Earth Day serves as a reminder that we share our planet with others. Others alive today and in the future, around the world and around the block. It’s a reminder that sometimes we take our relationships for granted, meaning it’s a great reminder not to.
For students at Allegan Alternative High School, Earth Day was an opportunity to spend some time on one of those earthly relationships: their neighborhood.
In the past two years, students have spent a lot of time on their relationship with the city of Allegan. From beautifying parks to assisting organizations, they have not been shy about contributing to their local community. The relationship with their neighborhood – meaning the several dozen residential houses that surround their school building – however, has been a different story.
Having an alternative high school located right next door to residences has come with some challenges. Although most of our students are respectful, responsible neighbors, not all of them understand the boundaries of sidewalks, always remember to find a bin for their garbage, or demonstrate the best lifestyle choices. And although there has been an after-lunch clean-up crew for a while now, many students still felt like they have yet to really give back to a neighborhood that has been kind enough to allow them a home for a second chance. Earth Day, our Community Relations class decided, was an opportunity to begin fixing this.
On Friday, April 21st, students spent the first half of class celebrating Earth Day (April 22nd) by getting their hands dirty. They dug into soil as they planted perennials into small flower pots, carefully choosing which color petals complemented each other best. As they gently placed each flower into the pot and finished tucking the soil in around it, students wrote a message on an AAHS Postcard wishing one of their neighbors a happy Earth Day. They then attached it to the gift they had for their neighbors: the flowers.
The second half of class was a spring walk along Mother Earth as students hand-delivered flower pots to over two dozen homes around their neighborhood. Some were placed on a doorstep with a postcard sticking out from the soil, while others found their home on a porch table with the note underneath. A few neighbors even found themselves lucky enough to receive their gift right from our smiling students, who rushed to give them away proudly.
It is in these positive interactions with our neighbors that we are able to strengthen our relationship with them. Our brick walls make it so difficult for them to see the beautiful things happening inside our building, so it is important for us to actively seek opportunities to let our beauty shine out.
The perennial flowers will grow back every year, returning and adding color to the neighborhood just as many of our students will. We hope they can act as a reminder to our neighbors that every year, through the dark and the dirt, there are always beautiful things in blossom at Allegan Alternative.
Written by Aaron Rogers, Dean of Students