The Gift of Friendship

Developing today’s students to be tomorrow’s leaders is a core commitment at Jenison Public Schools and I see the LINKS program as an every day example of this.

Some of our students with different needs (including Autism Spectrum and others with a disability or cognitive challenge) may require a categorical program with a specific educational plan. While they receive extra one-on-one educational support either from a teacher or paraprofessional, studies have proven that students favor connection with and respond better to their own peers. Our peer-to-peer LINKS program allows for those students to receive the necessary extra supports in a more natural way, by placing a general education student by their side. 

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Depending on the needs, this awareness and connection between the students is cultivated already starting in elementary school. Informally teaching general education students about the uniqueness of their peers, to include others and how to interact with a student who may be having a difficult time.

As students reach high school, the general education LINKS student can further their education and choose the LINKS class as an elective. Mrs. Stacey Van Laan runs the program and meets with the class once a week for instruction that focuses on training the methodologies of working with people with different abilities. They also complete assignments and projects that promote the application of their learning. Each semester, the LINKS student is placed with a Peer student during one class hour (his or her elective hour). The role of the LINKS student is to act as a peer advocate, mentor, role model and friend for their Peer student. Together, they work toward the goal of independence and socialization. The Peer students learn to be a meaningful member of a pair or group and receive assistance with organization of assignments and supplies.

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Peer-2-Peer Bowling Outing

A few of our 11th grade LINKS students reflect on how much they learn from their Peers. Reveling in the uniqueness of their personalities and their interests. They are reminded to be patient with not only their Peers, but everyone they meet. It’s so encouraging to hear how they really love the role of being their friends and seeing them during passing, lunch time, and before and after school.

It’s beyond exciting when we hear parents of the LINKS students commenting on the passion they see in their child to help their Peers. It’s doubly exciting when parents of Peers reciprocate with how much their child is loving school and their LINKS friends. Expressing amazement at the connection and growth they have seen, after some difficult years.

“Jenison has the best kids for this program! We are super grateful for the LINKS students who take the time to help our son be awesome.”  

Parent of a Peer student

In addition to the life skill building that occurs during the school day, the LINKS program arranges social gatherings when possible. A few weeks ago, the group went bowling and during the fall they visited Post Family Farm. This week they finished their Christmas shopping together and celebrated with a cookie decorating and movie party earlier this afternoon. Peer students are also given the option to join a group for school sports, music and theatre events. These types of outings solidify their relationships outside of the classroom and gives all students the experience of a fun social outing.

The inclusive and connected culture within this program and Jenison High School is life changing. I’m so grateful for the gift of time and friendship that the LINKS so genuinely and generously give. Many of the students stay in touch beyond their semester class and continue their social connection. The LINKS program is changing lives through research, education and the relentless passion of our Jenison High School students.

A handful of recent Jenison graduates and former LINKS students are currently studying for their Special Education degree. Other recent LINKS students are planning to use their experience to fuel a career in Occupational Therapy, Physical Therapy, Nursing, Child Life Specialist, etc… Today’s students WILL become tomorrow’s leaders.

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Peer-2-Peer Cookie Decorating and Movie Christmas Party

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Peer-2-Peer Club Post Family Farm Outing

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Peer-2-Peer Christmas Shopping Mall Trip

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National Philanthropy Day Recognition

 The Jenison High School student body has been generously giving back and raising awareness for the Make-a-Wish Michigan mission for the past 20 years. I join Tracy Mossburger and Kelly Cole, JHS Student Council Teacher Advisors, in expressing an immense amount of pride in the integrity and efforts of our students! The Make-a-Wish organization itself nominated our students for “Outstanding Youth in Philanthropy” and said they “exemplify the spirit of the Kids for Wish Kids program“. Our student council representatives found out about the nomination and award during the homecoming pep assembly earlier this year along with the whole student body.

This program is a platform for youth to create fundraisers to help support the mission and grant wishes of children battling critical illnesses. In 2014 and 2018, our students raised a total of almost $30,000 during homecoming events. Students fundraised through many creative ways; selling bracelets, stars, pizza slices and they even hosted a community carnival and tailgate party prior to the 2018 Homecoming football game. The students led the way to make this a successful community effort. 

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Earlier this year at the homecoming pep assembly, the student body was surprised with the news that they had been nominated for and awarded the Outstanding Youth in Philanthropy award.

In addition, each class adopted a child who had experienced a wish granted by Make-a-Wish Michigan, and created a themed float for the homecoming parade based on that wish. Our students were so inspired, and felt empowered to make a difference, through the chance to meet the local wish kids and partner with them on the creation of the float. 

“I feel incredibly lucky that I get to work with such amazing kids, they give so much of themselves each day to better our community. Please don’t ever think that high school kids can’t do something… give them some guidance, direction, and freedom to develop and they will do more than you can think possible! I am also lucky that I have gotten to connect with some pretty amazing people at, and through, Make-A-Wish.”

Tracy Mossburger,

Jenison High School Teacher and Student Council

Make-a-Wish Michigan has shown immense gratitude for the way our student body has displayed selfless acts of kindness for many deserving children in West Michigan. The creativity and perseverance of our students through these efforts shows them leading by example. The character of our students to work so hard, focusing on others is such an inspiring thing to witness. Go Wildcats!

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Tracy Mossburger and Kelly Cole, JHS Teacher Advisors attended the award ceremony with the Student Council representatives . 

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On November 12, the Association of Fundraising Professionals West Michigan (AFPWM) honored Jenison High School with ‘Outstanding Youth in Philanthropy Award 2019’.

IMG_0297Make-a-Wish kid ambassadors in the 2018 Homecoming parade.

Homecoming Blog posts:

Homecoming Dreams Big 2018

Make a Wish for Homecoming 2018

Homecoming 2014

 

JHS Thespians present “The Miracle Worker”

The Miracle Worker tells the story of Annie Sullivan and her student, blind and mute Helen Keller. William Gibson’s The Miracle Worker dramatizes the volatile relationship between the lonely teacher and her charge. The JHS cast and crew have stepped up to the task with some big challenges portraying this classic story. Don’t miss your chance to catch the phenomenal student-run, annual Fall production this week!

The Miracle Worker has powerful messages for everyone. In Helen, Anne, and Kate Keller (Helen’s mother), audiences can identify with strong and independent female characters.  Others can empathize with parents of children with disabilities, and try to imagine the challenges as well as rewards these courageous and loving families experience.  It’s also easy for those in education to admire the tenacity and strength of teacher Anne Sullivan. 


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Performances will take place at the Jenison Center for the Arts, November 7 – 9 at 7:30pm and a matinee on November 10 at 2:30pm. Tickets are $12 for adults and $8 for Senior Citizens or Students under age 18. 

*Due to its dramatic nature, this play is not recommended for younger children who are unable to sit quietly for the duration of the performance.


When Anne Sullivan died, her ashes were placed inside the National Cathedral in Washington, D.C.  After Helen died, her ashes were interred next to those of her beloved teacher. Teachers know how important and special a relationship with a student can be. Finally, everyone experiencing the show can relate to the importance of perseverance.

This year also marks the 25th Anniversary of Mr. Todd Avery bringing quality educational theatre to Jenison and our surrounding communities. 

Miracle_Worker_2019-1-2“Theatre can make a difference in the lives of everyone! No matter how our production touches you, we are delighted to share in our storytelling.  

Thank you to the many amazing volunteers overseeing essential teams such as set design, costumes, lighting, and sound. BRAVO Cast & Crew! Another job well done showcasing your talent and dedication! I am blessed to have the opportunity to direct this incredible play in my last year at JHS with this talented group of young actors and techs.” – Todd Avery, Director of Theatre Arts JPS

Click here for the full photo gallery.

Keep on beginning and failing. Each time you fail, start all over again, and you will grow stronger until you have accomplished a purpose – not the one you began with perhaps, but one you’ll be glad to remember.” Anne Sullivan

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Performance Honors ‘Band Mom’

This past weekend, McKenzie Stadium came alive with the annual Jenison Marching Band Invitational. The Jenison Band community is something special. Hosting 42 guest marching bands requires an enormous amount of planning and organizing. Much of the effort comes from parent volunteers! I’m always so proud when I see our leadership, parents and students working together to make magic happen.

The Jenison Marching Band, led by Dave Zamborsky, performed their show titled “Urban Canvas” and it was easily one of the best I’ve seen them perform. This year’s invitational was also special as we were able to honor, Sue Jonker. Sue is a loyal and dedicated JPS employee, whose behind the scenes work with the Marching Band over the years has been the glue that’s held everything together!

Sue signed up for a volunteer role with the Jenison bands in 1991 when her daughter, Carie, was a freshman. She began organizing and maintaining uniforms and chaperoning. When she started, Sue had no idea how suited she was for the ‘band parent’ life. She eventually stayed through her daughter Katie’s graduation in 2000, and by that time she was hooked.

IMG_9789Band parents are special people, they become a community together; looking out for each other and each and every kid. Sue is a rare gem, she loves our teens and embraces them fully as her own – her smile, great sense of humor, compassionate ear and helpful attitude quickly earned her the title ‘Band Mom’ who would do anything for her ‘kids’. For the past 20 years, Sue worked in the band office as the administrative assistant in addition to her many hours of volunteering each year.

Throughout her time, Sue helped organize band camp, was head chaperone for many years and trip chair. She was trustworthy and allowed the staff to focus on their jobs, and was trusting when it came to leading other volunteers as well. Sue played an integral role in helping to create rules and regulations for chaperones and equipment people, and worked with band director, Ted Bazany, to review and develop forms for scoring Scholastic band competitions (that are still used today). IMG_9791As the band traveled, Sue was responsible for the planning and coordination of out-of-state trips, including to Arizona and Indianapolis. Behind the scenes, Sue held up her title of ‘Band Mom’ by helping in anyway that she could.

I join the band staff and members in expressing immense gratitude for Sue and for the dedication and love that she has shown to all for so many years. She is a beloved member of the Jenison family!

Unfortunately, Sue has been unable to continue in her role this past year due to her fight with cancer, but she fondly reflects on the ‘too many great memories to list’. Some of her highlights include: being able to be there for the kids and staff, making long lasting friendships, working with a great program with some amazing students, having the privilege to travel with the band, and helping make sure they had what they needed.

After the invitational performance, the kids had the chance to say hello and give an impromptu performance of the band’s anthem “Lob Den Herren” as a token of gratitude. This song is a special tradition for the band and one of her favorites!

Thank you Sue, you have impacted so many with your relentless commitment to the Jenison family! 

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Front row: Anne Gembis (JJHS Band Director), Sue Jonker, Dave Zamborsky (JHS Band Director),  and Mary Uzarski. Second row: Bill Waalkes, Mary Bennink and Dara Westhouse

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Anne Gembis, Sue Jonker and Dave Zamborsky joined by Ted Bazany, former JHS Band Director. Mr. Bazany was also recognized for his many years of service to JPS.

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The Jenison Band members are proud to honor Sue Jonker with a ribbon tastefully incorporated into the design of their show shirt and performance uniforms.  

Check out the full photo gallery of the 2019 Jenison Marching Band Invitational

JHS Recognized with Michigan Exemplary Athletic Program award

The honor and privilege of serving as the Superintendent of Jenison Public Schools is a humbling, yet greatly rewarding experience. As a destination school for many families, it’s no secret just how amazing this place is.

It is well deserved when our staff and programs are recognized for their excellence. JHS has been honored by Newsweek Magazine multiple times as the Best High Schools in America, the Washington Post’s most challenging high school as well as a GRAMMY Foundation Signature School. Also, receiving recognition as one of the best 100 communities in the nation for music education nine times.

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Cody Inglis – MHSAA Director, Tim Ritsema – JHS Athletic Director, Brandon Graham – JHS Principal, Emily Siler – Student Athlete and Tom TenBrink – JPS Superintendent. Banner held by Athletic Booster representatives, Erich Stoezner and Jason Kyle.

Not only do we have an outstanding music and fine arts program, but a successful athletic program as well. Established in 1971, Jenison has a short but rich history of athletics and hard working supporters. At Jenison, we believe in the value and benefits of dedication, motivation, and perseverance. We see our athletic program as a vital part of our total educational program and take pride in its achievements. 

At our Homecoming football game on September 20, Jenison was officially recognized as an Exemplary Athletic Program by the Michigan Interscholastic Athletic Administrators Association’s (MIAAA). We are one of 25 schools that have received this award – and only a handful of them are in the West Michigan area. This is the result of many years of hard work to create a quality infrastructure and a reputable athletic experience; one that functions as an extension to our fantastic educational and fine arts programs.

Former Athletic Director, Kevin Van Duyn (also 1983 Jenison student athlete/graduate and coach), was instrumental in laying the groundwork to bring our program to this point. After his nearly 20 year career at JPS concluded, it was an honor to see him inducted into the Jenison Athletic Hall of Fame in March of 2019. He embodies a core belief that good sportsmanship and personal integrity are the foundation of what defines success in both winning and losing situations.

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Tim Ritsema, Jenison High School Athletic director is happy to carry the torch and keep our athletic program operating at Exemplary status:

“We’re not perfect but it’s exciting to receive recognition for the hard work that’s taken place. We have some state of the art facilities and the Jenison athletic department strives to share the District’s vision, mission, and core values by stressing Community, Achievement, Tradition, and Service – CATS. When everybody rows together in this endeavor, everyone wins – regardless of the trophies and banners that are on display.” 

Recipient schools experience rigorous screening including an application process, written documentation of the program’s strengths and a two-day visit by an MIAAA evaluation team. Michigan High School Athletic Association (MHSAA) states that this award honors programs that model excellence and equity. Schools that are providing for what is best in educationally sound high school athletics.  

Our teachers are relentless in the classroom and many of them continue that effort on the fields after school – 56 of our staff are in assistant or head coach positions at JHS. Our district-wide commitment to the advancement of the emotional, social, moral and physical growth of all of our participants remains strong and is a key component to this recognition. 

I’m beyond grateful for the work of all members of our athletic department to support our “blue ribbon” level program. Our students benefit immensely from relationships built with coaches, the challenge of competition and lessons of teamwork. Go Wildcats!

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Cody Inglis – MHSAA Director presenting the award to Tim Ritsema – JHS Athletic Director

Check out this video footage of the beautiful outdoor Jenison Athletic Campus:

 

Wildcat Homecoming 2019

Spirit week activities, tailgates, assemblies, parade, football game, dance and welcoming old friends back home; there is so much about the tradition of Homecoming that I look forward to each year. I enjoy every aspect of seeing our friends, families, students and community members coming together to celebrate.

For me, the high school pep assembly represents the official kick off to homecoming and it is something I love to attend. It is full of excitement and high energy as the marching band sets the tone. The students and staff unite in their pride and have a fun time pumping each other up.

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The pep assembly is also the first official presentation of the Homecoming court. A simple but very special tradition surrounding this presentation is one that many may not know about. The homecoming court representatives choose a teacher to escort them during the pep assembly. This has been a Jenison tradition for as long as I can remember.

I love seeing the teachers that have been selected; more than that, I love hearing the reasons behind a student’s choice for their teacher escort.

Year after year, students are honoring their teachers by using words like ‘admire’, ‘role model’, ‘mentor’, ‘passion’, ‘genuine’, and ‘contagious positive attitude’. Sharing these moments with our students and their teacher escorts is such a highlight of my homecoming pep assembly. It is a very cool experience to see the positive and lifelong connections that are made between our students and their committed teachers. Read some more awesome student quotes below and keep going for more great Homecoming 2019 moments! Check out the full gallery of homecoming photos here!

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Sophomore, Lizzy Lee and Mrs. White 

Sophomore, Lizzy Lee – I chose Mrs. White as my escort because not only did I have fun in her class last year, we got to hang out outside of school through YoungLife and build friendship.

Senior, Sydney Addington – I chose Mr. Zamborsky because he has been apart of all of my musical career, which has been a large part of my life, and has always been someone I’ve looked up to. I amire how much he has done for his students, our band program and for our school in general. He is always very positive and knows how to cheer people up. He has also always been someone I can joke around with and just laugh at each other. Again, I chose Mr. Z because he is a very good role model and someone I hope to be like when I am older.

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Mr. Carmichael and Junior, Bella Van Slyke 

Junior, Bella Van Slyke – I chose Mr. Carmichael to be my escort because not only is he an amazing teacher, but an amazing person. He has such a big heart and is always making sure that each and every one of his students are doing well. He always welcomes people to class with a big smile. I aspire to be as positive as him every day.

Senior, Kassidi Hill – I chose Mrs. Borst as my teacher due to her contagious positive attitude and good vibes! This lady radiates positivity and we all need a little reminder of the good things once in awhile. I was only able to have Mrs. Borst for one class, American Lit, sophomore year. Even with a class that you would expect to be dull, Mrs. Borst was able to make it a fun experience. Nothing, and I mean nothing, is ever boring when it comes to Mrs. Borst. She’s constantly smiling and whenever you ask her how she is doing, she’ll say, “Better now that I’ve seen your smile!” Which, truthfully, only ever makes my smile bigger. I look forward to passing her classroom every day just for a quick little chat because we joke around and then get on with our day, but even those quick couple of minutes flips my day around after talking with her. I wish a lot more people made me feel the way Mrs. Borst does because those are the kind of people I want to surround myself with! 

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Mrs. Elsie and Freshman, Rosie Nobel

Freshman, Rosie Nobel – I chose Mrs. Elsie because she is very caring not about just school but more importantly her students wellbeing. Immediately when I walked in to class the first day she made me feel welcome and comfortable especially for my first time in the high school. I am so lucky to have her as a teacher! 

Senior, Matt Huizenga – I chose Mr. Brosseit because to me he was more than a teacher. He was a mentor to me. He made me happy when days were bad. He is a great man!

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Sophomore, Teague Stephens and Mrs. Brown

Sophomore, Teague Stephens – I chose Mrs. Brown as my teacher. As I have grown up, we moved into a house right by Mrs. Brown; I have gotten very close to her even though I’ve never had her for a class. When I was told to pick a teacher I immediately thought of her. I’m so glad that she accepted and I look forward to her walking with me.


WILDCAT HOMECOMING 2019

It was a gorgeous day to welcome recently retired, Mr. Waters as our homecoming parade marshall. The “Game Show” theme brought the creativity of the classes. The Freshman class walked away as the float champions for this year with their “The Price is Right” float. The Junior class took their “Supermarket Sweep” one step further with a shopping cart – parade route collection of food items for Hand 2 Hand ministries. They collected almost 100 items from the community! The football game against Reeths-Puffer was a thriller with an action packed second half. An exciting touchdown with just minutes left in the game paved the way for a big win! It was a great day of celebrating with our community – it was a great day to be a Wildcat!

Check out the full gallery of homecoming photos here!

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Check out the full gallery of homecoming photos here!

JPS Partnering with Parents

Our district’s highest priority is the care and education of the children in our community. Everywhere I look, I’m surrounded by staff that is committed to fulfilling the district’s mission which is, “to ensure that each and every student grows intellectually, emotionally, physically, and socially in a safe and caring environment.” Not only do we have the best-of-the-best taking great pride in the curriculum, quality of instruction, extra-curricular activities, and beautiful facilities that are available to support our students; my colleagues are consistently collaborating with each other, and engaging with parents to help children find success now and in the future.

1254344780175e62ac9fd57a668510fa5024ca78Those collaborations can happen by focusing on the school work at hand and beyond. The Jenison Parent Liaison program has provided family unit support for students with a steadfast commitment over the last few years. I’m so excited to see it continue full steam ahead with some very compassionate and enthusiastic people leading the way. As Parent Liaisons representing the Family Resource Center, it is their mission to help families be successful at home so that students can be successful at school.

The Family Resource Center can be of assistance with mental health support, food insecurity and clothing, navigating insurance processes, as well as supporting teachers and families through crisis (death, grief, loss). They also offer programs for homework assistance, leadership and character development. 

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Mary Veldink (left) has been a 3rd grade teacher for 23 years but has been involved with the Jenison Parent Liaison program since its inception. Mary is now a full time Parent Liaison and assists Pinewood Elementary, Sandy Hill Elementary, El Puente, Jenison Junior High, and the JIA. Beth Morey (right) has been with the district for 11 years as a speech pathologist in the ASD program. She is also a fully dedicated Parent Liaison and will now support Bauerwood Elementary, Rosewood Elementary, Bursley Elementary, Jenison High School, and Steam Tech families in her new role. They both support ECC families.

They are so pleased to be able to connect so many families with the resources they need to make life a little smoother. Recently, they saw many community families join for the 7 week ‘Meet up and Eat up’ summer food service program. It was exciting to have numerous high school sports teams also come alongside them and serve food and play with the kids during that time. 

The Family Resource Center was also able to assist with family scholarships for camping vacations at Spring Hill. And when the summer was winding down, they were handing out backpacks and supplies where needed.

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Sue Hetfield and Jodi Huyser, Jenison ECC PreK teachers and ECC Family Outreach leaders were given a match-making vision to change the lives of preschoolers and their families.

I would also like to introduce another program for the PreK families, The ECC Family Outreach. This program came from two very passionate preschool teachers who had a shared vision based on the needs they see everyday. They have worked tirelessly based on the belief that it is essential to make a home-to-school connection as soon as possible. Matching families with resources and making families successful at the beginning of a child’s school experience has the potential to change the trajectory of that child’s life. They are offering monthly sessions to engage with parents regarding topics such has healthy habits, budgeting, outdoor safety, healthy eating and literacy.

The problem solving passion that is behind both the ECC Family Outreach and the Family Resource Center is a strong characteristic of our #BeRelentless community.  I’m proud of the hard work that has transpired to bring our families support when needed. When we’re doing what’s best for our students and families, we can’t go wrong. Please check out some family resources below or ask your school principal to learn more about these programs.

If community members would like to help the Family Resource Center support other Jenison families, there are ongoing collections of gently used, in-style, in-season clothing for community partner, Threads Clothing MinistryOther donations of activity gift cards for families to spend time together on weekends or school holidays are very helpful as well (Rebounderz, Bowling, Movies, Zoo, etc.).

Great Start Parent Coalition Flyer

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NHA Parenting Class Advertisement

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ECC Family Outreach

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The Gridiron Border Battle

You don’t usually need a passport for “AWAY” games, but last week the varsity players of St. Thomas More (STM) Catholic Secondary School of Hamilton, Ontario did, as they loaded up to drive 5.5 hours for a memorable international experience in Jenison.

The STM football program tries to come to the midwest for a game at least once per year. They are one of the most prominent and highly decorated football teams in Ontario and Canada. They are also repeat Provincial Bowl Champions from 2015-2018. JHS Athletic Director, Tim Ritsema knew they would be a good competitor for us to start the season with and it was exciting to get the chance to host them.

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The football players weren’t the only ones hard at work preparing to show our northern neighbors the spirit of west Michigan.

Leading up to the 7:00 kick off, the David McKenzie stadium took a moment to be silent in memory of Jenison student, Sydney Carfine who passed away following a car accident earlier this summer. She was a cheerful person and beloved friend who would have been a senior this year.

Jenison Boy Scout Troop 354 presented the flags as both countries were honored with their anthem. Karen Ambs, recently retired Jenison elementary choir and music teacher, pulled together a group of volunteer singers to welcome our guests with live vocals singing ‘O Canada’. This group, appropriately named the CatPack Chorale, was made up of Jenison Alums, parents, community members, current students and even included two of our own varsity football players!

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Game nights look a little different for them at home so we were honored to treat the STM players to a fabulous “Friday Night Lights” experience – great crowd, awesome atmosphere, and stellar performances by the marching band for our national anthem and their half time show. Jenison Varsity Coach Rob Zeitman and AD Tim Ritsema agreed – a win would have been nice but the exposure our students receive in welcoming this team is a valuable interaction. Following the game, the teams shared a pizza party and came together to share little bit about their high school and football experiences.

The stadium atmosphere wasn’t the only thing that was different about this game for our opponents. There are different game rules in the United States versus Canada. In Canada, it’s three downs to get a first down. They play with a longer and wider field; they also play with 12 players on the field at a time instead of 11. That obviously didn’t deter them, as they came away with the win that night!

The STM team was also given the opportunity to catch an exciting American collegiate contest on their way home – stopping by East Lansing to see Michigan State beat Western Michigan, 51-17.

STM Head coach Claudio Silvestri was super appreciative of the our community saying:
Thank you so much for everything you have done to make this experience happen. Our players and coaches raved about the “Jenison” experience.  Your program is “top notch” and your facilities were incredible. It was the warmest  hospitality we experienced in the 17 years of doing this trip! Our kids were also blown away by the Michigan State experience!

Despite a loss for us on the field Friday night, hosting our first international game was a heartwarming WIN and the Jenison community did not disappoint! It was a great experience all around. 

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STM Players at the MSU game Saturday, September 7.

Ready to Launch

It may be the beginning of the school year but our teachers are always operating with the end in mind. This is Brad VanTimmeren’s 8th year teaching within the M.E.R.I.T program at Jenison High School. He uses projects like build-your-own bottle rockets to daily instill the knowledge and confidence his students need to carry them forward.

M.E.R.I.T (Meaningful Education Rooted In Transition) is a program designed for juniors and seniors who are looking for an opportunity to get prepared for life outside of high school. Our high school staff has been focusing on teaching students life skills and exploring post-high school options through this unique program for nearly 14 years. Karen Dame is also a member of the M.E.R.I.T. team. She has been with JPS for 6 years. and offers guidance in language arts, employability and work readiness skills.

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Mr. Van Timmeren talks about the successful components of this bottle rocket.

The students must prepare, do their due diligence, be patient, listen carefully to instructions and work together to build their rocket. Launch day was delayed due to some weather but overall it went well this year. Van Timmeren shares that his students “enjoy being hands-on and learning visually. Building something engages a different skill set and thinking outside the norm of text books/tests sets up a great conversation about overall real life perspective.” Every year, students see success and failures within this project, and can evaluate what went well and glean applicable life lessons from it.

rockets-5One of the best things about our district is our teachers and staff who daily come prepared and committed to meet the intellectual, social, emotional, and physical needs of each and every student. While this is obviously a key focus during their time under our care and guidance, the importance of seeing this extend beyond graduation means embracing individual success as we launch each student. I believe it does our students a disservice to make them fit a mold they were not made for. Other learning take aways for M.E.R.I.T. students in the coming year will center around career building and planning, gaining exposure to multiple skill building opportunities and considering options. The program also includes a t-shirt business and partnering with the school store to teach practical skills.

Van Timmeren has embodied the “Be Relentless” theme for nearly a decade with his students. I am excited to see him engaging our students in genuine relationships and getting them ready to launch into the world beyond high school, their world. 

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“No matter where kids come from or where they’re headed, they first need to know their strengths; then we want to work together to maximize their abilities. Helping them find their passion and build their confidence is key in preparing them for the path ahead – that may be college, trade education or the workforce as well as valuable community member.”  

Brad Van Timmeren

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4-H: Swine Summer School

When Hudsonville Community Fair week rolls around, many people are enticed by the food, thrills and grandstand entertainment. But the 4-H experience is another very exciting and educational component. Currently, the Hudsonville Community Fair is the center for over 3,000 4-H exhibits – reflecting the strong agricultural roots of our community. 

You may have wandered the livestock barns to visit the animals, but have you ever considered the amount of work these young people have accomplished over the course of the summer to prepare for fair week? And did you know, some of them are Jenison students who don’t even live near a farm?

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These Jenison families were hard at work this summer with project pigs for 4H. Arianna and Ava Jenison, Taya Jenison, Ryerson and Jameson Kass, Gavin and Grayson Roby, Ally and Ellie VanTimmeren , Hannah and Rylie Paddock, and Christine Duch.

 

Since 4‑H began more than 100 years ago, it has become the nation’s largest youth development organization. They strive to engage youth in urban, rural or suburban communities to reach their fullest potential through experiential learning and the development of practical skills. Jenison teachers and parents have seen the benefits of this program first hand and they love that their students are getting a new perspective outside of their typical school and social circles.

This year, a collection of Jenison students (1st grade through 12th grade) spent much of their summer working on a 4-H Swine project. The process starts in May when the students look for a pig to purchase. They weigh about 40 pounds and reach around 300 pounds by fair time. Since some of them don’t live on a farm, housing the pig somewhere is a consideration as well. The students have much to learn and many decisions to make in order to raise their pig the best they can before the showmanship competition at the Fair in August. They are required to understand all components of the project, fill out paperwork correctly, give their pig the proper care including appropriate weight gain, grooming and being clipped well and making sure their skin is in the best shape possible.  

During the upbringing of their project pig, the students make observations, ultimately presenting them in a notebook for review as part of their final presentation. Christine Duch is a 10th grader at Jenison High School and was glad she could channel some of the learnings from her art teacher to creatively express information during the notebook portion. Using her art skills helped her feel more confident about the project. 

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Grayson Roby with his pig, Duck. (L) When he brought Duck home. (R) When they went to the fair.

Jenison High School Assistant Principal, Julie Roby enjoys seeing her boys take on this great responsibility and work hard all summer. They have also created great bonds with friends they have met through the 4-H program in the past years. “My kids are gaining life skills – they have learned how to self-advocate. They are by themselves when they give their sales pitch to local businesses (to secure a buyer), they are by themselves in the show ring, and they shake hands with adults after the auction and the pig is sold.  They have developed a confidence in their ability to represent themselves.”

Hannah Paddock is a 10th grader at JHS who has exhibited for 7 years, her 5th grade sister, Rylee joined 2 years ago. Mr. Ohman and Mrs. Hinkle are both Jenison teachers who have left an impression on Hannah – they have been so supportive and always stressed a ‘have fun and give it your best effort!’ kind of message. Hannah has appreciated that and applies that thinking to her fair projects. “It doesn’t always work out as we may wish but as long as we do our best and have fun with the process, it is always worth it in the end!

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Hannah Paddock, Christine Duch and Ally VanTimmeren watching Taya Jenison show her pig.

Some of our Jenison students have come away big winners for their efforts at the fair. The Paddock family won Grand Champion (best of the entire show) 4 times during their 7 year 4-H career. Multiple awards were received within the group this year as well including Ava Jenison, 2nd place; Rylee Paddock, Reserve Champion Junior Showman, Grand Champion Barrow (overall) and 1st place in individual class; and Hannah Paddock, 1st place in individual class.

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This is Ava Jenison’s 5th year showing pigs at the Hudsonville Fair. She received a Second Place ribbon this year for her work with her pigs, Annie and Willie.

In the 6 years Arianna Jenison has been participating in 4-H, she and her parents have learned more than they ever thought they’d need to know. They’ve given shots and taken care of other animal emergencies. One year, they were faced with a case of pig pox (like chickenpox for pigs!). Arianna enjoys the showmanship day, meeting new people outside of school and the satisfaction of hard work. She has also learned a great deal of financial responsibility with all that comes with raising a pig. 

The students all agreed – they love the work and they come to be really fond of their swine friends, however, it’s a lot of stress wrapped up in a week of excitement. While they’re a little relieved it’s over, they’re looking forward to starting again next spring and making many more great memories at the fair!

It’s exciting that our Jenison students are pushing themselves with determination and perseverance; and representing our school so well! I’m proud to see them taking advantage of the 4-H experience!

When you head to the fair next year, make sure to take time to visit the 4-H exhibits and ask those hard working kids some questions. There’s something for everyone and the student exhibitors love to share what they have learned.

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Senior Arianna Jenison with her pigs, Kim and Kanye. She has participated in the 4-H pig project for 6 years.

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Shown with her pig Sully, is Rylee Paddock, a 5th grader at Rosewood Elementary School. This is her second year participating in 4-H. This year, she received multiple awards: Reserve Champion Junior Showman, Grand Champion Barrow (overall) and 1st place in individual class.

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Shown with her pig Winston, is Hannah Paddock, a Sophomore at Jenison High School. This is her 7th year showing at the fair. This year, she received 1st place in individual class.

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