Retirees and Honorees 2021

The Jenison Public Schools tradition of excellence shone through a difficult year. Today, I want to honor the newly retired, deeply dedicated, hardworking support staff who have given so much and the ‘Top Ten of 2021’ which is comprised of some pretty amazing graduates.

Heroes on Wheels: Mr. Denny and Mrs. K

Denny Wilson and Sharilyn Kowalczyk have been in the business of lovingly transporting our most precious cargo for a combined 42 years! These friendly bus drivers have many fans along their route who are sad they won’t behind the wheel next fall. Congratulations to these dedicated drivers and invaluable members of the Jenison Public Schools community! I’m so thankful for the million smiles they’ve given to their student riders over the years!

Denny is a United States Navy Veteran and retiree of General Motors. He has loved being a part of JPS for the last 14 years. When he’s not behind the wheel of a big yellow bus, he likes to golf, camp, do wood working and spend time with his 5 children, 9 grandchildren and 3 great grandchildren.

Denny’s plans for retirement include sleeping in and visiting national parks with his wife. One of his favorite pieces of advice is “Stick with the bunch and you won’t get peeled.”


Shari had a career path in mind however, circumstances changed following a bad car accident. An ironic, yet perfect career match was made when she applied with the Jenison Transportation Department. Driving the bus helped increase her confidence behind the wheel and gave her so many lifelong friends. She calls herself lucky to have had a job she has enjoyed for 28 years. She’ll take with her many great memories of the students along her route and especially 14 years of School Bus Road-eo competitions at the county, state and nationals level.

Shari and her husband, John look forward to spending time with children and grandchildren. They also plan to travel and spend time at their little shack in Tennessee. Will Shari assume her spot behind the wheel?


Unsung Heroes: Choral Accompanists

As a fixture behind the piano with the Jenison Junior High School choirs, Beth Sweers and Andrea Pohler had one of the best seats in the house to witness the growing talent of our students.

Beth has been at the piano for 17 years working alongside the Jenison Junior High Arietta and Male Chorus. She is also involved in the music ministry at her church as organist, pianist, and most recently added handbells to her repertoire. Other than music, Beth’s hobbies include snowskiing, knitting and quilting. She has really enjoyed her time at the junior high and knows she will miss the the staff and watching the students develop and grow.

She anticipates a retirement full of extra time with her 4 children and 2 grandchildren. Beth isn’t afraid of adventure and looks forward to traveling many miles with her husband, Steve. She once navigated the massive Tokyo, Japan, subway system and didn’t get lost!!


Andrea has been accompanying the choirs at Jenison Jr. High since 1997. She also considers her 24 years an honor and she will miss the daily interactions with the choir students and the teachers whom she calls, the most talented musical team in the state. She feels blessed and has been proud to be a part of it all.

Andrea is looking forward to having more time for hiking trips to the mountains and biking adventures with her husband. She will also enjoy quiet cups of coffee on the porch with a good book.


Jenison High School – CLASS OF 2021 TOP TEN

A few days before they crossed the football field to the tune of pomp and circumstance, we had the opportunity to celebrate the Top Ten students from the Class of 2021 at their recognition luncheon. These students prove to us that hard work pays off in big ways!

In order to achieve this high level of success, students must put in an incredible amount of effort and hard work throughout high school, including several AP classes. Their ability to focus, motivate themselves, and remain organized, helped them accomplish their goals. They deserve applause for the persistent focus they exhibited during their career as a student and they definitely finished strong after the last 15 months of the pandemic. Our world will be a better place because of these individuals! Their future is very bright!

The Class of 2018 Top 10 are:

  • Elizabeth Ashby
  • Kate Boutell
  • Roberto Garcia
  • Hannah Groothuis, Saludatorian
  • Liana Kaiser
  • Braden Milnamow
  • Elizabeth Schuurman, Valedictorian
  • Claudia Ten Elshof
  • Ella Uganski
  • Connor Vachon

Congratulations to this incredible group of young men and women!

We are so proud of you. The future is yours for the taking!

Senior Survivor 2021

Season 3 of the Jenison High School Senior Survivor competition recently wrapped up with immense fun, excitement and a huge gift for the community!

Based on the concept of the hit television show with the same name, students are chosen to participate in challenges and sleep overnight at school for four nights while they compete. This year, the group consisted of twelve seniors trying to become the last standing ‘survivor’ in an effort to raise money for Hand2Hand Ministries.

By mobilizing schools, churches, businesses and individuals to provide a backpack of nutritious food over the weekend, H2H is able to serve over 8,000 students in 36 school districts in West Michigan, including ours. It’s a privilege and an honor to partner with H2H. Our students love knowing they are donating and working hard to raise funds that will stay right here in our community, benefiting many of our own students.

The Senior Survivor contestants kicked off the competition with a car wash at the high school, then built tents in the media center and auditorium and officially moved in for their overnight stay. They continued to participate in challenges throughout the week; some strategized and formed alliances with each other. Each challenge awarded the winners with points and more money to put toward Hand2Hand in their name. Challenges included a crazy water balloon fight, capture the flag, a live ‘Among Us’ game, blindfolded maze and a color run. The final contest was a head-to-head fire-building competition between the final 3 survivors.

The 2021 Senior Survivor roster included: Connor Vachon, Brandon Sams, Caleb VanElst, Emily Ruf, Anna Bisonet, Connor Flynn, Amber English, Alex Wood, Kenzie Chapman, Rylee Webb, Natalie Siler, and Ella Uganski. If you know them, ask them about this fun experience!

All the Senior Survivors spent time campaigning for donations to be made in their name, and each partnered with Jenison Elementary School buildings to involve them as well. While the students were participating in the overnight portion of the game, they didn’t get a break from their ‘day job’. They were still attending school and all their regular after school extra curricular activities. It’s a very busy week for the students and they are very supported by tired teacher chaperones, student council committee and local businesses that keep them fed!

The end goal for each Senior Survivor is to raise the most money to help them stay in the competition. And in the end, Amber English was named the 2021 Ultimate Senior Survivor! Her friends at Bauerwood Elementary were instrumental in helping her secure the win. Our seniors knocked it out of the park this year despite all the obstacles they’ve had to overcome! I am extremely proud of them and their teachers!

If you’d like to check out more of the fun in action, tune into the Jenison Senior Survivor YouTube Channel.

Combining the efforts of all the Senior Survivors and their elementary friends, we’re proud to donate an incredible nearly $30,000 to Hand2Hand Ministries.

Thank you so much to our local business friends for keeping our Survivors fed during their event!

Live Theatre…Here We Go Again!

It’s a big week as the Jenison High School Thespians proudly return to the stage to present this year’s spring musical; Mamma Mia! Last year brought much frustration and disappointment at the start of the COVID pandemic; so the students are appreciating every minute of the hard work and being rejuvenated by the sheer energy of this show.

Our new Theatre director, Ashlee DeGraaf kicked off the school year with virtual performances of the annual Festival of Plays. As we approached the spring musical season, the cast and crew were eager to get back on stage. They have tirelessly navigated ongoing challenges and changes including quarantined cast members at times. The Jenison Thespians are always a bright spot in the final months of the busy school year and I’m ecstatic that we are able to allow, not only the students to perform, but the community to safely join the fun. Tickets are still available for this weekend; we promise – you will not be disappointed!

Mamma Mia! brings so much laughter, joy, and dynamic dance numbers combined with an unforgettable line up of hit songs. Get your tickets today and let yourself be taken away to a Greek island paradise and bask in the glow of the Mediterranean sea and sun.


Tickets are still available!

To get your tickets, visit at www.jpsarts.com or call (616) 667-3602

*Safety protocols include limited socially distanced seating and face coverings required*


Performance Dates:

Thursday, March 25 at 7:00pm

Friday, March 26 at 7:00pm (SOLD OUT)

Saturday, March 27 at 1:00pm

Saturday, March 27 at 7:00pm

Ticket prices: $12 Adult, $8 Students (under age 18) and Senior Citizens

Once again, we are amazed by the hard work and dedication of the Jenison Thespians and can’t wait to see your latest production! You can get your tickets for this weekend here!

Directed by Ashlee DeGraaf
Choreography by Hailey MacKay
Musical Directors: Zachary Forsleff and Dan Scott
Photography: Stacey Clack Photography

Training for the Future, Now

We are so fortunate to live in a community with quality, diverse resources to help our students prepare for the future. The Careerline Tech Center is a service of Ottawa Area Intermediate School District and is one of those rich opportunities offered to our students.

The Tech Center mirrors the commitment of Jenison High School, promoting personal success and lifelong learning while preparing students for tomorrow’s workforce. Providing career and technical education in 28 different programs opens doors for employment and post-secondary opportunities.

Recognizing that all students learn differently and have goals that are as unique as they are, we are proud to partner with the Tech Center; this year over 100 Jenison High School students are participating. Jenison High School Juniors and Seniors take advantage of work-based learning opportunities and earn college credit in program pathways such as Arts & Communication, Business, Management, Marketing & Technology, Construction, Engineering/Manufacturing, Health Sciences, Human Services and Transportation.

Meet three seniors who have discovered – and furthered a passion that has them excited about the future. I couldn’t be more proud to have these Wildcats representing Jenison as they expand their education beyond our halls.


Jaden Beaver

At first, Jaden wasn’t sure which program to choose for his first year at the Tech Center; however, he was sure that he wanted to minimize his time in a traditional classroom. Welding turned out to be a perfect fit. Along with learning the basic methods of welding, the class studies design, layout, cutting and fabricating of metals. He is pleasantly surprised with how much he is retaining as they study properties of metals and alloys. Jaden really appreciates the hands-on learning environment, and immediate feedback from his instructors as he works to hone his skills.

During the recent pause for in-person education, the Tech Center welding instructors took the opportunity to lead the class through online instruction to obtain OSHA certifications for the students. Following graduation, he is anticipating further education in the field of Welding. Jaden is feeling very positive about the future knowing that career prospects are plentiful.


Cierra Bolkema

The salon services industry is something that piqued Cierra’s interest long ago. When school dances and other events come around, she can be found helping multiple friends achieve their special look. She spent her early high school years anxiously awaiting this senior-only class. The cosmetology program is offered through Tulip City Beauty College in Holland and prepares the students to work toward their Cosmetology license. Cierra loves meeting new people through the program and is so excited to be getting practical application.

At the conclusion of the school year, she will have learned all the services that will be offered in a salon: hair shaping and styling, manicures, facials, waxing, and chemical services. She will also have gained 300 hours of instruction and knowledge to put toward the requirement for the State of Michigan license exam. Thanks to this program and the experience she received, Cierra has a very positive outlook for continuing her Cosmetology education after high school graduation.


Brandon Vlasblom

Participating in the Diesel/Heavy Equipment Mechanics program last year, Brandon is now studying Automotive Technology. This program focuses on Steering and Suspension, Electrical Systems, Engine Performance and Heating/AC. Students put their classroom knowledge to work by servicing customer cars, which are brought into the auto mechanics lab. He enjoys this hands-on type of work and likes getting the feel for the variety of problems and types of cars.

The program is accredited and instructors are certified. Through the duration of the program, Brandon will be given the opportunity to take a number of tests to gain State of Michigan certifications. He is grateful that he has found something he loves. Following completion of the Tech Center Automotive Tech program, Brandon likes the idea of pursuing the field further with more formal education following graduation.

JHS Welcomes New Teachers

The Jenison High School is thrilled to have these passionate and skilled educators join the team. Even with a year that has been different than most, these new staff members have proven they have the relentless commitment of a Wildcat teacher and have been great additions to our high school staff.


Amanda Alverson

Having grown up in West Michigan, and keeping JPS on her radar, Amanda was eager to join a district she considered to be ‘first-rate’ and return home. She has served in other teaching and staff roles on the east side of the state, most recently as Assistant Principal of Curriculum and Instruction in Taylor, MI.

In her free time, Amanda enjoys spending time with family (pictured here with her mom) and her dog, Georgie; baking, cooking, and crafting. If she wasn’t an educator, she might have pursued event management. It’s her personable heart and attention to detail that makes her a key leader as Assistant Principal at the High School.


Jordan George

A recent Hope College graduate, Jordan joins the Jenison community as a high school English teacher and Student Council teacher sponsor.

He never imagined he’d be starting his teaching career during a pandemic but he has been highly impressed by the hard work and efforts of all the teachers, administrators and students to keep things moving.

Jordan loves to spend time traveling, reading, attending concerts, and golfing. He also coaches the JV Basketball team for his Alma Mater, Forest Hills Central. If he wasn’t a teacher, you might find him chasing his other passion on the basketball court, and possibly pursuing a college coaching career.


Nick Berens

After student teaching at Bauerwood Elementary last year, Nick knew that Jenison would be his desired district upon graduation from Saginaw Valley State University. He had a great first semester teaching Social Studies and felt very welcomed by the students and his colleagues.

Nick enjoys spending time doing nearly anything outdoors, including backpacking, water skiing, and fishing. If he was not a teacher he would have followed in his fathers footsteps and would take over the family greenhouse business. 


Alexandra Aguilar

Alexandra appreciates and knows first hand, the commitment of the JPS school district because she is an alumna. She’s previously taught a combination of English as a second language and Spanish in public and charter schools in Utah, New Mexico, and Michigan. 

As her Jenison high school experience as a student was vastly different than the one she is observing her students tackle, she is very impressed with the tenacity and resilience they’ve shown this year.

Her free time is spent on the go… chasing after her 2 year old and 1 year old. If she wasn’t a teacher, she might be stay at home mom, working in education technology, or possibly immigration law.


Ashlee DeGraaf

Ashlee is a West Michigan native who made teaching stops in California and then Indianapolis before finding her way back home, and stepping into the position of Theatre Director and English teacher at Jenison High School.

She enjoys spending time with family and looks forward to more of that now that she’s back in the area. She has made the most of her Covid year while hiking, traveling and reading (with a count of over 50 books already)!

Ashlee is grateful for the community support of the arts and is really looking forward to kicking off the high school spring musical production.


Athletics Boosters Auction and Fall Season Highlights

It was amazing to be able to continue with the Fall athletics programs at Jenison High School this year. The camaraderie of the teams and the physical activity had been a real bright spot in the lives of these students and a balm for some of the weary hearts throughout the community. While we can all agree that this season wasn’t ideal – the teams showed up ready to put their whole heart into it and they were granted a chance to show what they were made of. Read about the unique training methods they employed to get ready while they kept each other safe: Sports Teams Persevere as They Await the Reinstatement of the Fall Season. And read to the end to see some of the memorable, record breaking highlights from this unforgettable year!

Jenison Athletics Boosters Auction

The Jenison Athletics Boosters is an independent organization of junior high and high school parents that raise funds to benefit all 1,000+ student athletes and athletic programming. Coordinating closely with the athletic department and administration, the JAB identifies programming needs and provides support where necessary.

The Boosters would much rather see you in person and serve you some yummy concession goodies at a sporting event or enjoy a lovely evening with you at the Spring Hall of Fame fundraising banquet, alas this is 2020 and neither of those are options. So, I invite you stay comfortable at home and cross off some holiday shopping with the Wildcat Athletics Holiday ONLINE Auction.

The auction will run on the website https://jabauction.com now until 6:00 PM on Sunday, December 13. There are some great products and local services up for bid; our student athletes would be very grateful for the support.


Football and Coach Rob Zeitman

Jenison Varsity Football Coach Rob Zeitman was recently recognized as Regional Coach of the Year for Division 2. Our community is so proud of all the great work he has done investing in his students on and off the field. We are blessed to have him leading the Wildcat Football program and he is a positive force in the lives of our students and athletes.

Our coaches and players had a terrific season. They gave us lots to cheer about and some great memories. Congrats to our seniors who laid a winning foundation for all future Wildcats! Seniors, Jaden VanDalsen, Ethan Kirkland, Nate Rose, and Ryan Robinson were selected as First Team All-Conference members for the OK-Red. Juniors, Caleb Dean and Ethan Mate were also selected as members of the OK-Red First Team All-Conference. Seniors, Garrett Blood and Dylan Andrus were selected as OK-Red Honorable Mention All-Conference Members. Congratulations to these young men.


Cross Country

Working hard, on and off the course, the Jenison Varsity Girls Cross Country team finished their season with a recognition of Academic All State. They are the epitome of committed student athletes. These successful runners have an outstanding combined GPA of 3.817 and they enjoyed a 2nd place finish at regionals with Mya Guikema leading the girls with a fourth place finish. Well done ladies, you are a phenomenal representation of our school and community.

The Jenison Varsity Boys Cross Country team had a big year finishing 2nd at regionals. They went on to place 19th overall at the state competition. This was the first time in 16 years they qualified for state – and they qualified as a team. Despite all odds of the season being cancelled then reinstated, this running family meant business, each putting forth fantastic effort. Senior Connor Vachon finished 8th in the State D1 Finals with a personal record time of 15:38. Congratulations to these young men – they’re going places fast!


Girls Swim

Early November wrapped up the Girl’s OK Red Swim and Dive Championship with a 4th place finish overall. Every swimmer improved her time with a total of over 55 season or lifetime bests. The 200 Medley Relay Team (pictured below L to R) of Grace Albrecht, Elyse Radawski, Hailey Sherman, Rachel Huyser broke the 12-year old Jenison Varsity Record by 2.6 seconds with a time of 1:48.47! State cuts were made in every single swimming event. Seven swimmers qualified for the state competition. Way to go ladies – you took this unpredictable season and made it count!

Music Soothes the Soul

These days, I am continually amazed (not surprised) at the lengths our teachers have gone in order to uphold the integrity and tradition of an education from Jenison Public Schools. I, along with the school board, am proud to support them however possible and today I’m happy to highlight the extreme excitement and importance of continuing our music education programs during this time.

As a result of Covid-19 and all the challenges that come along with in-person instruction and hosting public events, some districts – even those in our own local area have decided to defer music education this year. I am truly grateful that we have the dedication and capacity to continue our remarkable music program.

Since the beginning of the school year, our band and orchestra directors have continued to work with and teach their students throughout some unusual circumstances. Over the last few weeks, families were given the opportunity to enjoy concerts live and in person.

Impeccable logistical planning allowed the High School Orchestras to perform 4 individual concerts on the evening of October 29. With more than enough appropriate spacing on the stage and in the auditorium seats, the strings filled the JCA with beautiful, soothing music. Dan Scott and Josh Zallar led their musicians in an amazing evening that seems to have touched hearts just a little more than during a ‘normal’ year. It felt so great to be in our beautiful Jenison Center for the Arts and hear it come alive with music again!

The Jenison Junior High Bands also performed an outdoor concert on October 21. Anne Gembis and Marc Palma led students as they took their turn playing underneath the lights at the football field. No specific uniform was required but as the weather was starting to turn, it was encouraged for all to bring hats and gloves. Both evenings went very smoothly with family guests observing safety measures and making it possible for all to enjoy. Watching our Wildcat Musicians perform is a highlight and offered a blissful momentary escape, for the players and attendees alike. We are all hoping this isn’t our last set of concerts for this year.

Jenison Junior High Band Concert, October 21

If you are a parent of a Jenison Musician, you have so much to be proud of. I am very pleased with the staff and students for pushing through these unprecedented times, and I’m thankful to you for choosing to involve your child in the program. Our district is so very blessed to have a brilliant, hardworking staff of directors cultivating their life long musical talent.

Friday Night Reunion

Last week, under the Friday night lights, there was a reunion of fans, players, cheerleaders and musicians. Amidst the regulations and protocols for public gatherings in this season of COVID-19, being together brought a little sigh of relief and a refreshing feeling of normal. Last week, in David McKenzie Stadium, the resounding theme of the evening for seniors on the field would be, this night was a dream come true.

Michael Care, wide receiver felt the opportunity to not only have a fall season but to celebrate on their home field last week with their cheerleading and marching band counterparts was a big relief. Michael and his teammates appreciated being surrounded by the community and hearing all the normal sounds that accompany their games. Time spent together as a team and the rallying of Friday nights, especially with a great win, is something that cements the bonds of everyone. For this senior, he hopes this is an indication that life will be slowly returning to normal. 

Shelby Monday, Varsity cheerleader was elated to be given the chance to continue her final Varsity sideline cheer season. Training and cheering with masks as an accessory to her uniform is something she never thought she’d have to do, but felt it was definitely worth it. Time seems to be on fast forward for Shelby these days, and she’s looking forward to enjoying the rest of her senior year with more glimpses of normal, while embracing other unique memory making opportunities as she can.  

The Jenison Varsity Cheerleaders, Class of 2021

For Madelyn Schab, Head Drum Major for the JHS Marching Band, it was an absolute dream come true to be given the opportunity to be under the Friday night lights. The marching band students experienced a great disappointment when their competitive season was cancelled 5 months ago, along with their football performances. Yet, she and the entire marching band and crew relentlessly pursued excellence as a team. Hopeful for a performance, they pushed forward perfecting their show. They have been so grateful that that approval for parent performances and this final football game became a reality.

Madelyn felt that this season was a reminder of the simple, pure experience of coming together as a group. Combining their passion and love for music, diligently pursuing perfection as they create an amazing show together, while supporting each other along the way, was a pretty great thing too. However, being able to support the football team and cheerleaders one last time as seniors, is something none of these musicians, (or this community) will soon be able to forget.

I’ll forever be proud of this class of students and teachers for the obstacles they have endured and the magic they have achieved. Go Wildcats!

Student Retailers Respond to Changes in Business Landscape

Jenison High School’s ‘Green Bean’ coffee shop and ‘Cat’s Corner’ spirit store offer more than just a place to snag a tasty snack and the latest Wildcat wear. They are both self-sustaining, student run, school-based enterprises providing real life business experience. Students develop plans for the shop and are responsible for the operation, including details like ordering products and even dealing with the Health Department.


The Career and Technical Education classes in the business department at Jenison High School are relevant and help students gain valuable insight and skills for college or future careers. Through both levels of her Marketing Studies classes, Jordan Whittecar leads groups of students as they manage the operations for the storefronts. The student groups represent six different business ‘departments’ including Visual Merchandising, Operations, Digital Marketing, Human Resources, Finance/Inventory, and Promotion.

After an abrupt closure in March, the business students now face reopening both operations in a completely different business atmosphere. As the school year resumed, the marketing students have been part of the preparing and planning for this new business climate. Tackling the current challenges include restaurant trainings sponsored by the Governor’s office, writing their own Covid-19 Preparedness and Response Plan and planning a shift in distribution for the sale of retail items.

Last week, students representing the Operations team met with high school principal, Dr. Brandon Graham, and presented their plans to reopen both storefronts and safely move forward. Approval was given and they are very excited to be back serving customers soon. 

The Green Bean coffee shop is located in the High School Media Center. This was an important part of their original intent to provide a central location for students to enjoy a beverage or snack and relax or get some homework done in a casual environment. However, current social distancing practices and limiting the gathering of people throughout the school building makes it impossible for students to visit the Green Bean. The students went to work figuring out what would be needed to shift to a ‘take-out’ and ‘delivery’ model. They will be putting technology to work for them and utilizing a website order form. This will allow students to pick up their order or receive a delivery.

The Green Bean delivery cart will be visiting classrooms soon to serve students and teachers. Hannah Gingerich is ready to offer service with a smile.

Students, Sophia Velez and Alyson Scholten have been stepping into leadership roles getting both stores open. They recently represented the students in a virtual brainstorm session with Erin Mitrzyk, a designer from the Visual Merchandising team at Wolverine Worldwide

Advanced Marketing Students Sophia Velez and Alyson Scholten

They came away with some real life application and ideas to reopen and encourage sales to continue. The marketing students will proceed to evaluate the ideas, which include a possible new reward and incentive program for both students and teachers, a program to schedule automated orders (managing workload of orders and minimizing classroom disruption), and a possible alternative payment method suitable for students of all ages (reloadable payment card or account).

Cat’s Corner is also located inside the high school and is following social distancing and mask protocols as you see in other retail locations around town. Currently, customers who are not students and/or teachers are not allowed in the building. This has required the students to investigate other ways to keep business moving. Online ordering has already been an option so they will continue to evaluate ways to make that a seamless process with affordable shipping options. Something new for this year is a tent sale scheduled for next week. It’s really exciting to see these students embracing the current challenges and coming up with some creative ideas. If you’re able to support either of these student businesses, please do – and be prepared to be impressed at the professional level of service and goods!


The Cat’s Corner Tent Sale outdoor tent sale is scheduled for Wednesday and Thursday (September 30 and October 1) from 7:30am – 5:00pm both days. Stop by for some great deals on Jenison merchandise.

Orders can also be placed on the Cat’s Corner website and shipped directly to you. SHOP NOW at  https://jenisoncatscorner.square.site/

Check out other stories about Cat’s Corner and the Green Bean:

https://tomtenbrink.com/2013/06/27/jhs-green-bean-gives-many-a-reason-to-smile/

https://tomtenbrink.com/2013/03/21/jenison-high-school-deca-students-take-honors/

Festival of Plays

The resilient Jenison High School thespians have pulled off a totally new experience this year! The “Festival of Plays” is a 26 year old Jenison theatre tradition that hasn’t missed a beat. From student directors choosing their scripts, organizing auditions and casting the parts with fellow students; it remains a largely student led experience, offering each participant unique points of learning about acting, and the direction/production of their own shows. Through ticket sales, it has also been considered a major annual fundraising event.

During early summer, the directors conducted auditions through video chats and prepared for the show to go on! Throughout the next few months, casts would meet virtually, outdoors and in-person while adhering to the appropriate safety recommendations. Now, they are ready to ‘hit the stage’ and tomorrow the public will have the opportunity to view the three shows that have been underway.

Check out the short promo video done by Senior, Brandon Sams.

The YouTube link below will take you to the recorded performances, Friday, September 11 at 7pm.

There will also be an online opportunity to donate to the Thespian program if you’d like as well.

FESTIVAL OF PLAYS 2020 – WILL BE “LIVE” Friday, Sept 11 at 7pm.

It is really exciting to see these passionate students work hard and be able to complete their goal in the midst of this difficult season. Please join me; mark your calendars and make a plan to watch the students perform three great shows this weekend!
1) 13 Ways to Screw Up Your College Interview

Two college interviewers are tasked with finding another applicant by the end of the day, or else they’ll be fired. Their only option is to look at the waitlist, which has 13 unseen students. Directed by Alex Wood and Carmine Sabatini.


2) The 9 Worst Breakups of All Time

You think your breakup was bad? Eve Tonsil, an employee of the nonprofit company “Relationships for a Better Tomorrow” is here to take you on a tour of the nine worst breakups of all time, from the Cro-Magnon era to the Civil War, to a smattering of modern-day breakups. A comedy that proves that no matter how hard someone has stomped on your heart…it could always be worse. Directed by Liberty Kasper and Katelyn Warkentien.


3) 12 Angry Jurors

A drama in which a jury decides whether to put a 19 year old man on death row for the alleged murder of his father. Directed by Connor Vachon and Maddison Cheyne.

Can’t make it this weekend? The link will remain available online so you won’t miss your chance.


Meet Ashlee DeGraaf

Jenison Theatre Director & English Teacher

This is also a great opportunity to introduce the newest addition to the Jenison Theatre program. As Todd Avery prepared to retire at the end of last year, Ms. Ashlee DeGraaf was introduced at the annual (virtual) student Thespian award show last spring. We’re very excited to have Ashlee accept the position of Theatre Director and English teacher at Jenison High School.

Ashlee is a West Michigan native who made teaching stops in California and then Indianapolis before finding her way back home. She has really enjoyed the school year so far and has been connecting with theatre students while sponsoring the Festival of Plays show alongside Julie Oosterink (Jenison Junior High School Theatre Director).

She enjoys spending time with family and looks forward to more of that now that she’s back in the area. She has made the most of her Covid year while hiking, traveling and reading (with a count of 46 books already)!

Ashlee is grateful for the community support of the arts and is really looking forward to building on our distinguished theatre program.

“Well, this has been a wonderful and strange start to the year with distancing and masks, but all the students I have met have been so kind and welcoming.

I have some big shoes to fill but I also very much appreciate inheriting the gift of an amazing program like Jenison. I also look forward to adding some new elements, possibly some improv projects.

I have been super impressed with the students and their drive to overcome some some really frustrating circumstances. They have worked hard to produce the best shows that they can. We hope you enjoy the Festival of Plays!”

Ashlee DeGraff

WELCOME TO JENISON ASHLEE!

GO WILDCATS!