus years and we have always made our goal thanks to the hard work and collaborative effort of the entire school community.”
Mel Trotter provides the paper placemats that Ridge Park scholars then decorate in any way that they want. Some write encouraging messages, say happy Thanksgiving, draw pictures of a Thanksgiving feast or of anything that is in keeping with a Thanksgiving theme.
Congratulations to the Ridge Park community for your service and for receiving a grant to help second graders focus on STEM activities!
About Ridge Park Charter Academy
Ridge Park Charter Academy is a tuition-free, public charter school in Grand Rapids, Michigan, serving students in Young 5s 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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