On Friday, May 16, 345 students in the fifth through eighth grades at Barre City Elementary & Middle School (BCEMS) spent the day improving the school and giving back to the community as part of their annual “May Day” event.
“May Day is a time when we can get out into the community, help clean up, give back and make it a better place to live for everybody,” says eighth-grader and student co-organizer Chloe Lamphere.
May Day is the signature event of Students on the Move (SOTM), a leadership development and drug and alcohol prevention program unique to BCEMS. Membership is voluntary and, judging from the three-fold increase in student participation since its inception nearly three years ago, its popularity is increasing. Middle School Principal Michele Cote credits the program’s popularity and success to the efforts of Dawn Poitras, the school’s Student Assistance Professional (SAP) who staffs SOTM as part of her alcohol and drug prevention education. According to Cote, SOTM is an integral bridge between the school and the community.
“We’ve worked really hard to create a school community fifth through eighth program that can give back to the community,” she says. “There’s great stuff happening here. Students on the Move and the May Day event empowers the students to think outside themselves.”
For this year’s May Day, fifth and sixth grade students stayed on site to clean up around the school. Seventh and eighth grade students went off site for various projects, including cleaning up the community playground and bike path. Angela Garcelon, an eighth-grade organizer for May Day, led a team of ten students in making thirty cat toys for the Central Vermont Humane Society using scraps from Vermont Flannel Company in East Barre, wool from a BCEMS teacher’s flock of sheep and catnip. SOTM member and seventh-grader Abby Haigh led a team of students to create five “tie blankets,” also made out of flannel, for use by patrons of the Good Samaritan Haven. Another group went off site with BCEMS staffer Tim Cota (a.k.a. “Coach”) to assemble and plant flower boxes at the Turning Point Center in downtown Barre.
The program and event are so successful that student organizers and administrators are planning to bring May Day to the entire K–8 school next year. And, Cote is working with her leadership team to integrate community service learning projects into every middle school student’s learning experience next year.
Lamphere is literally on the move as a graduating eighth-grader. She heads to Spaulding High School next year. During her interview for this article, she hugged her May Day co-organizers, saying she will miss her “tight-knit school family.” Poitras, who spends half of her time also coordinating leadership programming and drug and alcohol prevention education at Spaulding, reminded Lamphere with a smile, “Don’t worry, there’s plenty for you and I to work on together at Spaulding!”