Building Community Starts with Schools

Source: | By Randy Vetsch, Executive Director of Athlos Academy

When thinking about culture within a school, the focus is often on students, staff and parents, and does not take into account the larger community.

If our goal as educators is to help shape students into citizens who are active in contributing to society, not finding ways to create a school culture that includes the larger community is a mistake that needs to be addressed.

With this goal in mind, it’s important to start a dialogue about what exactly a school’s responsibility is to the greater community, and how can community partnerships help benefit our students in intrinsic and intentional ways.

Randy Vetsch

Randy Vetsch, Executive Director of Athlos Academy of St. Cloud

At Athlos Academy, we are working to bridge the gap between our school community and the larger community through a number of efforts. It is our goal to model for our students the role of a school in the community and the responsibility of an individual to their community. Finding ways to serve the members of our community is essential to help our students foster character traits like leadership, humility, initiative and integrity.

One effort we have begun to help serve our community is to partner with local organizations serving individuals in need. Recently, we concluded our second annual donation drive benefiting Anna Marie’s Alliance, a women and children’s shelter in the St. Cloud area. We not only encouraged Athlos students, staff and families to participate in the donation drive, but opened our doors to the larger community, offering a space for them to drop off donations.

Students participated in the drive by collecting and sorting items, taking the time to learn about the resources in our community while reflecting on the different life circumstances of individuals in our community and delivering donations to the shelter. As we continue into the school year and the holiday season, we continually search for new community partnerships and ways to serve those in need.

Another effort our school has embraced is intentionally recognizing and celebrating the culture and diversity in our community.

On several occasions throughout the year, we host cultural community celebrations, where we invite our school community and the public into Athlos to celebrate diversity. The events include cultural food offerings, family activities and resources and opportunities for members of our community to come together and discuss ways to constantly improve area relationships and resources.

As we work to bridge the gap between our school and the broader public, we ask that the community joins us in giving back, celebrating diversity and building relationships that will be beneficial to the growth of our students. These relationships are essential in fostering a safe and engaged society.

This is the opinion of Randy Vetsch, executive director of Athlos Academy.