The Spotlight Stories series features examples of how people across the country are working creatively and effectively to enhance well-being for themselves and to leave a legacy of well-being for generations to come. These are stories from communities creating lasting legacies identified through the Well Being Legacy initiative.
Algoma, Wisconsin, a small town of just over 3,000 residents situated along the shores of Lake Michigan, leverages its community and commitment to youth to help shape its future.
For generations, Algoma students have graduated from high school and faced the decision to either leave Algoma and explore educational and job opportunities elsewhere, or to join the manufacturing labor force that has kept Algoma afloat for decades. Knowing that so much of the community’s legacy rests in the hands of its youth, Algoma leaders sought to pursue innovative strategies necessary to produce a culture shift, changing the way that education and local business interact. Teachers and other school officials noted a growing need, not only for more resources, but for a less-siloed approach to working with those resources in and around the community.
As is the case with many rural communities across the country, Algoma was short on resources to assist with future development of the community. When plans to build a new school athletic facility were put into motion, school officials transformed those plans to capitalize on growing community interest in community building and intergenerational wellness. The result is a community wellness center that provides a much-needed space for wellness programming, and relationship and community building.Recognizing that collegiate-level technical training was out of reach for many students, school personnel and local businesses forged a partnership to bring technical education to the high school. Local businesses rallied behind the idea and donated machinery and employees to train students who take courses in the newly minted “Wolf Tech”. Wolf Tech students graduate with technical know-how to step into positions available at local businesses.
THE BRIGHT SPOT
Fast forward a few years, and the community of Algoma is providing opportunities for youth to thrive. Students throughout the school system are leading in ways never before imagined. From creating and implementing a mentorship program between high school and elementary school students to building resilience and conflict resolution skills, youth are creating spaces and opportunities for residents of all ages to share a meal and build new relationships. where the young and young-at-heart can build new relationships through conversation and the sharing of a much needed meal.
“If we are serious about creating a culture of health, we have to transform our public education system.” – Teal VanLanen, District Wellness Coordinator, Community Activator
The future of Algoma looks a lot like an educational system makeover. In order to shore up progress being made on the youth in the community, city leaders are working toward a redesign of how credit is given how colleges see the effort put forth by Algoma students, putting emphasis on a Plan, Do, Study, Act mentality of getting things done. Every day, youth are learning how to leverage resources when resources are minimal, and to work with diverse groups to achieve a common goal, because in Algoma it’s all about building trust and relationships within the community.