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!

Congratulations Class of 2020

This week, we had a great first day to kick off our 2020 – 2021 school year. And just one week before, we were able to finally celebrate the accomplishments of our 2020 graduates!

As a sign of the times, Commencement 2020, of course, looked very different. I’m so grateful they were able to have this long-awaited opportunity to celebrate. Even though the execution of the event was unique, I love everything about the tradition of commencement and the time it gives me to reflect on the hearts of each of those students and the obstacles they have overcome during their school career. I wish them well and hope they experience much success as they enter the next phase of their lives.

As the class of 2020 gets to finally close the book on their high school career, the rest of us turn the page to a new chapter. One where flexibility is the name of the game! I’m so grateful for the relentless team of teachers, staff and administrators of Jenison Public Schools who have come back to school with a renewed focus on building positive and meaningful relationships with our students; no matter what – because each one of them matter to us!

The energy the students bring to our school buildings is powerful and we met them with such celebration and great excitement on that first day. Here’s to a great year for all of us! Go Wildcats!

Frontline Fuel Boost

Our local heroes are highly respected and always deserving of our gratitude. However, the recent days of the COVID-19 pandemic have required them to go even more above and beyond with their servant attitudes.

As we closed the year without the spring sports season, the Jenison Athletic Boosters found themselves with an inventory of concessions that would have expired. Wanting to say thank you, they made a sweet donation to the frontline workers at Metro Health and the Ottawa County Sheriff’s Department.

Thank you again, to all our local frontline workers, for the sacrifices you make, every day and especially during this pandemic. Your dedication, commitment and courage deserve our deepest gratitude and admiration. Your service is saving lives and making differences daily. 

Cross Country Challenge

Most people don’t even run 4 miles a day much less 48 miles in a weekend – but the Jenison High School Boy’s Cross Country team isn’t “most people”. In preparation for the fall season, the team usually participates in spring and summer fundraisers which were canceled this year. This required Coach Jacci Storey and her Jenison running family to get creative, organizing a 4x4x48 challenge, where they would run 48 miles in 48 hours.

Throughout the canceled track season, the team of runners felt the pain of separation, yet remained connected by their commitment to the team and their love of the sport. Supporting each other while training individually.

Coach Storey, Connor Vachon, Jaden Henderson, Luca Pham, and Austin Winkle, along with other members of the cross country team participated in the 4x4x48 challenge. The feeling of family was evident as graduated Cross Country athletes from the past season also came out to run the last leg. It’s amazing to see this strong family culture thrive – even when they graduate, they are still part of our Jenison Cross Country family!

As a sophomore at Jenison High School, Hunter Bowen was a member of the Cross Country team this past fall when he passed away. It was a devastating loss for this close knit group. Three of Hunter’s siblings who also were part of Coach Storey’s running family at JHS joined the 4x4x48 challenge. It was a beautiful reunion of friends and family.

The challenge kicked off at 4am on a Saturday morning at Maplewood Park and they ran another 4 mile distance every four hours until they completed 48 miles. And it wouldn’t be our team if they weren’t pushing themselves within the challenge. They started the 10th leg of the race on Sunday at 4:00pm and met a record for the group with an impressive 37 minute time.

Legs were tired but hearts were full as they accomplished their goal (actually completed in less than 48 hours) and exceeded their fundraiser goal amount Sunday night around midnight! Well done, gentlemen! Way to seize this opportunity to challenge yourself and finish strong.

Coach Storey’s daughter made a special appearance for one 4 mile leg as well!

Class of 2020 Celebration

On the original date scheduled for commencement this year, the Class of 2020 took their turn in the spotlight and was able to close the chapter on their high school career. However, it looked very different than any of us had imagined and they weren’t walking across a stage that night. As the closures of COVID-19 threatened to cancel every event, the Class of 2020 Senior Planning Committee sprang into action. Typically this parent-led volunteer committee spends about a year working on plans to celebrate the accomplishment of their students with a safe night of fun following graduation. With a true resilient spirit, they quickly shifted gears and pulled off an amazing community celebration in the form of a ‘Senior Parade’.

Seniors were driven through a parade route that was like taking them down memory lane. They first encountered the jubilant cheers from their elementary teachers, then the junior high and high school teachers and staff.

I’d like to extend a big thank you to Mike Schwartz and his son, Matthew (8th grader at JJHS) for putting together this awesome drone video! There was such a great turnout of seniors and supporters!

I had the best seat in the house as I waved each of them my best and sent them off to the last leg of the journey where their community and family members waited to celebrate their accomplishments. I’m beyond proud of the way this class of students finished strong during this recent interruption in their lives. I am so grateful our amazing seniors had the opportunity for this experience and for them to know that they have an entire community standing behind them during this time. Many more smiles in the full photo gallery.

Family support at its finest! Go Wildcats!

– JENISON HIGH SCHOOL – CLASS OF 2020 TOP TEN

Another date that has come and gone is the evening of our annual High School Honors ceremony. I would like to take this opportunity to recognize the seniors who comprise the Jenison High School Class of 2020 Top Ten. These young people are outstanding students that have excelled in and outside of the classroom. They are great scholars, but even better people. Well done!

  • Drew Bobeldyk, Valedictorian
  • Ashley Winger, Salutatorian
  • Stuart Tolsma
  • Rebeca Zeitman
  • Tristen Kloppe
  • Leah DeRitter
  • Andrew Ferguson
  • Jacob Frollo
  • Anna Bartz
  • Quinn Snyder

Congratulations to this incredible group of young men and women! You are examples of what hard work can achieve and we are so proud of you. The future is yours for the taking!

Light up the Night 2020

No one can deny the loss all students are experiencing during this time. It is especially real for the Class of 2020 who expected their high school career to culminate with a variety of memory making events. There’s nothing we can do to change it all but I want each of them to know they are loved and supported.

Joining other OK Red Conference schools, Jenison High School Principal Dr. Brandon Graham and Athletic Director, Tim Ritsema participated in a local effort called ‘Light up the Night’. On the official final day of classes for the Class of 2020 – students embraced the simplicity of the event with a drive through visit of the campus and some families strolled the grounds of the stadium. A simple gesture to show support for our seniors and it was a beautiful sight to see.

2020 District Awards

In the midst of a challenging spring, it is refreshing and uplifting to receive word that Jenison Public Schools has received recognition for multiple awards. I’m so grateful for everyone in the JPS family who has employed a relentless attitude and taken ownership to push our district to be the best it can be. Way to go Wildcats!

  • Jenison Public High School has been named as one of the best high schools in the state of Michigan by U.S. News & World Report.
  • Bauerwood Elementary has earned the title of Capturing Kids’ Hearts National Showcase School.
  • The Jenison Music department has earned our district the NAMM 2020 Best Communities for Music Education.

Our Tradition of Excellence continues because of outstanding building leadership, exemplary teaching, a terrific student body, supportive parents, and a generous community! The outstanding work being done by our K-12 students, teachers, and support from our Jenison community truly make Jenison High School an exceptional place to learn – it also placed us in top 95% of the country.


Capturing Kids’ Hearts is the foundation on which Jenison Public Schools is built. It is about building relational capacity with our students and with each other. It is a terrific tribute to Bauerwood Elementary School to be recognized as a Capturing Kids’ Hearts Showcase School for the 3rd year in a row. Being a showcase school means every adult makes student relationships a priority not only in their words but through their actions. Bauerwood is in very select company across the nation. I am very proud of Principal Crystal Morse and her staff.


The NAMM Foundation Music award program recognizes outstanding efforts by teachers, administrators, parents, students and community leaders who have made music education an important part of a well-rounded education. This definitely applies to high school directors Grant Carmichael, Dan Scott and Dave Zamborsky; they also represent a team of hardworking music educators we have at Jenison Public Schools. From parents to teachers, students to administration, all have worked together to make beautiful music and achieve this acknowledgment.  


*COMMUNITY FOOD DISTRIBUTION INFORMATION*

Hudsonville: Grace Community Church – 3500 New Holland Street
Tuesday & Thursday, 4 – 7 pm

Grandville: Fellowship CRC – 4375 Ivanrest Avenue SW
Monday & Thursday, 9 am – 12 pm
Tuesday, 6 – 7:30 pm

Jenison: Sunrise Ministries, 7754 28th Avenue
Monday & Wednesday, 4 – 7 pm

JENISON PUBLIC SCHOOLS LUNCH PROGRAM UPDATE:

Monday & Wednesday, 11:00am-12:30pm

As of Monday, May 4, all Jenison School lunch program distribution will be done at the Jenison High School – 2140 Bauer Road, Jenison. Stop by the West Parking Lot on Monday for Monday and Tuesday meals, or on Wednesday for Wednesday, Thursday and Friday meals.

Please continue to watch your email and the Jenison Public Schools facebook page for any updates regarding the school location distribution program.