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The Episcopal School in North Philadelphia

Service is an important part of the identity of St. James School, and we love when our graduates continue to live out this important practice in their own lives. To support and encourage this value, St. James put together a graduate service trip to Beaver Island, Michigan. This trip invited graduates to leave the comforts of their community and explore what life is like for teens in different communities in other parts of our country.

St. James invited a select group of eight students from the past four graduating classes who showed extraordinary commitment to community service. These students ventured with The Rev. Andrew Kellner and volunteer Mary Hopkins to Beaver Island, Michigan, from June 17 to June 25, 2018. Beaver Island is the largest island in Lake Michigan, yet it has just 500 year round residents.

The island is reached by taking a 2 hour ferry ride, traveling 32 miles from Charlevoix, Michigan, to the harbor on the island. Being so remote, the island community has its own Kindergarten-12th grade school, public library, health center, grocery store, hardware store, and other necessities to live in a remote location.

The citizens of Beaver Island proved to be extremely welcoming, which came as a surprise to some of the students. “My favorite part of the trip was seeing how friendly and amazing the people were. When we arrived, there were people waving with welcome signs. I was shocked at how welcoming these people were towards strangers…it was kind of weird, but I liked it. I felt like I lived on the island myself. People would walk up to us and ask us how we were, like they knew us for years,” said Lashay Smith, graduate of 2015.

In this remote community, the students and adults from St. James worked to paint a home for the local Episcopal mission to house visiting clergy. The project invited team members to learn new skills and enhance old ones.

The trip also included plenty of time to explore this majestic location, with its sandy beaches, sand dunes, hiking trails, inland lakes, and amazing night skies. ​St. James hopes to make this experience an annual service trip for graduates.