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Image: Image for Case Study: Grand Rapids Key Club

Grand Rapids Key Club

Legacy and Leadership Awards were created to recognize and celebrate acts of community leadership in honor of our founder Charles Blandin’s 75-year legacy of leadership. 


Key Club is a student-led organization which gives members opportunities to provide service, build character and develop leadership. The Grand Rapids High School Key Club is fortunate to have the guidance and tireless efforts of Legacy and Leadership Award recipient Katie Thunshelle.

As a teacher at GRHS, Ms. Thunshelle loves working with teenagers. She goes far beyond her job description by chaperoning dances, being visible at sporting events and various extra-curricular activities.

In her nomination, Jessica Setness said, “The Key Club works hard to make the community a better place while educating and collaborating with various groups along the way. They are a great example of how the spirit of service starts young in Itasca County.”

A few years ago, Katie experienced health complications and as a result was airlifted, hospitalized for nine days and bed-ridden for five months. It was in that difficult period of her life when Katie gained a newfound appreciation for the importance of a support network. Friends, family, colleagues, and medical staff surrounded her with care and encouragement. It dawned on her that many people aren’t as fortunate to have a close network of people when things get tough—instead these folks rely on community programs and resources. She decided it was time to give back.

As timing would have it, the GRHS Key Club was in need of an adviser upon Katie’s return to teaching. “It just seemed like an opportunity to start giving back to the community and help show students the power of service,” she said.

While Katie puts in the effort to organize, plan and coordinate Key Club service projects, it’s the students who are out there doing the work. “I like to joke that I’m dispatch,” she says, “A call or an email comes in from someone at the school or in the community who could really use some help. My job is to find the kids, get them signed up, remind them of their commitments, and send them out.”

An important aspect of Katie’s leadership is keeping track of how many service hours the students have accumulated. That way, when students are applying for scholarships, grants, colleges, and jobs, Katie can write a letter of recommendation detailing a clear record of what projects they have been a part of. This can make a huge difference in future opportunities and considerations for Key Club students.

Last year, the GRHS Key Club served nearly 1,500 hours.

Success for the Key Club, and for Katie, comes in many forms. For the students, it’s about growth and development. For the club it’s about the contagious positive impact that permeates from one year to the next. But most importantly, for the community it means having a group of dedicated and hardworking young people coming together in the selfless spirit of service. Katie likes to say: “Many hands make light work.”

While answering which local, state, and national organizations Grand Rapids Key Club has served, Katie Thunshelle wears a noticeable grin. “A portion of our list includes the Toward Zero Deaths committee, United Way, Grand Rapids Area Cancer Crisis Fund, Memorial Blood Centers, Get Fit Itasca, Children First, Project Read, Ruby’s Pantry, Grace House, Second Harvest Food Shelf, DARE, Advocates for Family Peace, Kiwanis, The Leukemia and Lymphoma Society and UNICEF.”

“While these are run independently of our club, the service that the kids provide has become a valuable and essential component to many organizations.”


Photo credit: Grand Rapids Herald Review

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