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  • Writer's pictureJared Cramer

Steering students to success

Below is an article from the January 5, 2016, edition of the Grand Haven Tribune that mentions the ministry of our church.

A group of Central High School students formed a line as they scooped food and delivered the meals for community members gathered for the Loving Spoonfuls Meal Ministry at St. John’s Episcopal Church in Grand Haven.

The recent activity was one of a few community service projects Central students have done through their involvement in The Encounter Project.

The project’s mission statement is: “We are established to effectively address the academics, behavioral and character challenges that exist among disadvantaged youth and families to raise their level of self-worth and promote a higher standard of living.”

When Eric Gray, director of The Encounter Project, moved back to the Grand Haven area in 2012, he said he noticed a disparity between the “haves and have-nots.” As a way to reach out to students and help them lead sustainable lives and address the issues they face, Gray developed The Encounter Project.

Gray said he’s done similar work at Holland High School.

Through the program, students participate in community service projects, and they can take classes such as first aid, cooking and nutrition. An instructor from the Michigan State University Extension office will teach an upcoming anger management course.

By taking the classes and having good attendance, the students can earn elective credits toward graduation, Central Principal Paul Kunde said.

So far, about 30 students have been involved in the program since it slowly got underway last year with activities to build relationships with their peers outside of school.

Off the school campus, The Encounter Project provides counseling and mentoring.

Central senior Sarah Gebben, 17, said she got involved with The Encounter Project as a way to help the community, because it’s not something she normally has the opportunity to do.

“It’s just something nice and simple,” she said.

Senior Lexy Florez, 18, said she got involved in the program to have something to do every day. Being involved in the community service projects has meant learning about what it means to be part of a team, she said.

Junior Kiara Bisacky, 16, said she’s enjoyed getting to know her classmates more through being involved in The Encounter Project. The 16-year-old said she likely wouldn’t spend her time volunteering if it wasn’t for Gray and The Encounter Project.

Kunde said they are thankful to Gray and The Encounter Project for providing opportunities for students who might not otherwise have had them.

“Anytime we get that opportunity, it’s a good one for our kids,” the principal said.

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