Sophia Butkiewicz knows the difference that a powerful educational experience can make. Deeply inspired by her time as part of CS13, she is passing the power of good education on to the next generation as one of the driving forces behind the Chain O' Lakes Exploration Center (CEC) near her hometown of Waupaca, Wisconsin. "When I heard about the plans for a charter school in my district," she says, "I was determined to play a role." Sophia was selected as one of nine members of the Governance for the proposed CEC whose mission will be to provide an option for students to learn in an alternative environment through multi-place, multi-age classrooms featuring project-based learning with an emphasis on the fine arts, agriculture, and S.T.E.M. classes. "We hope to assist in the shaping of mature and capable young students," says Sophia, "and have this be a community school where every student has a place to be recognized and can succeed."
In the fall of 2018,CEC's first year of operation, the program hopes to serve 54 students in grades 3 to 5 and with each following year, to add an additional grade on the top and bottom with the goal of becoming a K through 8 facility by 2022. Students in this program will, Sophia says "be provided with close relationships with mentors who will help guide them to achieve and surpass the necessary learning standards. They will be in a unique and close knit community from which they can learn from each other, their experiences, and environment."
Currently the CEC is in the midst of building renovations, fundraising, establishing community partnerships, and grant researching/writing, and is in the running for up to $800,000 in state grants, that will be directed towards the construction of a barn, gardens, a greenhouse, kayaks, prairie establishment, and technology.
"I am incredibly hopeful for the future of the CEC and for all of the young minds it will positively impact in the years to come," Sophia says. "It is my belief that beginning at a young age, students need to prioritize their education, and in order to do that, they need to have positive experiences and feel as though it means something. If we can do that, we will join the innovators, like Conserve, in transforming our education system and the next generation of students."