February 7, 2020
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This Michigan high school adopted a flexible schedule to help working students

Here are three stories that showcase the different ways creative problem solving can help communities across the country.

Working students can benefit from a flexible high school schedule. Photo by Karen Ducey/Getty Images

Each week, The Renewal Project shares three stories from around the country that highlight the innovative solutions people are creating in their communities. What are the innovative ideas in your hometown? Tell us at info@therenewalproject.com.

Reading, writing, internships: The school bell at this Lansing, Michigan, high school rings in the start of the school day, but not at 7 a.m. For the students at Eastern Flex Academy, it’s the middle of the afternoon. That’s because of a new program that offers classes at 3 p.m. The special program at Lansing’s Eastern High School accommodates work and school balance by hosting classes from 3:15 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. This alternate schedule helps prevent juniors and seniors from falling behind in their schooling—or worse, dropping out—while they handle other responsibilities such as part-time jobs, internships, or family obligations.

“I think what you’re seeing in Lansing is a response to the needs of young people,” Monika Kincheloe, a senior director with America’s Promise Alliance, told NPR. The school day starts with math and english and then breaks for dinner in the cafeteria, with the remainder of the day spent taking online classes. This schedule ensures that working students are on a parallel track with their daytime peers. “That gives me great comfort in knowing that they aren’t getting lost, because they’re part of the school,” Kincheloe said to NPR.


Lift every voice: Local Alaskan organizations are taking action to prevent a miscount of native and indigenous communities in the 2020 census. In past years, Alaska was poorly represented in the U.S. census because of language barriers, but now tribal and non-English speaking communities are creating native language guides and materials to encourage participation. “We felt it was critical to have the information available in the languages of the state,” Erin Willahan, a consultant hired by Alaska Public Interest Research Group to support local census efforts, told Route Fifty.

The U.S. Census helps to shape each community’s future, as the results help determine how federal funds will be allocated across the country. This includes the decision of where to spend on infrastructure and where to spend on healthcare for the eldery and low-income. If there is a risk of a community being undercounted in the census, that community might not receive the federal funding that they need. That’s why the Census Bureau is also sending their workers door-to-door in rural, more isolated Alaskan communities to conduct the survey in-person rather than relying on the Postal Service.


Healthy made easier: Eating healthy in neighborhoods across Washington, D.C., has gotten a bit more convenient over the past few years. That’s because nonprofit D.C. Central Kitchen created a program in 2011 called Healthy Corners that helps to nourish low-income communities and reduce the city’s food deserts by bringing affordable fresh produce and healthy snacks to corner stores. Food deserts refer to neighborhoods where there are no nearby grocery stores. Currently, 67 corner stores are participating in the program. D.C. Central Kitchen recently released a report featuring a survey of district residents living near these corner stores. Of those surveyed, 72 percent said they were eating more fruits and vegetables since the project began.

“We can’t overstate the fact that people do want to eat healthier and it was a huge mistake for store owners to think that only unhealthy foods would sell,” Alex Moore, chief development officer for D.C. Central Kitchen, told The Washington Post.

Danielle Moskowitz

Danielle Moskowitz

Dani Moskowitz is a contributor to The Renewal Project.