Jamon Alexander, a former BEEP – or “Blandford Environmental Education Program” graduate – stands with Annoesjka Steinman (top left), Blandford Nature Center’s director, at Peter Wege’s Lowell farm on a perfect September evening. Jamon told the friends of Blandford that spending his sixth-grade at Blandford changed his life.
While Jamon was thriving in his outdoor classroom, his classmates back in his home school were heading in destructive directions. Jamon returned to his neighborhood Grand Rapids Public School for seventh grade, but by then he had higher educational aspirations and bigger visions for his own life than his old friends did.
Today Jamon Alexander is the Development Coordinator for the Helen DeVos Children’s Hospital Foundation.
Mary Jane Dockeray (center photo), the visionary who founded Blandford Nature Center in the early 1960s and went on to start Blandford Environmental Education Program, a GRP School a decade later, stands by a poster of the Nature Center during the Wege farm party. The energetic natural scientist, who’s been Blandford’s driving force for half a century, still volunteers at the Center on Leonard in northwest Grand Rapids.
Former Grand Rapids Public Schools Superintendent Bert Bleke (bottom left) is the man who kept Blandford Nature Center open when vanishing funds threatened to close it down. As one of West Michigan’s most respected school administrators, Bert knew where to go for help.
Knowing about Peter Wege’s passion for education, it wasn’t a hard sell! Wege and Bleke teamed up to rescue Blandford Nature Center and convert it into its own independent non-profit. The Wege farm party was an outreach to friends of Blandford whose support is needed to continue changing the lives of BEEPs like Jamon Alexander.