By Emily Griffes
Bath-DeWitt Connection staff writer
For more than three years, DeWitt High School teachers Jeff Croley and Jason Lafay have been giving students a creative outlet for their talents. With no real members, titles or budget, the DeWitt Creativity Group is on the forefront of education.
“I wanted to take this really innovative program, that was creativity-based, and organize it in such a way that you get the whole school to develop that type of culture and try to enhance the community as well,” said Lafay.
The focus of the DCG is to promote student creativity and entrepreneurship within businesses in the community. It hopes to prepare students for the creative economy by developing the skills necessary to succeed in the 21st century.
“We create opportunities for students at a local business with what they like to do,” said Lafay. “That’s the way the group runs, you can plug in if you want for how much you want. It’s a win-win for everybody.”
Society is changing, and with it, education needs to adapt to keep up. The DCG hopes to promote a new way of thinking.
“It’s a shift in mindset, really,” said Lafay. “High schools are not going to stay the way they’ve been, nothing historically does. Let’s quit just reading about history, let’s make it!
To get interest from both students and businesses, Croley and Lafay hosted small events around the DeWitt area.
“We started hosting events, things that kids wanted to do but no one would let them,” said Croley. “Everyone walked away feeling really good about themselves and what had happened and what could happen next.”
Under the DCG umbrella are many groups including, the Radio Club, Theater Department, Art Department, Audio/Visual Club, Music Club, Alternative Energy Program, Newspaper, Yearbook, Creative Writing Club and Businesses Professionals of America (BPA).
Being a part of a group, especially for young, high school kids, is a way to get a sense of identity, a way to feel as though there is a place for them in the world.
“We are based on this over-arching theme of just being creative and honoring your creativity and that of others,” said Lafay. “We want that to unify people, to create their sense of self.”
The DCG has higher hopes than just helping out the DeWitt community. They’re looking to schools nearby and around the state to spread the movement.
“We’ve met with the superintendent in Williamston and Okemos is screening ‘Race to Nowhere’ in hopes of starting the conversation there,” said Croley. “Michigan’s teacher of the year at Grand Ledge, Matinga Ragatz, is enthusiastic and has interest from their school board and businesses around them, as well.”
‘Race to Nowhere,’ a documentary by Vicki Abeles, discusses the problems with the education system in the United States, and gives possible solutions from the minds of students, parents, teachers and administrators. The DCG hopes to be part of that solution.
“I want to offer a solution, or a potential solid model of something that has sustained time and the roller coasters of budget and economic woe in Michigan,” said Croley. “And maybe somebody will say, ‘we want a piece of that at our school.’”
With budget cuts affecting all areas of education, including class sizes and course offerings, the DCG is a bright spot in the dismal future.
“We have no formal budget, everything is done with the labor of love,” Lafay said. “Money doesn’t affect us, we have so much more security that anything else education related because financial gain is not a motivating factor.”
The DCG hopes to catch peoples’ interests by putting on more high-publicity events. Recently, Kotton Grammer Chicago internet media company, created a partnership where the students can participate in their marketing campaign.
“These are opportunities that most high school students don’t have access to,” said Croley. “We’re giving them the chance to make a different in the world around them.”
Engaged in a self-proclaimed ‘war of passion,’ Croley and Lafay hope to see their movement gain more acceptance with leaders in education.
“Ultimately what makes things happen in the world is passion,” said Lafay. “We don’t have a lack of passion or enthusiasm.”