Senior + Self-Published = Literary Success

 

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JHS senior and self-published author, Erika Buhk – Photography by Nicki Prentler

A four year Varsity athlete on the swim and dive team, a representative on the executive board for National Honor Society, a solid big sister and friend, youth group participant, church volunteer with her cello, 12 year Girl Scout, and junior high assistant diving coach… With a list like that, you wouldn’t think senior, Erika Buhk would have a whole lot of free time for writing and publishing a book. But that’s exactly what she did.

Erika credits her natural love for reading and writing, as well as the Jenison teachers who came alongside her, to help bring her to the completion and publication of her first book. Even as an elementary student, she was being challenged to think deeper as a participant in the ACT program, which is a pull-out program for academically talented and gifted students in 3rd-6th grade. Her teacher was Mrs. Karen Weaver and even though the content wasn’t Language Arts based; Erika feels she came away with a sense of confidence and insight into how to truly embrace every opportunity to learn. This teacher and this experience really influenced some of Erika’s key beliefs and behaviors and has helped her forge her own path.

She deeply appreciates the way her skills have been shaped by her Jenison High School English teachers. All of them have been so different and each of them have taught her something very unique, yet very important to the writing style she now uses. Over the years, she learned about the mechanics of speech and grammar from Mrs. Cindy Wabeke, spent time refining her individual writing style, learning the power of a good introduction/conclusion and persisted in taking her writing above and beyond in a college level writing class with Mr. Mark Doby. Mrs. Kathy DeBoer, although not a writing teacher, was also instrumental in helping Erika gain a well rounded appreciation for literature, which she thinks has encouraged her own writing style as well.

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Erika embraces learning wholeheartedly and is a keen observer; she often finds her mind on ‘run-away train’ mode, trying to imagine a backstory while she sees the world as a variety of mini-plots. Around the time she was starting at the Junior High, she actually sat down and put pen to paper. It didn’t take her long to realize that she had a whole plot line in her head. Once she got started, she really loved the process of developing her main character asking herself, ‘What else could happen to him?’ She was writing a story in a spy fiction genre, and found that she loved the military order and discipline of the profession but also the complex existence of her young character. As life happens, there were days when she was pursuing her project and other days she wasn’t. However, she enjoyed the process throughout, saying she was always thinking about what and how she wanted to write.

So, what’s next for our friend Erika? With this deep interest in literature and love for learning – not to mention a father who is a teacher himself; it is often assumed that she’ll go into an “English” driven career. Actually, she’s headed to Michigan State University to start a Pre-Med track. She’d rather keep writing as the thing she really loves to do, and can escape to. However, mentioning a few career possibilities that offer fast pace variety from day to day or even a little mystery solving, it sounds like she’ll experience no shortage of “plot lines” for inspiration.

We’re so proud of all our students, but Erika’s story is evidence that teachers throughout Jenison schools have taken ownership of our mission wholeheartedly. It is so exciting to be a part of this team; working together to help our students grow intellectually, emotionally and socially while becoming lifelong learners.

Download Erika’s book on Amazon today!The Unseen Final Cover

The Unseen: Erika L. Buhk

Jackson Bryant is like every other teenage boy in the country; he’s intelligent, athletic, and he’s very aware of the girls around him. He cares deeply about his family, is working his first job and is developing a crush on a special girl. What makes Jackson different? It might be that his intelligence and athleticism are the results of one-on-one training with the top Secret Agents in the US. It might be that his family consists of his late parents, two other teenagers, and an agency’s worth of operatives. But what really separates Jackson from the teenagers around the world is that he is employed with the CIA and his colleagues call him Agent Bryant.

After Jackson was abandoned by his guardian, the CIA cleared him to act as a full field agent. At the age of seventeen he has traveled around the world, assumed countless identities, killed some of the world’s worst criminals, and saved his country doing the only thing he’s ever known; acting as an undercover spy. Jackson’s next mission sends him to a small town in Pennsylvania and he must act like a normal teenage boy. Now that he’s had the chance to taste the life he’s never had, a life he’s beginning to enjoy, Jackson’s mission is about to end in disaster.

Follow Jackson as he acts under pressure, completes the impossible and finds himself through the most unlikely of friends. In a world that has forced him to grow up very quickly, watch as Jackson struggles to accept his past and fights to live the future he wants. Get an insight to the unique life Jackson leads, experience the very adult problems this teen is tasked with solving, and uncover the next chapter of his very complicated life.

Star Student: Colton Ritsema

Senior Colton Ritsema isn’t one to brag. But he should – even just a little. As he walks down the hall, teachers and fellow students alike, call out to him and offer high-fives as he passes.

Colton was nominated as our High School Star Student by his principal, Dr Brandon Graham. Colton is involved in DECA, the LINKS program which pairs a general education student with a special education student throughout the day, he is on the basketball team and works in the school store as part of his advanced marketing class.

Colton recently chose to attend Concordia University in Ann Arbor where he will continue his basketball career. He is looking forward to being away from home, “but not too far.” and he believes the opportunities that college will bring are worth the adjustment of leaving home. He is still deciding a major or direction but is considering education or sports marketing.

He believes a leader is strong in their beliefs, is willing to listen to others, has good communication skills, and is teachable. [Another star student who is wise beyond their years!] He loves to read and spend time outdoors. While he doesn’t see himself as a successful fisherman just yet, he enjoys trying. He believes his friends would say he is kind, fun to be around, and easygoing. Colton lives with his parents and his sophomore brother Josh. He also has two goldfish names Viking and Billy who have defied the odds and lived well into goldfish old age. [Colton is not sure if they will join him in a pursuit of higher education.]

Colton feels prepared for college but will miss the “great teachers at Jenison and the relationships you develop.” He also notes that the “atmosphere at Jenison High School is one of balance between hard work and fun and this is something he will also miss. He would like Mr Abram Brosseit of the history department to know that he thinks he’s an “exceptional teacher” and if he becomes a teacher one day, he knows he will draw on his experiences with Jenison teachers as inspiration and a valuable resource.

It’s hard to imagine a better high school representative of a star student!

Congratulations Colton! Your hard work and humble spirit are an encouragement to everyone who knows you! May your time at Concordia continue to prepare you well for an amazing future! We’re proud you’ll always be a Jenison Wildcat!

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

Christine Duch, Taya Jenison, Hannah Paddock

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Star Student: Amaya Rodriguez

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Jenison High School Senior Builds Hope

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

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

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

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

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

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

Mike + his grandfather

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

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

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

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

Summer Series: Student Art Sample [Kindergarten]

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Over the course of our summer we will feature various artists and art pieces from each Jenison elementary school as well as the Junior High and High School. Each piece was carefully chosen by our art teachers and we hope you will enjoy the talents and hard work of our students while you also enjoy a beautiful and relaxing summer!

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By Molly Dobbs
Sandy Hill Elementary

Molly Dobbs is an amazing kindergarten artist! She is constantly creating art that goes above and beyond in class. Her imagination is one that is a “gem” in the world of artists. The two works of art that I have chosen both have examples of Molly’s great craftsmanship and wonderful imagination. She has added her own snowman to the Landscape painting we created [below]. In the bug jar, she has added a flashlight that is shining on her Moth.

It is a joy to have Molly in my Art class. She is always amazing me with her own style!

Molly’s and her artwork were selected by her elementary art teacher, Mrs. Streelman- Dismukes.

Star Student Spotlight: Peyton Benac!

If you’re a regular reader of the Jenison Blog, you have already met our high school star student, Peyton Benac. Last winter, she impressed us with her story of starting the Girls in STEM Club for elementary students, and now she is principal, Dr. Brandon Graham’s choice to round out our special series of awesome Jenison students!

Peyton’s list of accomplishments in a long one but her humility, gentle spirit, and desire to enrich and encourage younger girls is nothing short of inspiring!

Last year, Peyton shared with us that she felt motivated to begin the Girls in STEM Club because of her own experiences on the junior high Science Olympiad team. During her time on the team she heard inappropriate comments from fellow 7th, 8th and 9th grade students about the presence of girls on the team. Peyton was keenly aware of the lack of female leadership in the group and was seeing its impact. “If we had another woman in the room –  a high school girl or a female teacher – this would be such a different environment. I noticed that a lot of junior high girls were quitting Science Olympiad, and I was getting pretty frustrated by it even as a junior high student”.

Two years ago, as a sophomore, Peyton began serving as a Science Olympiad coach. “I started coaching sophomore year and I tried to “fill the space” and be that person that wasn’t there when I was a junior high student.” It was at this same time that she approached Mrs. Putti about starting the Girls in STEM Club for elementary students.

This winter Peyton won a National Merit Scholar award which is based on the PSAT which she took during the fall of her junior year. Based on scores, they choose 16,000 students nationwide. These 16,000 students are asked to write an essay, submit their transcript, and a letter of recommendation and the organization chooses 14,000 finalists. With this prestigious award comes varying amounts of scholarships from schools around the country. Financial awards range from a one-time $2500 gift to full ride scholarships depending on the school.

Peyton applied to fourteen schools to “see what happens”. Her schools of choice include Michigan State University, University of Michigan, Harvard, Princeton, Wellesley, Mount Holyoke, Boston University, and Harvey Mudd College [a small, prestigous STEM college in Southern CA]. She adds, “I kind of want to go out of state if I can. There’s so much to see.”

Peyton plans to pursue degrees in astronomy and physics. When she is done, she’d like to explore the passion she discovered while working with the elementary students in the STEM program. “I think I want to work more on the outreach side. Teaching college kids is obviously rewarding with high-level material and research – that’s all fun, but there’s nothing that really rivals a seven-year old who’s excited about building the fastest sled or the strongest boat. That’s so unique and important and I think there’s really a need for that encouragement for boys and girls, but especially for girls at those young ages.”

Payton’s aspirations go beyond encouragement. “I would like to teach at the university level and do research but hopefully, from whatever university I’m teaching at, be able to be in charge of whatever they do with younger kids: summer camps, after school programs, inviting kids to campus.”

Peyton sees her role with younger students as one of influence, which she values and appreciates in her own life. “Years ago I liked education, but I didn’t see it on a personal level.” She listened to science podcasts and saw herself in that role or on TV, but once she began working one-on-one and in groups she saw the impact she could have with students in person. “It’s fun to be on TV but way more fun to physically be in the room and there’s a bigger impact to be there.”

Mrs. Putti, Alice’s high school physics teacher, as well as Mr Kunzi and Mrs Sager have been “very instrumental in fostering my love of the STEM subjects. When you think about what it means for girls to not be afraid of that interest, I think it’s so much the personal relationships, having someone TV who is a woman and in STEM is one thing, but having someone who is going to remember your name, and work with you and remember your project, and show you how to do a problem is a totally different thing. The number of people you reach in a career like this is much less but the impact you have on each person is much more.”

So where did Peyton decide to take her talents? She’s headed to Cambridge and the mighty Crimson of Harvard University!

Congratulations on all of your accomplishments, Peyton! We are so proud of you and know you will continue to make us proud as you head East and continue to conquer the STEM world! We love being able to call you a Wildcat!

 

Star Student Spotlight: Izzy Krzewski!

When asked who Junior High Vice Principal, Heather Breen, would recommend as a Star Student, she did not hesitate! “8th grader, Isabelle (Izzy) Krzewski is a sweetheart of a student who is very involved in theater, dance, orchestra and choir.  She works incredibly hard and has great grades.”

Izzy comes from a musical family where her four older siblings are happy to indulge her habit of singing around the house. She has participated in Jenison theatre the last two years and performed as Princess Winifred in Once Upon a Mattress and this year, she wowed the crowd with her especially mean portrayal of Aunt Spiker in James and Giant Peach. Izzy insists that her role has Aunt Spiker caused her to have to “dig deep” because she usually plays the fun, silly roles and Aunt Spiker was the exact opposite. Izzy herself is sweet, kind and humble so finding her “inner Aunt Spiker” was a fun challenge.

As other theatre students have affirmed, the program at Jenison is a place all kinds of kids call “home” and Izzy is no different. She loves theatre because “the kids, the environment, and all the people — theatre people are the best people to be around because you can just laugh and joke with them. If you’re stressed from homework, theatre and dance just help you forget about it and be part of the art.”

Izzy also participates in the Junior High Dance Team which performs at the boys basketball games as well as various local competitions. If her dedication to theatre wasn’t enough to exhaust you, Izzy’s dance schedule directly corresponds  to the preparation for the musical each year and she insists it’s not a “stressful kind of hard work”.

In class she describes herself as “quiet and shy” but these are not the qualities she possesses on stage. “I just like becoming a different person on stage and making the audience smile and laugh”. Izzy says that her math teacher, Mr. Ohman is the teacher that inspires her to learn and the class she enjoys the most. “Mr Ohman teaches us math, but also teaches us about life. His stories are really inspirational. Usually in first hour I’m tired but he keeps me engaged with all of his stories.”

Because two kinds of art performances aren’t enough for Izzy, she also participates in the junior high choir and orchestra where she has played the viola for three years. “In orchestra I’m playing the notes and in choir, I’m singing the notes which is really cool and it helps me learn more.”

Her favorite music to sing is show tunes and she loves Newsies and Hamilton. She has seen movies of Broadway shows but has yet to see one in person but very much looks forward to it.

Izzy is looking forward to auditioning for theatre and being part of the High School choir and orchestra and says, “It is difficult balancing it all during the theatre and dance season. You’re up late, but it’s totally worth it.”

She encourages everyone to find what they love and lean in to it. “You have to find a passion in yourself, something that makes your heart beat faster and then that’s really where you make your mark.”

Thank you, Izzy! Your hard work, bravery on stage, dedication to your passion is an inspiration to all of us! We’re proud to call you a Wildcat!

Star Student Spotlight: Cordiela Sorrelle!

Pinewood fourth grader, Cordelia Sorrelle, is a girl of many talents, combined with a sweet, humble, and kind heart. Cordelia was nominated for this mini-series on Star Students by her principal, Rachael Postle-Brown, who says that Cordelia “always does an amazing job and is so humble”.

Aside from her regular schoolwork in fourth grade, Cordelia is involved in the chess club, robotics club, ACT, the after school reading program, and loves STEM.

She joined the chess club at the beginning of the school year without ever having played a game before. She “thought it looked interesting” because, “I like to think of strategies and tactics”. She enjoys playing board games but she especially loves those that involve strategy. Cordelia says she’s a good chess player but she hasn’t beat her dad just yet, but knows she will one day. [Look out, dad!]

Cordelia is also a member of ACT which is a weekly educational program for third through sixth graders who qualify. “In ACT we solve problems. Right now, we’re learning about things to build a mini-golf course. First, we learned about pentominoes. [Readers: if you need a quick math lesson, check out the Wikipedia link telling you what a pentomino is. Go ahead, we’ll never tell.]  Then, we made a tabletop mini-golf course to see where the ball will go”.

Cordelia is in ACT with other qualifying fourth graders from two other JPS elementary schools. She is proud to be in ACT and decided to apply because of what she believed about herself and her abilities.  “ACT is for people who are academically talented so I thought, why don’t I take the test because I think I’m smart.” She says that ACT is a safe place to be and feels like her fellow students support each other. “I like that other people there are smart too so people don’t judge me about it.”

But Cordelia’s love for learning doesn’t stop there! She is also a member of the after school reading club where, Monday – Thursday, she finds a comfy seat in the library and reads a book of her choice for 45 minutes with other book lovers. Her favorite book right now is Land of Stories, a series about twins who go into fairy tales. Cordelia has loved reading, “since I was born” and is not only a fast reader, but always has a book in her hand.

Cordelia also decided to join the robotics club this year and says that she liked building robots. Her 4 person, all girl elementary team [which included her older sister] competed in robotics events made a forklift but after they found that other teams were copying it, chose to destroy it and build a new one. Cordelia was the youngest member of the team and when asked how she feels about people who think robotics, chess, and STEM are better suited to boys she says emphatically “I say, girls can do anything that boys can do.” When asked how it make her feel when people say those things, she gives us all a lesson in self-confidence: “I don’t really care about what they say.”

Adding to her already impressive resume, this spring Cordelia will take her talents to the softball field for the first time. Her friends are doing it so, “I thought it would be cool if I did it too.” She didn’t want to be unprepared so she took a softball clinic “to see what it was like”.  At home, she tries her best to take care of her three dogs but they don’t make it easy for her. “When I get home, it’s like they haven’t seen me in a thousand years and they jump all over me.”

Cordelia, I think it’s safe to say, we’d be excited to see you too! You are the true definition of a star student and we cannot wait to see where your gifts, talents, and kind heart take you!  We’re proud to call you a Wildcat!

Sandy Hill Third Grader and His Class Teach the World About Love and Laundry

miii3995At elementary schools all around the country there are kids earning points and rewards for trying to improve their behavior or work on particular skills. The rewards are usually specific to the student’s interests such as additional technology time, reading with a friend, eating lunch with their teacher, etc. but these average rewards were not enough for one Sandy Hill third grader. Kamden VanMaanen wanted more. Kamden has a unique interest in laundry detergent and one of his teachers, Olivia Kool, found a way to capitalize on that passion and make life a little easier at home too.

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Mrs. Kool, Kamden & his rewards

“Kamden started off by earning ipad time which did not seem to be a big enough incentive for him. As his classroom teacher Mrs. Ryan and I got to know Kamden better, we quickly learned about his love for Gain laundry detergent. Students with autism often have high interest areas and Gain detergent is something that Kamden is passionate about and talks about on a daily basis. He has even gotten many teachers and students to switch to using Gain for their laundry. He can tell you everything you would ever need to know about laundry detergent and the different scents. When I noticed that the ipad time was not really an incentive for him, I started thinking about what could we do differently to help him have good days at school. One day, I asked him if he had a good day would he like to earn some Gain laundry detergent. His face lit up when I asked him this. The first couple of days I went out and img_3509-1bought laundry detergent and he was highly motivated to earn that reward. Mrs. Ryan and I definitely noticed a difference with Kamden when he was earning the laundry detergent.”

Kamden’s mom, Amanda, decided to continue the reward at home and was also buying Gain for Kamden, which was adding up for both mom and teacher! This fall Mrs. Kool got an idea: “I wrote a letter to Meijer and Procter & Gamble. In the letter, I told them that I was a special education teacher who had a 3rd grade student who was obsessed with Gain laundry detergent. I told them how he tells everyone that Gain is the best detergent because it “has a wonderful scent and makes you open the world of fragrance.” Mrs. Kool told the companies in her letter that Kamden earns ipad time to watch Gain commercials on YouTube and asked if they’d be willing to send detergent samples as his rewards.

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Kamden dressed as a washing machine for Halloween!

“About a month later I got an email from Michael Kadzban the Buyer for Laundry and Cleaning Supplies for Meijer. He told me that he and Todd Vishnauski from Procter and Gamble secured some Gain supplies for Kamden along with some other things for him. They personally wanted to come meet Kamden and drop off the goodies they got for him. Michael and Todd were amazing! They brought tons of Gain samples for Kamden as well as Gain t-shirts, notepads, water bottles, and an official certificate from the Gain team.”

img_3503Michael and Todd “were amazed at how well the students in Kamden’s class embraced Kamden’s passion for Gain detergent and how happy the students were to see the excitement in Kamden’s face when they came to their class.  Todd from P&G said it best when he told the class that the makers of Gain have a term for people who love their product. These people are called Gainiacs. That is what Kamden is, a true Gainiac.”

img_3507Amanda VanMaanen, Kamden’s mom is grateful for the support of the teachers and staff at Sandy Hill for their love and care for their family. “Kamden was thrilled to have Todd and Michael visit him in the classroom. He couldn’t stop grinning and talking about it constantly for a long time. He told every person he knew about it. I think it was wonderful to get his class involved. They were all so excited for Kamden and it made his love of detergents a little more relatable.  I think Kamden felt so proud and excited to spend a little part of the day sharing his favorite topic with everyone. The staff has been so supportive of his fixation, even sending pics of their detergent purchases.  Mrs. Kool went above and beyond to send out the request and to set this up for him! It certainly helped with our budget for supplying laundry detergent incentives for Kamden too. We are so proud to be a part of a school that truly cares for and supports our son!”

Kamden loves his teachers and friends and he really likes science. He says he loves all the subjects in school except math, which many of us can relate to. He thinks that Mrs. Kool is a good teacher because “she’s really nice and she does nice things for me like asking the guys [from P & G and Meijer] to come to school.  She’s a good listener and she likes laundry detergent too. She has a cool down corner that I really like.”

img_3493Sandy Hill principal, Jon Mroz, knows that Kamden’s story has already impacted the students in Kamden’s class and the entire school. “This story is important to share because Kamden is an amazing young guy, with a one-of-a-kind personality.  With the help and support of the Sandy Hill teachers, we have seen a tremendous amount of growth with Kamden in many areas over the years.  Kamden’s story has allowed other students an opportunity to understand that everyone has differences, and that we can accept those differences with an open mind and open heart.”  

Thank you Mrs Kool, Mrs Ryan, Mr Mroz and the many other teachers, staff members, and students that have gotten to know Kamden and supported him. Your love and encouragement of Kamden has made a huge difference for this amazing student and his family!

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