Worldwide teamwork

Editor’s note: This is the second of a two-part series on students from Metemeer School in the Netherlands who are visiting CASMAN Academy as part of a community project between the two schools. Today we will look at the two visits to the migrant center in Hart to teach children English, and to the Little Manistee Weir.

CASMAN Students pair up with students from Netherlands on migrant and weir projects

HART — Normally, people wouldn’t think of a commute to the Hart Migrant Head Start Center as being a long one.

However, when you consider the fact that the starting point of that commute was a school located in Stevensbeek, in the Netherlands, it puts that commute in a totally different perspective. That was what transpired when students from the Metemeer School in the Netherlands teamed up with CASMAN Academy to do a community service project with migrant students.

It was a rare opportunity for a multi-national project when high school students from two different cultures worked together to provide assistance to young children from a third culture.

Students from CASMAN Academy and the Netherlands team up on working with students at the Hart Migrant Center helping them with their English.

CASMAN Academy Spanish teacher Julia Ndlebe coordinated the project and she said it went very well for all of the parties. Her CASMAN students and those from Metemeer School forged a quick bond with the young migrant students, much to the delight of migrant program director Diana Garza.

“She was just thrilled that we brought a bus load of 20 some kids down for two days because it really helped their program,” said Ndlebe. “It brought in over $4,000 of in-kind donations in two days. It is a federally funded non-profit program and they need to get 25 percent of their budget from donations or volunteer services. So each hour that the kids spend in the program is worth an in-kind donation. Our kids were down there six and a half hours for two days, and one day we had 22 kids and the other day we had 20 kids and if you multiply that by 13 (hours) and by what they get for donated services, it came out to be about $4,200.”

Ndlebe said the migrant program runs on a very tight budget and every dollar that comes in makes a big difference.

“It really helps their program because they need those matching funds to keep it going from year-to-year,” said Ndlebe. “I used to work as a director at a migrant head start center and I have known Diana for about 14 years. Last summer I volunteered at her center. When (CASMAN teacher) Shelly (Van Voorst) said the students were coming from the Netherlands and she would really like to be able to work in an environment with them with bi-lingual kids, we just started brainstorming, and I said, why not at the migrant Head Start?”

It was a move that proved to be very beneficial all around for the six students from the Netherlands as well as those from Ndlebe’s Spanish class.

“I was really surprised as some of the kids seemed to get so attached to the little children and when we came back to CASMAN and one of the students came up to me and wanted me to write a letter to his Grandpa and tell him about what we did, so it was a wonderful experience,” said Ndlebe.

Ndlebe said the experience also proved to be one that bonded her students and those from the Netherlands.

“I noticed some exchange going on at the center when we were out there and having lunch together,” said Ndlebe. “I did notice they were talking about how many languages that the kids from the Netherlands spoke. They start learning English at a young age and that is their second language. German is their third language and French and Spanish is used as a fourth language.”

The connection that was made between the older and younger kids was great, according to Ndlebe. She said when they heard it resulted in over $4,000 being raised for the center, it added icing on the cake for her students.

“Their faces really lit up when I told them about the $4,000,” said Ndlebe. “They were like ‘you’re kidding, how did we do that?’” I said it was because you volunteered your time and gave to this program.”

While they were there, the older students helped the younger ones organize their library along with doing games and crafts.

“Diana said by bringing the students down it helped the center in so many ways and helping our kids,” said Ndlebe. “I think it went very well.”

The association with the migrant center is continuing as the CASMAN’s Spanish I and II classes are doing board books to assist the small children in the learning process. They will go to the parents of the migrant students as each one has a theme such as animals or colors and they are done in Spanish and English. The families can then use them to practice basic literacy skills with their child.

What the students also did during their stay was to visit the Little Manistee River Weir with CASMAN students from Bridget Dontz’s biology class.

“We were there to get an explanation of what they do with the egg take because that is where we get the eggs for our classroom project of raising salmon,” said Dontz. “ I take a different group out each year so that by the end of their high school career at CASMAN and they all understand the biology behind the Salmon life cycle, as well as why it is important for our economy.”

The students also had the opportunity to see some other unique things during their trip.

“We also took a walk to see the eagle’s nest, said Dontz. “The Netherlands kids do not get to experience something like this and they do not have anything over there like this, as they have very little wildlife in the Netherlands. The lead teacher (Sarah Adeney) asked me to possibly start a program with their school to have our kids discuss and educate their students about the Salmon life cycle, and the curriculum we do for the Salmon in the Classroom.

Schools working together and doing community service to help others is something that is practiced throughout the world. However, it also shows that good things happen when educators from different cultures work together in a cooperative manner.


Posted by Ken Grabowski

Ken is News Advocate’s education reporter. He coordinates coverage for all Manistee County schools and West Shore Community College. He can be reached by phone at (231) 398-3125 or by email at

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