The Community Academy

Teachers of The Community Academy, Kate Engelkes (right) and Meghan Brandon (left), talk with their group of students during advisory time. The Community Academy is a non-profit educational program created for students to lead their educational experience. 

Local high school teachers have come together to create an educational program for students who struggle with the traditional school system. 

Summer Experience 2019 is a program through The Community Academy, a non-profit educational organization created by local teachers and focused on project-based work.The Summer Experience Group is a three-week long project with the main goal of promoting student leadership and independence regarding their education. 

“It essentially started because there are things that Collin and Mike [the organizers of The Community Academy] felt that wanted to do in their classrooms — wanted to do with students — but they weren’t able to do that with the structure of a traditional school classroom, so this was their solution to that,” Ania Chamberlin, an intern for The Community Academy, said.  

The Community Academy was created by a group of teachers, including Mike Todd and Collin Reichert who are both high school teachers. The program met daily 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. for three weeks working on a local project for the community.

Todd said he wanted to create an educational program that will impact the students in the greater scheme. 

“We also saw that there are a lot of kids that struggle in the traditional system, and there wasn’t something for them, and there were parents and families, families and students that just wanted something different,” Todd said. 

Todd said that he worked with several teachers who wanted to extend their teaching and create a larger impact for the students. He said he wanted to create an educational program that will help students who struggle with the traditional school system.

“There are kids who need it now,” Todd said.  There are kids that need it right now, so we’re trying to figure out how to make that happen — how do we meet the kids and families. We have a group of teachers that feel like we have something to say, and knowledge that we want to put to use and we feel like that’s not really being put to use."

The Summer Experience places students into groups based on their interests to create a project that will be beneficial for the Ames community. The groups had students in grades ranging from pre-K to 12th grade. 

The Community Academy also gained support from several local organizations. 

“A lot of what this requires is really a lot of community support in terms of organizations that let us use things for free, and I think they know we’re worth their time to help us," Chamberlin said.

The Community Academy (2)

The Community Academy's Summer Experience is based at the Linden Shelter in Brookside park. At the shelter, students and teachers work on whole group brainstorming, project proposals, and meeting with local experts. A short walk down the path takes them to the location of the projects they are working on. 

This year’s focus for Summer Experience was The Brookside Park Trail project, where the students could explore Squaw Creek and the surrounding wooded areas.

The types of activities varied from creating a pollinator garden to learning about the history of Brookside Park. The goal of The Community Academy is for students to gain experience through engaging with community members and to understand the impact of multiple perspectives in decision making. 

The students will have an opportunity to exhibit their accomplishments 1:30 to 2:30 p.m. Thursday at Brookside Park in the Linden Shelter. More information about The Community Academy can be found on their website

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