Mantua – Principal Arden Sommers is pretty proud of “his kids” at Crestwood High School. At a recent visit to the school, Sommers proudly shared their stories, as he discussed a program called the Junior/Senior Seminar. The class, which is an elective, and therefore, not a requirement for graduation, is always one of the most popular, even though it is what Sommers calls a “service learning” program. Students are allowed to use their own creativity to design something they feel is lacking, or something that would be beneficial to the local community. They are then encouraged to figure out how to make their vision a reality.
Crestwood Senior Monica Groves took that challenge when she developed a project she called, “Light Up Mantua”. Groves explained her idea recently; “It’s not really a ‘cause’ per se, but a way to help lift spirits during the hectic holiday season.” Groves raised funds to help make Mantua’s downtown area more festive during the Christmas holiday season. She raised money by selling puppy chow snack mix, as well as seasonal treats including elf kisses (chocolate candies), snowman poop (mini marshmallows) and Grinch food (red and green chocolate candies) to classmates, friends and neighbors. She also solicited donations for local businesses that would benefit by displaying the holiday lights and décor. In addition, Groves helped to display the decorations throughout the Village on the first Sunday in December.
Along the way, Groves learned a lot. She also made some new friends, including Mantua Mayor Linda Clark, which Groves thought was pretty cool. According to Sommers, “This class gives students the latitude to go out and discover what the community is lacking. Students are encouraged to go out and talk with outside organizations and businesses. They form partnerships within the community, which, in turn, builds relationships with our school.”
Past projects have focused on helping senior citizens, as well as collecting donations for local charities including the Portage Animal Protective League and the 4Cs Community food cupboard. Although the class lasts just one semester, many students choose to extend their projects through the year. And some projects create enough interest to continue longer.
For example, an open mic night was recently hosted at Jake’s restaurant in Mantua. This program — providing a safe, local venue for students and adults to share music and poetry — is a program originally initiated through a Junior/Senior Seminar project last year. Due to the success of the program, it has continued, even after the student who initiated it has graduated.
Who knows? Perhaps next year, while Groves is a student at Kent State, another Crestwood student will take up the challenge and help “Light Up Mantua,” next year.