Mount Clemens Community Schools is undergoing a transformation, says David Lavender, Assistant Superintendent of Curriculum and Human Resources. “Since summer, we have implemented many opportunities for students to engage in new electives and more after-school extracurricular activities,” Lavender says.
By giving kids lots of reasons to enjoy school, educators at Mount Clemens Community Schools are finding new ways to engage with students — and meeting their needs for strong relationships with peers and adults in their educational community.
“Our kids really are amazing. They are wonderful and so kind,” Lavender says. “Give them an ounce of love and they are on your team forever. They want — and absolutely are deserving of — proper education and opportunities.”
The educational team at Mount Clemens Community Schools is working hard to bring a wide variety of programming to students, especially at the middle and high school levels. By exposing kids to diverse experiences and giving them the chance to try new things, they’re deepening students’ connection with their school and helping them learn what they’re good at.
“Among our new electives this year are weightlifting, holistic wellness, dance, cooking — and these are just at the high school level,” Lavender says, adding that elementary school students are experiencing more PE, STEM, music and media classes.
Unique opportunities to learn and grow
The new holistic wellness elective is taught by a teacher with a background in holistic medicine, says Lavender, describing the class as an applied science, where students can learn how to live a better-balanced life through self-care.
“The students are discovering breathing and mindfulness techniques,” he says. “They’re making their own hand sanitizer because they’re learning that some chemicals are hazardous. It’s different knowledge they are gaining and applying in new ways.”
Lavender says students love the unique aspect of the class and feel empowered to use what they learn to manage stress and live healthier lives.
Plans are also in place to expand athletics at both the middle and high school levels. “Wrestling is something we are adding and we’ve expanded our dance and cheer teams,” Lavender explains. “The team performed at the Pistons game a couple of weeks ago and went viral on TikTok, gaining 18,000 likes in an hour.” The district is also looking to add middle school sports such as flag football, basketball, wrestling and track.
At the middle school level, a new Geek Club gathers students who want to play games and watch movies. An esports team is planned, too. “These are unique and different, but most importantly, they are relevant to kids. We’re proud to implement things other schools have and that reflect what our kids are interested in,” Lavender says.
The Junior Optimist Club is partnering with the Interfaith Center for Racial Justice in Mount Clemens to develop service projects to benefit the community and raise awareness. “This will create opportunities for our students to perform service in our community,” Lavender says.
“All of these extracurricular activities are about building community and connection,” he says. “If a student is connected to a team, club or program, there are academic expectations to maintain eligibility. But the connection also makes them proud and gives them an identity. They link a positive aspect to their school and that opens opportunities for success.”
Other schools don’t have this, but probably wish they did
Mount Clemens Community Schools enjoys the dedication of alumni who want to give back to their former district and the students in the schools they loved attending.
The most impactful contribution comes from a local music producer and songwriter who built a recording studio in a classroom for an after-school music club.
“Students can learn how to make beats and produce music and also learn the business side of things,” Lavender says.
And, because the district is relatively small, students enjoy plenty of individualized attention, whether in class, an elective or after-school club. “It’s personal here. Our numbers are small enough where we can really get to know our kids.”
Research supports Lavender’s claims about the critical importance of adults’ positive influence on kids as they grow. “The younger they are established, the more successful the kids will be,” he says. “The connections and relationships are key to success behaviorally and academically.
Those personal connections between students and adults here at Mount Clemens Community Schools are strong and real.”
Here’s more good news: Mount Clemens Community Schools is just getting started. “Our goal is to attract more students to our district and further expand our academic and extracurricular offerings and build strong relationships,” he says.
“There’s buzz and an excitement about change and it’s rooted in doing what’s best for our kids and believing in them and giving them opportunities to learn and grow,” says Lavender. “It all starts with the why, and the why is our kids.”
Learn more about Mount Clemens Community Schools. Visit mtcps.org.