Myers-Wilkins Community School Collaborative
The Myers-Wilkins Community School Collaborative is located inside the school of its namesake. Myers-Wilkins Elementary was recently known as Grant Elementary and received its new designation when the school was renovated in 2011. The name Wilkins-Myers comes from two notable Duluthians:
*Ruth Myers was a longtime Duluth School Board member—the first Native American elected official in Duluth- who was also co-director of the University of Minnesota Medical School Duluth Campus Center of American Indian and Minority Health.
*Marge Wilkins was once president of the Duluth NAACP and was the first African American female graduate of St. Mary’s School of Nursing.
Both women serve as excellent examples of what can be achieved when a student believes in their full potential. Myers-Wilkins CSC aims to do just that. Their goal is “to provide opportunities for youth and families to learn and grow in a safe and welcoming environment. Our programs enhance academic, social, and creative skill which will empower our community through finding strength in our diversity.”
Myers-Wilkins Elementary was the first of three Duluth schools to become an adopter of the Duluth Community School Collaborative model. The free after-school programs and summer programs they provide are designed to lessen the impact of poverty on youth and keep them engaged in academics. Learning and their community. The Myers-Wilkins school has about 400-450 students, 80% of which are considered low/moderate income. The program addresses more than just academics but views the students holistically. Myers-Wilkins CSC does this through creative and innovative programs that strengthen the relationships between home, school and the community, keep kids engaged, foster positive experiences and allow them to reach their potential. This may involve providing food, addressing health issues and giving them the skills to deal with the stresses in their lives.
Among the programs they offer are summer enrichment programs that include Theater Camp, Girl Power!, Imagination Station, and COMPASS Summer camp, which teaches science and the arts. After-school programs emphasize things like art, creative writing, soccer, basketball skills, cooking, outdoor adventures, Spanish, Girl Scouts, and robotics.
They also have family events throughout the year that include everything from community meals to wellness, to science and cultural exhibitions. One event is a huge annual Powwow that features a career and higher education fair, feast and Native American singers, dancers, and families from the local community and surrounding areas. Each Powwow participant is thanked and honored with a “migwetch” bag containing useful items. Part of the personal care products that Myers-Wilkins CSC receives from their hotel partner, Econo Lodge, go into these bags.
Britt Johnson, the Youth Development Programs Coordinator, emphasized how important local partnerships are to the success of their organization. There is a lengthy list of partners that include schools, youth organizations, and non-profits. It’s this collaboration that strengthens the reach and opportunities for Myers-Wilkins CSC participants. For instance, the YMCA provides their own youth summer camps. For many kids the camp fee would put a camp experience out of their reach, let alone the money it would take to purchase the supplies required for that experience. Myers-Wilkins CSC assists students with paperwork for financial assistance and registration. Then, once a child is accepted to the camp, Myers-Wilkins CSC provides them with all the supplies they need to take with them, from a sleeping bag, sheet and pillow to toiletries. This is another place where items they receive through the Heart of Hospitality Program come in handy. Without Econo-Lodge as a reliable and continuous source, items like toiletries or sheets might have to be purchased with valuable organization funds or gotten through other sources. It’s always better to not have to worry about where or who your sources are. That way a family can send their child to camp without stressing about the cost. And the youth can spend the time learning fishing and archery, expanding their horizons, cultivating self-confidence, and obtaining an appreciation for lifelong learning.
Myers-Wilkins CSC has many more programs for both youth and families listed on their website. After all, they have a lot of goals to reach. “We strengthen academic skills, value diversity, teach youth how to get along well with others, set and attain goals, work as a team, develop extra-curricular interests, and increase their sense of belonging. All of which increase the likelihood that they will stay in school.” The Heart of Hospitality Program and Econo Lodge are proud to be a partner.
When Debbie Bachinski, the General Manager of the Econo Lodge, first learned about the Heart of Hospitality Program, it was an easy decision to jump onboard. On their website, they state that “This Duluth hotel cares about the environment and has taken active steps to support green hotel practices.” Debbie clearly feels it’s the responsible thing to do as a hotel. When she spoke to her staff about implementing the amenity donation program they needed no convincing. Her staff was happy to hear that they would be helping out their community. They developed a simple system to collect and sort the gently used amenities to be delivered to the Myers-Wilkins Community School Collaborative. With 87 rooms they can collect a good-sized file-box in about a month.
Like other hotels, they routinely update their bedding as required by their parent company (Choice Hotels). Whereas they used to toss the old bedding into the dumpster, they were able to pass on some of it to their partner for their latest transition. In the past, Debbie out of her way to donate used bedding to the Harbor House in Superior, where she grew up and where her heart still lies. Now, with their reliable partnership with Myers-Wilkins CSC, through the HOHP, they have a dedicated source for their donations. Just in case they have more items than can be utilized by their partner, the HOHP has resources to make it easy for Econo Lodge to find them a home.
Econo Lodge’s green practices won’t stop there. They recently phased out styrofoam cups and have a goal to eliminate straws from their food service facility. They are, clearly, always thinking!