GRAND LEDGE, Mich. (WLNS) — Relevant Academy, a public charter school specifically serving grades 9-12, is most notable for bringing a non-traditional style to teaching, which includes teaching soft life skills.

Soft skills such as ‘empathy’ and ‘kindness’ are taught in the form of service projects, and this week they are doing a service project creating laundry packets for the community ‘freetail’ store.

According to Lauren Blakely, executive director at Relevant Academy, their priority is to stress the importance of giving. 

“One thing that’s very important is that we need to teach kids these soft skills and so we preface these service projects with being an empathetic person and being a kind person. The service project kind of ties everything in nicely. It prepares people to go out into the world to be that kind and empathetic person,” Blakely said.

Service projects are required for Relevant students, but Blakely says she understands that some students aren’t able to show up emotionally in the same way as others, so they have alternative projects for them. 

Her student, David Pappas, participated in the laundry packet service project and says he is glad to be helping people, while helping himself prepare for college.

”I’m glad to be doing it and helping people out there get the stuff,” Pappas said. “I feel like I have a better chance here, obtaining a better life here that I want to move on to than at my old school,” Pappas said.

According to Blakely, it is necessary to teach her students to give to those in need.

She said most of them understand the importance of creating these packets to give, because they know what it is like and can share their experiences with each other, and this helps them learn empathy.

According to Blakely, Relevant is excited for more service projects in the future, and has plans to add future projects and community service opportunities next year.

Blakely said Relevant curriculum functions by alternating between months of ‘giving’ to students and months where students ‘receive,’ and just like the curriculum she teaches her students, Blakely hopes there will be an exchange with the community as well.

She invites the community to check out openings on their school board, and reach out as a possible business partner for future job shadows.