Star Students: Taya Jenison, Hannah Paddock, + Christine Duch

Christine Duch, Taya Jenison, Hannah Paddock

Jenison Junior High Vice Principal couldn’t select just one star student this year. There were too many to choose from so she skirted the “rules” and nominated three: Taya Jenison, Hannah Paddock, and Christine Duch.

They are all eighth graders this year and are involved in so many activities it’s hard to image they also go to class, but of course they do!

All three of these hard-working ladies are involved in student congress, be nice, choir, they give the morning announcements every day, and all served as ambassadors for the Chinese Winter Exchange Program. Additionally, Hannah pays volleyball and participates in 4H. Christine plays basketball, softball, and is planning on joining 4H.  Taya also plays softball and basketball, plays the tuba in the band, participates in 4H, and is in theatre [most recently she played Skipper the Penguin in Madagascar!].

While they each have different connections to each other outside of school [Taya & Hannah attend the same church, Taya & Christine played basketball together], the three of them became friends last year in seventh grade.

Hannah admits to being “very, very unsure” about going into Junior High two years ago. But, with encouragement from her parents and teachers, and a helpful orientation process she felt more comfortable. Christine adds that junior high “isn’t as bad as you think it will be. You get to choose your electives which gives you more responsibility.” All three are excited about next year and heading across to the High School. “There’s more classes you can take like business and working in The Green Bean which sounds really fun”, says Taya. Christine is looking forward to the opportunities at the high school, and being prepared for college.  Taya hopes her future after high school includes a degree in Agriculture from MSU so she can own her own farm one day. She would also like to exercise her love of being social by working as a receptionist, she says, giving a nod to the amazing people who manage the Junior High office. Hannah sees a future as an athletic trainer and Christine hopes to be a teacher or coach. “I like kids and I feel like I have the personality to be a teacher who can handle the kids who need extra help.”

Mrs Breen nominated the girls because of their leadership qualities but how do the girls perceive leadership? Christine says that a leader is someone who “takes someone else under their wing and takes the lead when no one else wants to.” Taya adds that being a leader means you “be yourself and stand up for others.” Echoing that idea, Hannah says that she sees leadership as “doing what is right and standing up for what is right.” These ideas are clearly informed by their participation in the anti-bullying program, be nice. Hannah says that being part of be nice means that she seeks out someone who might be alone [especially at lunch] and invite them to join her, and Taya says that be nice is about kids helping others.

They all know their teachers have worked hard to prepare them for high school and beyond. Taya would like to acknowledge that Mr McCarty is an amazing teacher. He teaches social studies and she admits this is not her “strong suit” but Mr McCarty makes it fun and interesting. Hannah would like Mr Ohman to know that he makes math easier and clear, even though she “absolutely dislikes math”. Christine adds that Ms Gerber also makes math fun even though it’s the last hour of the day!

During their time with the Chinese Winter Exchange Program, all three girls helped individual students visiting from China for two weeks. They were together during the entire school day, introducing them to their friends and trying to get to know them. They were able to learn about the differences in Chinese and American schools, the impact of China’s One Child Law, and what it’s like to live with heavy pollution in China’s major cities. They all learned about Chinese culture and different ways to communicate when there was no common language.

It’s clear that these students are leading the way as they head into their freshman year! They are looking toward their futures, learning to value differences in others, and working hard to take advantage of all JPS has to offer.

Congratulations Taya, Christine, and Hannah! You are definitely all superstars with bright futures! Your hard work and commitment to learning all you can is inspiring! We’re proud to call you Wildcats!

Star Student: Amaya Rodriguez

When Sandy Hill principal, Sara Melton, was asked to nominate a Star Student it didn’t take her long to select Amaya Rodriguez!

Amaya is a 6th grader who is heavily involved in school life. She serves as a safety, helping to keep our youngest elementary students safe and taken care of, she was selected for the honors choir and works with a younger student with special needs.

She reports that her favorite subject is math because, “I’m really good at it.” She is also a talented artist who loves to draw people she sees in her mind and Amaya is also beginning to practice photography with her phone which she uses to take pictures of landscapes and then draws illustrations from the pictures.

Amaya would like to give a shout out to Mrs Messinger, her 4th grade teacher, because she remembers that Mrs Messinger requested to have Amaya in her class after seeing her play soccer at recess with the boys. “I’m not really a “girly-girl”; I don’t like to wear dresses but I love to play soccer and football.”

Amaya lives with her mom, younger brother, grandma, grandpa, and their dog Shiketa. She takes her inspiration for being a star from her mom, and she has learned to “be really strong”, “be a leader” and “know my boundaries”. [Maybe Amaya could help us adults with these!] She knows that being a leader isn’t easy but important. “A leader helps other people do their best. They look for the best people to work with and be friends with.”

She is looking forward to next year and braving the halls of Jenison Junior High – she’s actually been looking forward to this since the third grade! “In third grade, school became my second home and getting to junior high meant I was closer to my future.”

Amaya plans to pursue a future in music, going to college and majoring in piano performance and vocalization. She wants to encourage other students that “it doesn’t matter if you think you can or you can’t. The best think you can do is try your best.”

It is easy to understand why Amaya was selected to represent Sandy Hill and all JPS elementary students this year. Adds Mrs Melton, “Amaya is a unique individual who has a huge heart.  She is inquisitive, sincere, and a hard worker.  She brings great energy and encouragement with her.  We appreciate Amaya and know that she has a bright future!”

Congratulations, Amaya! Your kind spirit and confidence are an inspiration to all of us and we can’t wait to see where they take you! We’re proud to call you a Jenison Wildcat!

 

We’ve Got Bowling Royalty at Jenison High!

Brother and sister team, Nick and Lauren Slagter come by their incredible bowling talent naturally. They also come from longtime bowling royalty. Their grandmother and dad are both in the Grand Rapids Bowling Hall of Fame!

Their dad [who has a 230 average and has bowled 25 perfect games!] and their maternal aunt coach the Jenison Bowling Team. Their family bowls together in a league on Thursday nights and while their mom grew up in a bowling strong family, their dad found his passion for bowling when he met their mom.

In bowling competition, similar to Olympic gymnastics, athletes compete at both team and individual levels. This past bowling season, both the girls and boys teams won the OK Black conference. Nick finished in 14th for individuals, losing to the eventual second place winner. Lauren may have lost to the eventual winner in the semifinals, but she made it farther than any other bowler in the history of JPS! The girls team qualified 1st in states and made it to the semifinals, which is also the farthest that any bowling team has ever made it in the history of Jenison!

Next year both Lauren and Nick are looking forward to keeping the teams intact, as there are no current seniors moving on. “It’ll be the same team, with more experience. We’ll be better equipped for next year and it’ll be a lot of fun.” They want to give special recognition to their teammates: Sarena Overbeek, Anna Bartz, Dustin Smith, and Tyler Miller.

Nick tries to take it in stride when he gets grief from his friends about bowling not being a real sport. He knows it’s a mental game more than anything else. “It takes precision accuracy and just two or three shots can put your team ahead.” Lauren likes to cite her fifth grade paper, “Bowling is a Sport” for evidence when this argument arises.

The siblings may be busy with their bowling schedules, but they make time for other sports as well. Nick also plays on the Jenison baseball team and while he knows they are “two very different sports, but the pressure is all the same; they build off one another and make me better as an athlete.” Lauren plays softball and adds, “You have to take your momentum from your bowling season and bring it into other sports and we have to bring that success and confidence into softball and baseball.”

As a junior, Nick is thinking about college and hoping for scholarships to allow him to bowl at the collegiate level. Lauren is a sophomore and acknowledges that she “has time” but it has crossed her mind to play softball as well as bowl when she gets to college. She wants to give a shout out to her family for always being a strong shoulder to cry on when it comes to school, sports, life, and school. “We’re stuck with each other, but we’re competitive and have fun.” Nick wants to make sure that his fifth grade teacher, Mr Diekman knows he made an impact on Nick’s life. “He’s taught me more than just school, he’s taught me about life – to stay positive – and I really appreciate that.”

Athletic Director Kevin VanDuyn knows JPS is lucky to have these two: “It is quite something to have the top bowler in the conference, by average, from both our boys and girls team.  What is more amazing is to have the top bowler from each be a brother and sister.  Congratulations to Nick for finishing the year with a conference leading 212 average and his sister Lauren with a 190 average.  The best news is they both come back next year!”

Lauren and Nick want everyone to know that bowling is really accessible for adults and kids alike. Lauren says, “You can bowl once or twice a week and get really good so it’s easy for kids to pick it up.” Nick adds, “Make sure you stay positive through the ups and downs because eventually you will come out on top.” [And that’s just good advice no matter what you’re doing!]

Congratulations, Nick and Lauren! Your talent and accomplishments not only make us proud but we can’t wait for next year’s season! Go Wildcats!

Sandy Hill Students Work to Ease Hunger in Jenison!

Ten years ago this October, Cheri Honderd realized that some kids in Jenison didn’t have enough food to eat, especially on the weekends.

Drawing on her experience as a Kids Hope Director, Cheri knew that through school and community partnerships, something could be changed. Cheri and her friends at a local church decided to take action and – starting right here at Sandy Hill – nineteen students were given a bag of food for the weekends, privately placed in their backpacks during the school day and Hand2Hand Ministries was born.

“The nation was going through a recession and it was impacting her community. For the first time in decades the city of Jenison, along with neighboring communities, was facing a hunger crisis. Many former middle-income families were not able to feed their own children. The number of free or reduced lunch participants in one school district went from 5 to 30 percent in one year.” When Cheri learned that children in her local schools were hungry, it brought back painful memories of her own childhood when her parents struggled for employment.

Deanne Messinger, Cailey Mulder, Cheri Honderd, Jenny van Biljon, Myra Baine, Samantha Inman

Those nineteen students at Sandy Hill paved the way for the nearly 4,900 students in 8 counties and 145 schools across West Michigan to be fed all weekend and better prepared for their school week!

This fall the students at Sandy Hill gave back to Hand2Hand by raising money through their annual Change 2 Change Hunger campaign [which takes places across the district]. The money raised through this initiative at Sandy Hill was enough to purchase 500 lunches that were packed by Kindergartners and their 4th grade buddies.

Kindergarten teacher, Myra Baine says, “It’s neat to see the program come full circle like this. There is local, childhood hunger in Jenison and we are trying to meet that need.”

Packing lunches is not the end of this project! Mrs Baine secured an additional $250 grant from the Ottawa Area ISD to round out their project-based learning project. “As a class we will collaborate four more times [4th and K] to engage in lessons to help solve a real world problem.  During these lessons students will work in small groups to  create a plan and model/present to an authentic audience.” Their audience will consist of representatives from United Bank and Chapel Pointe Church who will hear the students’ proposal to use their parking lots as part of the potential solution to the next phase! [Keep an eye out for more details on this soon!]

The students have been eager to learn how they can help and participate in problem-solving and learning lifelong relational skills. “The reaction to this problem-based learning from our students is enthusiasm, excitement and desire to do their best by working together with a cross age learning environment. In my Kindergarten class, the ability to work together is a big emphasis this year.  Working with others who may or may not agree with you to get a concrete solution is something we work on, on a daily basis.  We work on it in our social groups during recess and free choice time and we also work on it during our academic times in reading and math groups.”

“The opportunity to have these experiences in a classroom setting is so valuable as they go out in the real world and become life long learners.  To have students start a fire in themselves to know they have power. I believe giving them experiences early and knowing that even at the young age of five and six they can make a difference and help someone else is amazing.”

You can even check out the story on Wood TV!

Thank you to our wonderful teachers for not only organizing such a powerful experience for our students, but involving them in solution-focused learning! They will see their worlds a little differently now and know they can be part of the solution! Thank you, Hand2Hand, for bringing real change to our community and empowering our learners!

 

 

Pink Out 2018!

There may have been a snow day last Friday, but it didn’t stop the Jenison family from coming out to paint the High School gym pink!

Celebrating the tenth anniversary, the Pink Out committee chose to expand their focus to include honoring Jenison community members dealing with other types of cancer, while acknowledging that their roots remain in the fight against breast cancer. In the ten years since Pink Out began, they have raised over $100,000, recognized over 100 warriors and sold 15,000 Pink Out t-shirts.

Karen Koekkoek knows what it’s like to fight against breast cancer but she never expected it to happen again after finding her first lump at the age of nineteen. Now in her early 60’s, she was vigilant with her mammograms, self-checks, and doctor’s appointments. But despite her best efforts, she was diagnosed in August of 2016 and the type of cancer she had was called, “aggressive and invasive”. She received chemo for five months, radiation five days a week for six weeks and has experienced the first part of a double mastectomy. Karen’s daughter, Sherrie VanManen, says it’s a “huge honor” to be recognized by the Pink Out team and to be taken under their wing with support. Karen adds, “Faith over fear quickly became my motto. February of 2018, 125 appointments later, I am a survivor, cancer free!” We celebrate with you, Karen!

2010 Jenison graduate, Marcy VanderMeer was a senior when Pink Out first began. She was only 22 when she was diagnosed with Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia in April 2015. “It feels overwhelming to be an honoree. I am thankful to the committee for all the ways they supported me and my family.” In the first six weeks after hearing the news, Marcy says she was in shock but there was already so much happening in the Jenison community. There was a spaghetti dinner and chili cook-off fundraiser and even a neighborhood elementary buddy raising money for Marcy’s treatment. “Although fear was present in my life and I lost many friends along my three year journey, being part of this community has made all the difference in my ability to keep moving forward.”

Unfortunately, children in our community are not immune to cancer’s reach. Sam Lewinski is a four year old at the ECC and Shawn VanPutten is a 2014 Jenison graduate, both of whom are in remission. Shawn says, “Jenison Pink Out has offered support to me and my family during our journey: cards to let me know they were thinking of me, texts to my mom to let her know she was not alone and to provide words of encouragement. They also provided financial assistance for my ever-mounting medical bills, so thank you for supporting the power of pink because the warriors need to know that no one fights alone.”

Sam’s mom spoke on his behalf while Sam stood proudly on the podium. Through tears, she described their journey with Wilms Tumor, a kidney cancer and thanked the community for surrounding them through this struggle. “Just nine months ago, Sam finished his final chemo and was told there is no evidence of disease. During his treatment, he had several surgeries, radiation, and chemo. During that time, this community proved itself time and time again. We moved from Ohio ten years ago and I can truly say that this battle could not have been fought three hours from family without this community and the Pink Out community that showed up even we didn’t know them. We can now call Jenison our home and our family.”

Finally, warrior Jody Heyboer shared her journey with stage three colorectal cancer. Less than a year ago, Jody learned the news of her diagnosis and she quickly heard from the Pink Out team and “for the past ten months ,their support has been nothing short of amazing. When you don’t have cancer or are not directly affected by it, it’s hard to understand. Pink Out understands. Please know, the money you donate to this organization goes to help people in the community affected by cancer and I cannot being to express my gratitude for all those connected to Pink Out.” Jody learned in January that her tests revealed no evidence of disease, however, her fight against cancer isn’t over just yet. As of two days prior to Pink Out she learned cancer had returned and the Pink Out committee presented her with a check towards her medical expenses and reminded her that she is not alone.

Each year, this event serves as a celebration of those who warrior on and takes time to pause for those that we remember. We are grateful to all of those who braved the snow, but especially to those who brave the fight against cancer!

2018 Distinguished Honorees:

Dave Huyser           Sam Lewinski          Jody Heyboer          Marcy VanderMeer          Karen Koekkoek         Shawn VanPutten

Warriors: Karen Koekkoek, Marcy VanderMeer, Jody Heyboer, Sam Lewinski, Shawn VanPutten, Dave Huyser

You are all warriors and Jenison is proud to fight alongside each and every one of you! You are not alone! Thank you, Jenison community for your ongoing support of Pink Out – your partnership is vital to sustaining our warriors!

 

 

Once Again, Bus Driver Goes Above + Beyond!

For some of us, it can be difficult to imagine what others need and how they live each day without the basics we don’t give a second thought to. For JPS bus driver, Kristin Bredeweg, hearing about the needs of kids and families in the West Michigan area each day on the radio was all she needed to get her bus kids involved.

“I wanted to do something for my bus kiddos to show and teach them that there is fun in giving and not just getting.  It’s so important to me to not only be a responsible bus driver, but to also teach life lessons to these kids. I’ve been the only driver some of these kids have ever had, so there are sweet relationships built not only with my kids, but with their families!”

Ms Bredeweg knows that her bus kids have all they need, so when she mentioned the need that some students have with basic, personal clothing items such as socks and underwear, the kids were on board! “When we started talking about doing this donation drive my bus kids could not wrap their minds around kids that NEEDED socks and underwear.  Their faces said it all to me … they absolutely wanted to help!”

Ms Bredeweg sent a letter home to parents letting them know about the radio donation drive and asking them to consider purchasing a pair of socks or underwear to be given to a child in need. “My heart was overwhelmed with the support given from parents! They were I think just as excited as the kids! Like I said, the relationships built with these families and myself are deep and very special … I knew they would come through!”
And “come through” they did. “We ended up donating 31 packages of socks and 30 packages of underwear in just one week! And I’m not talking single pairs, but packages of multiple pairs of socks and underwear! I am sooooooo proud of my bus kids!”
But that’s not all Ms Bredeweg has done this winter with and for her bus kids! At the beginning of winter break, she took her kids on a bus field trip around Cedar Lake to see the Christmas lights, including one house with a ten-minute light show! Ms Bredeweg sweetened the trip with a custard donation from Culver’s and then a quick stop at her home [which was also decorated beautifully!] to get pictures.

While parents and community members have much to be thankful for in such a caring and special bus driver, they are certainly part of the Mutual Admiration Society. Ms Bredeweg tells us how thankful she is that families joined in to be part of something so meaningful and important. “I know the hearts of my bus families and I saw the look of joy on these kids faces when another bag of goodies was brought on the bus.  It’s simple acts of kindness and opportunities to learn life lessons that make lasting impacts on these kids!  It’s important for kids to know it’s not just the “big people” in the world that can make a difference, its all ages – if just given the chance and opportunity!!  I love my Bauerwood bus kids of Panda Bus #12-17 and their families! I have been the one truly blessed; my heart is so full of joy!”

Thank you, Ms Bredeweg and Panda Bus #12-17! You should be very proud of not only your donations but also for the ways you exemplify the value of giving. We hope everyone had a wonderful holiday season and winter break – welcome back!

Celebrating New Teachers in the New Year!

This September, JPS welcomed 36 new teachers to our team, district-wide! And while it’s hard to imagine that the year is nearly half over already, these teachers have been giving their students and the district their all! These 36 teachers are all along the spectrum from brand new teachers to seasoned professionals bringing their talents to JPS.

We’ll spotlight a few of them here but we encourage you to make sure to take a minute when school opens up next week to tell these new JPS teachers they are doing a great job!

Jeanna Watson is teaching 7th grade language arts at the Junior High after completing her education at Arizona State University and GVSU. While she is thrilled to be a Wildcat she also admits to being a Packers fan! When she’s not teaching, she loves reading, spending time with her husband and volunteering. “It has been such a blast to be a part of the Jenison community this year. Getting to know all the students and staff so well has made this job an incredible experience already. I am most looking forward to continuing to get to know everybody for the second half of the year and continuing to grow as a teacher to better serve my students.”

Dina Mitchell teaches Transitional Kindergarten at the ECC. She graduated from Hope College and Central Michigan University and taught for 28 years with Holt Public Schools. She has taught Kindergarten, 1st grade, Transitional Kindergarten and as a reading interventionist. Ms Mitchell stays very busy keeping up with her 4 children – three of whom are currently enrolled at Hope and the 4th just graduated! She also love visiting the beach, watching crime shows, and reading. She loves being part of the Jenison family: “The best part of teaching in Jenison has been the relationship piece.   It is very apparent to me that the time, resources and energy that the district puts into building and maintaining strong relationships with colleagues, parents, students and the community is what makes Jenison so successful. They truly are like a family!!!  I feel blessed to be a part of it.”

Zach Mosher is teaching 3rd grade at Sandy Hill Elementary after receiving his degree from Central Michigan University. Although this is Mr Mosher’s first year as a classroom teacher, he worked previously as a reading interventionist in Wyoming Public Schools. When he’s not teaching, Mr Mosher enjoys fishing and hunting. He says that the best part of teaching in Jenison has been “the awesome and supporting staff that I have so heavily had to lean on and the family atmosphere.”

We wish all of our teachers and staff a very, happy new year! Thank you for all you do each day for our students and families! We hope everyone enjoys the last few days of winter break and we’ll see you back in school on January 8!

Jenison High School Senior Builds Hope

When you walk around your house, you probably don’t give a lot of thought to the plumbing, let alone the plumber. It’s also safe to say that the students in our new elementary school building will give little thought to the plumbing that runs through their walls and under their floors.

But, Jenison High School and Careerline Tech Center senior, Mike Alkema sure will.

That’s because he helped lay the plumbing that will make serve the entire new school. Oh, and he also laid the brickwork as part of the masonry staff.

This past summer, Mike’s grandfather recommended him for a job with his employer who was doing the brickwork. So, while most of us were spending our summer days balancing work, kids schedules, and trips to the beach, Mike was laying the cinder blocks that would make the walls of Jenison’s newest school. He enjoyed the work but was also intrigued by the work of the plumbing team.

Mike sought out the supervisor of Alternative Mechanical to start developing a relationship with him and, potentially, make a long term connection. It worked, and when the school year began, Mike was offered the opportunity to work alongside the AltMech team in congruence with his training at Careerline.

“[Plumbing] is like a puzzle. You have to get from point A to point B and follow [building] code and I understand code and how it has to work.” Mike is on the site every weekday signing off on shipments, stocking all deliveries, and assisting the plumbers with whatever they need. “They’re really helpful. I went to the Tech Center this year and last year and I learned a lot, and came in pretty knowledgeable, but I’m still learning new things every single day I’m there.”

Mike + his grandfather

Mike plans to pursue a career in plumbing and is looking forward to working full time for AltMech because they offer health insurance, Christmas bonuses, and a 401(k) plan. He also likes that if the company completes a job under the bid, the employees get an equal share of the money that was saved. But these days, Mike is proud to be able to pay for his own phone bill and car insurance, and other personal bills. “This is really preparing me for what life is going to be like. Not many kids my age have that chance.”

“It’s really cool to be able to drive past the new school every day and think, “yeah, I work there and I helped build that. I started when there was nothing and now we’ve finished the first floor with brick.”

Mike is proud of the work he’s doing, how it’s helping him succeed and prepare him for life after graduation. “If I was just doing school, I wouldn’t be doing well.” His message to kids who are struggling: “You’ve just got to stick it out. You’ve got to do the best you can and even if it’s not what people want, you can try your hardest and you’ll find something you’re really good at, no matter what happens.”

We couldn’t agree more, Mike! We’re very proud of you finding your fit with plumbing and we’ll continue to be your cheerleaders as you work to build a safe and amazing new school for our youngest students. Your work will be appreciated for generations!