This time of year, students at Steppingstone School in Farmington Hills have to put on their coats to work in a classroom that was once a lube shop.
But with enough votes in the Great American Classroom Makeover contest, sponsored by Great American Financial Resources, they'll be able to leave their winter gear behind. Winning would mean a $10,000 prize, which would be used to winterize the classroom.
Steppingstone took over the former Holiday Chevrolet property on Grand River, opening in 2010.
Parent Alison Kenyon, whose son Emmett attends the school, said a teacher contacted her after reading about the competition. Kenyon agreed to write the entry essay, which elevated Steppingstone into a finalist position with 10 other schools. A self-described "avid writer", she drew on her family's experience to share what the school needed.
"For us, it was a leap of faith to send our son to a school that looks like a used car dealership," Kenyon said. She said Emmett, the Kenyons' middle child, struggled in Farmington Public Schools. The staff at Steppingstone, which specializes in working with gifted children, "felt he was probably very bored by the speed at which information was given."
In the year since the move, Kenyon said, her son "went from being a depressed and angry 5-year-old to being curious, engaging and sweet again."
Steppingstone, which serves about 20 families, is up against much larger K-8 schools from around the country. That's why Kenyon is reaching out to the community for support.
Voting closes Feb. 22. You can cast one vote per day at gaclassroommakeover.com