Lansing School District Student Development Program looking to ride momentum of successful summer

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The Lansing School District Student Development Program looks to aid high school students with getting active in the classroom and on the court after school hours. It has been a real kickstart for athletes and non-athletes alike.

The program has been successful after being offered in the summer for the first time in its history this past June. As of September of 2023, the Lansing School District has averaged 70 students per day participating in different athletic activities and the opportunity to receive tutoring help, which is what Lansing Public School District Director of Health Susan Wheeler is particularly pleased about.

“We have added MSU student volunteers for our tutoring sessions and have had our biggest turnouts for tutoring over the last week,” says Wheeler.

With numbers continuing to climb for the student development program, the Lansing Public School District wants to continue to aid students in developing all aspects of their lives. 

“The student development program is doing two things”, said Wheeler. “We’re helping with the athletic teams and the athletic department that already exists so we can improve skills, improve training, so when they are ready to join the team, they will be coming from a much stronger, better place. The other part we do with the program is inviting students who would not identify themselves as an athlete, but they are interested in health and wellness and getting faster, stronger, and then maybe joining up to one of the school teams. “

The student development program focuses much more on just the development of athletics and health among students. The emphasis in the classroom stands out and Lyman Briggs College and Michigan State University graduate Jonas Padilla has really enjoyed seeing the program blossom from the very beginning. 

“Right from the start, it’s been clear this is a really amazing project. This is something that I wish I had in high school,” said Padilla, who also started a student organization called “Equiduct” and works to connect college volunteers to places they can serve best in an educational setting. 

“There’s a stigma around tutoring, that a lot of kids will initially think, ‘Oh, I don’t want to get academic help. Because if I seek out help, then it implies that I’m not doing well or I’m not smart.’ But what we’ve seen recently is that as these numbers increase, students aren’t viewing tutoring like that. Students view tutoring as a resource that can help them accomplish their goals.”

Founder and director of the Lansing Student Development Program says that the relationships he and his staff have built with the students have been the most rewarding part of the student development program.

“It’s extremely rewarding to see people go through periods of growth, to see, you know, students and trainers both put themselves in positions where, you know, they may not be comfortable with a skill,” said Horford. 

The Lansing Student Development Program was the recipient of the Beyond the Classroom award – a monetary award given by the Michigan After School Partnership and the Michigan Association of United Ways recognizing outstanding after-school programs. Horford has short- and long-term plans for the Student Development Program. 

“In the immediate future, the goal is always to increase participation, “said Horford. “Then long term, the plan would be to either build a new facility or two, I love the historical integrity of the current building. So, if we could expand this to add more courts to add a turf area, you know.”

Trying to build a routine, develop abilities on and off the court, and grow relationships with each other is the essence of the Student Development Program. As late fall approaches, students will be spending more time inside. The Student Development Program in the Lansing Public School District will continue to offer opportunities for students to hone their skills.

“My concern is just to develop individuals and to help them to realize, you know, what they’re capable of,” says Horford. To help them understand how to set goals and how to align their habits to those goals to make them a reality. To build that level of discipline and consistency. That is, that’s the main purpose. And I think, if we take care of that, everything else kind of takes care of itself.”

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