Bear Lake students learn life lesson of helping others

BEAR LAKE — At the Bear Lake Schools there is a family type atmosphere that when someone needs help others will step forward to provide assistance.

Bear Lake students work at preparing signs to be placed up at last week's Relay for Life. A group of students from the school volunteered their time to assist in the event. (Courtesy photo)

Bear Lake students work at preparing signs to be placed up at last week’s Relay for Life. A group of students from the school volunteered their time to assist in the event. (Courtesy photo)

At the recent Manistee County Relay For Life event, the Bear Lake Schools had a school team taking part in raising funds for the event. The entire school got behind the project and it turned into a great life lesson for the students.

Bear Lake Schools Relay for Life team captain/teacher Lavon Jonson said she felt having the students be a part of it was a perfect way to get the message across about the importance of the event. She said the students are no different than anyone else in that they have family members and friends who are touched by cancer.

Members of the new Bear Lake football team, cross country teams, student council and students just in general made a real impact the day of the event by coming down to assist both the Bear Lake Relay team and the event itself.

“Having the students involved is part of what I was hoping to occur, and it was especially rewarding to have so much help this year,” said Jonson. “We, the Bear Lake staff make an effort to include the importance of serving others and working together in all that we do.”

Jonson said the school staff members were extremely proud as the student helped set up the track and nearly 300 luminaries. She said they worked diligently for several hours and their efforts were greatly appreciated by the adults.

“Many adults at the event thanked our students for their help and each time I heard a ‘thank you’ I thought, ‘Yup, those are our kids,'” said Jonson. “Having them give up time on a beautiful summer day of their summer vacation to serve at the event really made me proud.”

Bear Lake principal Sarah Harless agreed that the students went above and beyond in her opinion, but that the lesson they learned from the event was just as important.

“One of the things we say about being ‘a Laker’ means don’t be just a great student and athlete, but be a great citizen and part of your community and county,” said Harless. “Know that there is people out there that need their help.”

Harless said she is proud when kids from their school step forward to help.

“There is not a better feeling in the world when you see that happen,” she said. “It’s pretty heartwarming as these values are being installed in them that they will use as an adult and some day pass on to their own kids.”

The Bear Lake football team in is its first year of existence and coach John Prokes said his players showed good team unity in volunteering to help out.

“I was able to get six kids to go down to help Lavon and the group,” said Prokes. “To me it is important to our football team to give back to the community and do whatever we can to help out. We helped put together their signs and we laid out the bricks for the course that the people walked. We also laid out the luminaries dedicated to those who lost loved ones to cancer and our kids were there for about five hours helping out.”

Prokes said what was more important is he felt all the students were really moved by what they saw.

“The kids got pretty emotional when they saw how many luminaries there were  as it takes you back and really makes you realize how many people lost their lives,” said Prokes. “What was cool about it from my perspective is is it was strictly a volunteer thing and not one student complained about being there and they were moved by it.”

Football team members who participated were Andre Brown, Gabe Hayes, Braden Aulfman, Tate Aultman, Ethan Groll and Jacob Newsome. Prokes said they all went above and beyond. Cross country team members Gary McBride, Kaiden Hejl, Hunter Bentley and Onekama School’s Emilee MacPherson.

“As a matter of fact Jacob Newsome took off from work so he could be there to volunteer and that was a pretty cool thing to do,” said Prokes.

Students Yuki Babinec and Elizabeth Belinsky were singled out by Jonson because of their efforts throughout the school year in assisting with fundraising efforts. The pair were also at the event serving up ice cream to the participants.


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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