Kids volunteer to make St. Mike’s shine

Staff reports
The Chronicle Express

Penn Yan

A group of St. Michael’s Parochial School students and alumni recently volunteered their time to help their alma mater look her best.

From: siblings Finn, James and Claire Tette. Center: siblings Kherington and Brady McLoud. At right: Noah Stewart.

Finn, James, and Claire Tette, Kherington and Brady McLoud, and Noah Stewart painted, trimmed bushes, stained picnic tables, removed weeds, pulled vines, mulched, and washed off all the playground equipment in preparation for its disinfecting before school starts. 

James is on the Penn Yan Academy Varsity Cross Country team. Sometimes, he runs past St. Michael’s school on one of his workouts. Since the school was forced into remote learning in March, it hasn’t had a lot of outdoor maintenance. He saw the recent article about St. Mike’s in The Chronicle-Express and was pretty proud of it. He thought if people drove by the school to take a look at it because of the article, it may need some attention. So, he decided to ask a handful of alumni to spend two hours helping clean up the grounds. They met last Sunday, said, “Mask up!” and got to work.

“Since the size of St. Michael’s makes it an ideal place for kids to return safely with social distance protocols, they are excited to return,” says Carrie Tette, mother of James (9th grade), Finn (4th grade), and Claire (2nd grade). “They know things will be different, but they are prepared to wear their masks, wash their hands more often, keep a safe distance from others, and stay away from the water fountain!”

James showing his younger siblings how to properly stain a table.

Not all the protocols will be so easy to keep.  

“They are excited to see their friends, knowing full well that being careful will keep their friends and teachers safe,” says Carrie. “The children who attend this school are very close, and it will be an adjustment in the beginning.”

That closeness is why this volunteer day was important to James. He wanted to show kids that not only should they give back to their school and community, but they need to learn to continue living in this new reality that has been thrust upon them all.

“This is our new reality,” says James. “We need to show the community that we aren’t scared, and we are ready to return back to school with our masks on, and ready to live our lives in the safest way possible. If young kids see older kids wearing masks while continuing on with our lives with volunteer work, visiting with friends, and going back to school, they will know they can do the same easily. It may sound silly, but we are in this together, and we can only do this if we are being safe together.”

Kherington graduated from 5th grade this past year and was planning to start 6th grade at Penn Yan Middle School. Her brother Brady was going to return to PYMS and attend 7th grade. Due to the pandemic, they have decided to utilize the “remote learning” option. They know it will be an adjustment from attending in-person classes, but are prepared to make the most of the experience.

James and Noah both attended St. Michael’s from pre-school to 5th grade. They both moved up into PYMS and just graduated 8th grade. Noah is excited and nervous to enter the Academy as a 9th grader. He can’t wait to be in the high school, but attending a new school with this virus lurking around will cause some kids to be confused at first. Some kids will be in school, and others will be home. He wants everyone to follow the rules so that they can all come back together again as a class soon.

“James not only needs to volunteer for his participation in National Junior Honor Society, but he knew the community needed to see that kids still care,” says Carrie. He continues to help usher at St. Michael’s Church each weekend because he wants adults to see that bringing your kids back to church is safe and important for their mental health. 

“Being back in a normal routine may help them with any anxiety or nerves they have,” says James. “Seeing other kids lets them know they aren’t alone.” He truly believes that when young kids see older kids following the rules, it makes it cool.

“These are all great kids and it was a pleasure for me to see James gather them together for such a good cause,” says Carrie with justifiable pride in the children. “He’s been told that the school was a ‘Hidden Gem of the Finger Lakes” for years. I’m not sure he ever realized what that meant until he and the other kids helped make it shine.”