Home Field Advantage for AD, Tim Ritsema

1270991261e92b45cadffeb0d92fe70aa2494837Tim Ritsema, our new Senior High Athletic Director, may be wrapping up his second full week on the Jenison High School campus but he is no stranger to these halls. A Hope College and Grand Valley State University grad, Tim actually started his career with us and is happy to be suiting up in Wildcat green again.

During that early decade, Tim was teaching PE, coaching Track and Cross Country; he also spent two years as the Jenison Junior High Athletic Director. Most recently, Zeeland East had the pleasure of Tim as their Athletic Director for 14 years. Those that worked closest with him during that time, describe him as one that will be remembered as the role model he is – as a father and a fan of athletics; while understanding and achieving a healthy balance.

Walking onto the track at Wildcat Stadium for the first time in 14 years was a surreal experience for Tim. He fondly reflects on former athletes and memorable contests, but it’s ultimately about the relationships. Not only with coaches and other staff, but the kids. Tim has such a heart for the student athlete and says he can’t imagine doing anything different. He will definitely acknowledge that “wins are fun, of course, but trophies fade.” His real inspiration comes from connecting with student athletes 5-10 years later. Finding out they are doing great things with their lives; “that just jazzes me up, and I am not ready to be done with that.” He recalls numerous valuable lessons in his upbringing when adults took an interest and invested in his life. He feels that being present and involved in students’ lives is what drives him daily

1270990634eeaf829b196e46a76d9eb0cbf3eb83.jpg

Time has obviously passed and some things have changed (some of my former students are even coaching here now!) but I feel so at home and one thing remains, Jenison has strong programs and an outstanding reputation in so many areas; I intend to build on that momentum with new and fresh ideas. I am so excited to be back and I look forward to applying my years of experience gained at Zeeland.

Tim Ritsema, Jenison High School Athletic Director.

It is an honor to be able to offer a quality athletic experience that functions as an extension of our fantastic educational and fine arts programs – and that we have Tim back on our home turf! Let me officially say “Welcome (home) Tim!”, the Jenison families are blessed to have you lead our student athletes, teaching them character, commitment, a true sense of sportsmanship and an appreciation for that healthy balance.

Senior + Self-Published = Literary Success

 

Senior Pictures 074
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.

Senior Pictures 044

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.

Excited to kick off 2018-2019!

1254377654440245bd2da90e2a2b429e2533a3fd

Welcome to the 2018-2019 school year at Jenison Public Schools! We’re so glad to have our students back with us! Please subscribe and check in with us every Thursday to catch the highlights happening in our schools!

As superintendent, I have more than a few first back-to-school days under my belt, but it’s still my favorite time of the year. For the last few weeks, I have been watching our amazing teachers and staff all across the district prepare for another successful year with our students. Working in their empty, quiet classrooms while anticipating the buzz and activity just around the corner; and looking forward to the promise budding within each student they will meet.

img-2918.jpgA pretty soggy start aside, it was a particularly exciting first day on Tuesday as we welcomed students to our new Kids First building. We are so proud of this learning environment with 40 state of the art classrooms. This new building is home to our Early Childhood Center and Spanish Immersion program. It’s a phenomenal opportunity to provide our students an up-to-date, caring, loving, and supportive place to learn and grow.

Lee Westervelt and Lloyd Gingerich will lead the Kids First family as principals of the Early Childhood Center and Spanish Immersion program, respectively. Lee has been in this role since 2004 and Lloyd comes from Rosewood Elementary, where he worked with the Spanish Immersion program since its inception 9 years ago. The Spanish Immersion program has been renamed El Puente, which translates to The Bridge. 

1254346014af54623059699998ff116dceea1cd2.jpg

L to R: Jonah Graham – JHS Student, Chelsey Danielson – ECC Staff, Lee Westervelt – ECC Principal and Sarah Stier – ECC Secretary.

 

Lee is looking forward to continuing an already strong focus on kids at this new building and said, “Kids First is a shining example of a community that supports education – and for that we are very grateful. It really was designed and constructed with our students as the focus. We have a common purpose of providing the best staff and facilities for every JPS student.”

12543778edc21bd2875d7052b586ffe026204f3c

El Puente Principal, Lloyd Gingerich

The first day of school also marked the first time that Lloyd and El Puente staff and students were under the same roof. Lloyd eagerly awaits the unity this building will provide, “The Kids First building gives us the opportunity to unite a program that’s been functioning divided in two separate elementary schools for the last eight years. Our teachers are looking forward to collaborating with each other on a daily basis rather than several times a month. Today, the teachers and I finally felt like the team we were meant to be. The students, many of whom were apprehensive about mixing with a new group of peers, found even more friends to learn Spanish with.  It was a great start to our year and our future.”

When I arrived Tuesday morning to the Kids First building, I was overwhelmed with the number of adults who were standing in front of the building with umbrellas greeting our parents and students, wearing the most genuine smiles and walking them into the building. In addition to our amazing team of Jenison administrators, teachers, and paraprofessionals greeting our families, we were blessed to have pastors and members of Fair Haven Church welcoming our parents and children to the first day of school.

What I witnessed that first morning at the Kids First building is what our Jenison community is all about.

Welcome back Wildcats, we’re looking forward to another amazing year!

Enjoy these photos from the August 15 community open house, when the weather was much more kind than it has been this week!

1254344780175e62ac9fd57a668510fa5024ca781254351154ff1994653897e2962dbbfc2b77e32e12543655c5ca3a0fa119e623aeacb650a1fcbd3412543469c04771cc49201f10efaac9fa9b6eb66812543471c7a21f839b2699edb2fc52c35455571c

12543467536b3f828f366fa9b59f625a06ccf104125434451224397e0baa2d0e17c6edd3a714bf9512543451f7b7cbc539cecb305d4c4627e6dc7e27125437516b06f435516c3884cd88670adde252ef12543754b0781901d5cadf4ac292e6828d668f19         12543753bc5b216b96c880816981bd073a500846

 

Senior Honors Night 2014

 

025 copy

While today marks the last day of school for most of our Jenison students, the Class of 2014 has donned their caps and gowns, changed their tassels from one side to the other and said their good byes to Jenison Public Schools, for many of them, their home away from home for the past thirteen years.  On Tuesday, May 27th the High School Administration and Staff took time to honor those graduating students who have gone above and beyond in their academic careers.

Over 200 students were honored for their achievements including four National Merit Scholars for the first time in Jenison history!  Congratulations to Jeshua Hayden, Kyle Vachon, Daniel Wells, Jason Wesseling! And 45 students were honored for their work in a specific department as chosen by faculty in each department.

There was $4.2 million dollars in various scholarships awarded to students and this was due to the diligent work of students pursuing [and qualifying for!] so many scholarship opportunities.  These scholarship funds are provided by the largest group of “Institutions and Benefactors Providing Financial Support” we have ever had and include schools such as Alma College, Hope College, University of Michigan and University of California Los Angeles and local businesses including Gemmens Hardware and Cracker Barrel.  Moving and emotional Memorial Scholarships were also awarded in honor of Bud Kamradt, Tami Lindemulder, Denise Petkus, Joshua Stedman, Erika Marie West, Dean Wierenga and Richard and Doris Weist.

114 copy

For some students, they overcame many health, family, financial and emotional adversities to get to this place of honor but Mr. Terry Dykstra, High School Guidance Counselor, would tell them, “I would want the Class of 2014 to always remember from where they’ve come, to treasure the gifts and talents that they have been given, and to cherish each day, as a gift from God.  They are truly special, and from “special” much is expected!”

Students were also honored for joining the Armed Forces after graduation with a long [and loud!] standing ovation from the grateful crowd!

“Honors Night is always an incredible evening, where we reflect on and recognize the achievements of the graduating class.  For some students in the class, they having been receiving periodic recognition throughout their high school career, but for many [just as equally talented and gifted!], this is their moment of “fame” and recognition and an opportunity for us to say “THANK YOU” to them for making Jenison HS a better place!” — Mr. Terry Dykstra

237 copy

124 Students achieved a GPA of 3.5 or above

 

“This is one of the most motivated classes we have ever had at JHS!  They are outstanding in and outside of the classroom and are dedicated to excellence.  These students are very deserving of all the recognition that they are receiving at honors night!  I’m truly proud of the Class of 2014!” — Dr. Brandon Graham, Principal

Congratulations Class of 2014!  We wish you the best as you look towards very bright and exciting futures.  Know that Jenison will always be home…and, no matter what they say, you can always come home again.

International Students Choose Jenison

 

221_edited-1 - Copy

When family and friends are thousands of miles and oceans away it seems difficult to imagine that a new, albeit temporary, home can be made but students from China, South Korea, Finland and Spain have done just that this past school year in our community.

These students stay with Jenison Host Families and integrate into the life of Jenison High School.  With open arms, amazing local families embrace these students, sharing with them the love and hospitality that is customary within our Jenison community.  Once settled into home-life, a meeting takes place with one of the high school guidance counselors, Mr. Terry Dykstra.  Based upon interests and academic goals, Mr. Dykstra guides students in building their daily course schedule.  Prior to the first day of school, all are invited to attend an orientation of the building, learning how to navigate as well as meet other students.

As the school year gets underway, international students experience the support each teacher extends to them individually.  From academic assistance in a specific class, to the thoughtful care of asking another student to walk them to their next class, Jenison teachers are always putting students first.  Additionally, the appreciation and awareness of other cultures in each classroom allows for a unique experience with international and Jenison students alike.

One student that chose to attend Jenison High School this year is Mary Wang who has been studying at Longcheng High School for 2 years. “It is my honor to be the first foreign exchange student from Longcheng, to study at Jenison High School. I decided to come to the USA because I planned to study abroad for my higher education as well. Finally, I made my decision to study in Great Britain and I have already received offers from several schools. I am interested in politics, history, and debate so my major will be International Relations & Politics.”

278

International students pictured with Terry Dykstra, Becky Redmer, Emily Kaminski + Tom TenBrink. Mary Wang is seated in front of Mr. TenBrink.

 

Some International students have the option to attend Jenison High School by applying independently with an agency, while others have the ability to come here by way of a direct partnership.  As more international awareness of Jenison takes place, there has been a desire to partner with schools overseas, specifically in China.  Over the past three years, these partnerships have matured and produced far reaching options for students.

Emily Kaminiski, JIA International Coordinator of Student Services, supports many international students from a multitude of pathways that lead them to Jenison.  “From the two current partnerships, we project our international student population to continue to grow next year.  Jenison is always seeking new opportunities and possibilities. Currently there are initiatives with Scotland and additional schools in China, to allow study abroad opportunities for our JHS students, and to increase our international student population.”

And while it isn’t always easy, sophomore student Mateo Blanco from Spain will tell you, “You have to grow, nobody can tell you, you have to live it to really understand it.”  South Korean sophomore, Hayeong Choi says that she misses her family and the food of her home country but knows that she has matured a lot during her time here.

“These students are so courageous!  At such a young age they leave their families and all that is familiar, to immerse themselves into another culture, because they know it is good for their long term benefit!  It is not the easy decision to make!  It’s incredible to watch them arrive very timid, and over time become a natural fit with their home stay families.”
– Ms. Emily Kaminski

As the program continues to grow the need for Host Families grows as well.  If you’re interested in becoming a Host Family for one of these brave international students please contact Ms. Kaminski at the JIA:  616.457.3400, x3349

We’re so glad these students have made Jenison their home this year and we hope they will take a little bit of us with them around the world!

Family Photo - Hansma2

Hayeong Choi with her host family.

Junior High Students Get Some Well Deserved Kudos!

035

On the evening of Tuesday, May 6 hundreds of families of Junior High students filled the Jenison Center for the Arts to honor and celebrate the accomplishments of the over 500 students receiving honors and special recognition.  Students were obviously excited and parents, obviously proud.

036

According to Mrs. Breen, Jenison Junior High Vice Principal, this is the most students they have ever had at honors night and being a building of just under 700 students total that is an extra reason to celebrate.  One of the special awards given out was the Principal’s Outstanding Educational Improvement Award which “allows us to recognize kids that might not be in the spotlight all the time but lets us spotlight some of their efforts that they’ve made this year behavior wise, academically, etc.”  Students are nominated by teachers as someone who has really made great strides in a few different areas.  “That’s one of the great things about Jenison Junior High.  We have a feel for everyone that walks through the building, who they are, what their names are, what their background is, a little about their family.  That’s the great thing about the Jenison culture in general.”

Honors were given to students for achievement in the following areas:

  • MEAP Award
  • Principal’s Outstanding Educational Improvement Award
  • Perfect Attendance
  • Honor Roll
  • Presidential Academic Awards
  • Science Olympiad Team
  • Student Council
  • Reading Award
  • Spelling Bee Room Finalists
  • Above and Beyond [awards for Art, Life Skills, Tech, Music + Student Athletics]

The honorees also included 23 eight graders who received the Exemplary Achievement Award which has a two year requirement period.  In order to be chosen for this prestigious award students must do community service, be on the honor roll every marking period and have involvement in a club or team.  The student athletes award winners had to participate in four seasons of a sport, maintain at least a 3.0 GPA, have zero level two disciplinary issues and have all ones and twos work and class conduct marks on their report cards.

A handful of the winners of the Exemplary Achievement Award winners.

A handful of the winners of the Exemplary Achievement Award winners.

“I want to thank all the teachers who’ve impacted the students day in and day out with their care, support and encouragement.  I think that goes for teachers Kindergarten through 7th and 8th grade who have worked with this student.  We have them for two short years but there is a lot that’s been invested.”  — Mrs. Heather Breen, Jenison Junior High Vice Principal

Our teachers are amazing and they are some of the best anywhere because they plan such innovative lessons incorporating technology  and challenging students to think more deeply  and tons of lessons that are engaging  for students and most of all, they make learning fun.   They way they build relationships with students and tell them that they care about them is what makes it all happen.” — Mr. Brett Cataldo, Jenison Junior High Principal

033

Riley Knaak + Haley Westra [both 7th grade] are all smiles on their big night!

Riley Knaak + Haley Westra [both 7th grade] are all smiles on their big night!

Way to go Junior High students!  Whether you still have one more year or are moving on to the High School we are proud of you and can’t wait to see where you’ll go and who you’ll be!

Sandy Hill Families Take Time to Spruce it Up!

002 copy

This past Saturday morning while many of us were sleeping in or being lazy in our pajamas, Sandy Hill families were busy volunteering to help keep their school looking great!

Each spring and fall Sandy Hill hosts Spruce it Up, an event dedicated to maintaining the curb appeal of the school.  According to Mr. Mroz, Principal:  “Activities range from: cleaning up leaves and trash, fixing plow damage, pickup up sticks or other debris, trimming shrubs/trees, spreading of bark and planting of shrubs.”

A couple of young helpers take a break to chat.

A couple of young helpers take a break to chat.

It’s a laid back morning where volunteers jumped in wherever they were needed and the jobs were decided up on by the parents club throughout the year.  They have also been generous in supplying funding for various needs (shredded bark, removal of yard waste, or parts and assembly of gaga pits for the playground).

Rather than base this around a fundraising element Mr Mroz and the Parent Club see this event as more of a “morning together in the yard” in order to take pride in the property the district provides.

Mr Mroz mans the leaf blower!

Mr Mroz mans the leaf blower!

“Thank you to our volunteers!  The time and effort that has already been spent in the past, and going to be spent in the future, is greatly appreciated.  Taking pride and respecting the property helps instill a sense of ownership for the students that attend Sandy Hill.  Additional time provided by staff outside the school day helps continue to strengthen our sense community at Sandy Hill.” — Mr Mroz

Thank you to all the participants who sacrificed a spring morning to help keep Sandy Hill looking great!
We appreciate you and all you do!

004 copy

010 copy

016 copy

022 copy

019 copy

 

Jenison International Academy Partners with GRCC to offer Biology Labs

This past February the Jenison International Academy [JIA] had the opportunity to visit Grand Rapids Community College and integrate online learning with some hands-on experience.
The Jenison International Academy currently serves eight counties in the West Michigan area providing full-time online education for students in grades 6-12 and is in its fourth year of operation. JIA continues to expand its programming, acting as a curriculum provider for local districts in West Michigan.
Kristin Graham, JIA Principal shared the details of their February 7th lab and the students experience at GRCC:  In an effort to provide hands on opportunities for students who participate in virtual courses, JIA has partnered with the Biology faculty at Grand Rapids Community College to provide lab opportunities for our students.  Ninth grade Biology students met on the campus of GRCC to complete a DNA fingerprinting lab. Biology faculty and current GRCC students hosted the lab in order to teach students the basics of restriction enzymes and how they are used to cut DNA samples in order to determine DNA sequences. This process, called DNA Fingerprinting is often used in the judicial system.  Students were provided with a simulation in which they performed a gel electrophoresis to see which of the suspects was most likely to have committed the crime based on DNA evidence collected at the crime scene.

Following the completion of the crime simulation, students were challenged to isolate a DNA strand from their own saliva. A buffer solution was used to extract a visible mass of DNA cells and students used toothpicks to pull a thin strand of DNA from their test tubes.

In the future, JIA students will visit GRCC science labs once per semester in our Biology courses to complete activities relating to their online coursework.
Another exciting milestone for the Jenison International Academy is their new home!  The first week in April, the JIA officially transitioned into their new facility at 7506 Church Ct., the building formerly used as the temporary offices for the Administrative offices during the construction of the Jenison Center for the Arts building. The new facility houses our administrative and instructional staff offices as well as a teaching lab/conference room and learning lounge for students to utilize throughout the day.
New home of the JIA!

New home of the JIA!

The Jenison International Academy is an unique and important element of the fabric of Jenison Public Schools and we’re proud to watch it grow and continue to impact our community and beyond!

Junior High Student Showcase & Soup Dinner

072 copy

It was a special night at Jenison Junior High last Thursday, one that was meant to highlight and celebrate the amazing talents and passions of our Junior High Students and continue an eleven year tradition of hosting the Student Showcase and Soup Dinner and it did not disappoint!  Many of the school’s incredible groups took part in the Showcase, allowing guests to be entertained, educated and, of course, fed!

A small sampling of the hundreds of bowls created by our art students!

A small sampling of the hundreds of bowls created by our art students!

The Ceramics and Sculptures class created 225 one-of-a kind, keepsake bowls for diners to choose from and take home as part of their dinner ticket purchase!  “Initially, this event was originally intended to be a part of the Empty Bowls Project, a national fundraiser that pairs organizations and schools with local soup kitchens in order to help raise money for the hungry in their communities” and they continue to support the local organization, God’s Kitchen, in Grand Rapids, with their profits, says Vice Principal, Heather Breen.

033 copy

The 8th Grade Teen Leadership Team was in charge of running the kitchen and serving the all you can eat meal [which included delicious soup classics such as Chicken Noodle, Cheese Broccoli, and Chili], salad, rolls, desserts and drinks. This team also worked hard to decorate the cafeteria, prepare the meal, collect money, collect and package canned goods, and clean the cafeteria following the event.

Each guest was given the option to pay a flat rate of $7.50 or receive a .50 discount if they also brought a canned good.  Families received a discount of $1.50  with four canned goods!  Ms. Breen reports that “We had approximately 250 people attend the event this year and we brought in approximately $1500 in sales from the dinner and $300 from our Be Nice doorway competition.  We also collected 110 pounds of canned goods for God’s Kitchen.”

For the discerning dinner guest who enjoys learning there were plenty of opportunities!  The Junior High Band, Orchestra and Choir performed during dinner and many teams including Science Olympiad, KIK Club [Kids Impacting Kids] & Cooking 101 shared presentations as “a great way to highlight the talents of our outstanding students!” – Ms Breen

056 copy

One of the many posters created by the Be Nice campaign.

Additionally, classrooms focused on the theme of “Be Nice” to decorate their doorways. Be nice is a positive anti-bullying initiative designed to spread awareness surrounding the issues of bullying and the importance of treating people with civility community-wide.* Guests were able to vote for their favorite classroom doorway design by giving change that was donated to God’s Kitchen. Any amount was acceptable and the winning classroom won a pizza party!

“We believe that this event continues to be a success due to the support of our students, staff and families.  Our students make this event a success by sharing their amazing gifts and talents.  Our staff and families also make this event a success by their commitment to support our students and our community.” — Ms Breen

Once again, our students, staff and families in Jenison prove that they care deeply for those in and around our community.
Jenison Junior High students;  Way to go!

035 copy

057 copy

012 copy

004-2 copy

054 copy

067 copy

*From the website of the Mental Health foundation

 

 

 

 

 

High School Production of Wizard of Oz Amazes Audiences!

279 copy

The Jenison High School Thespians and Music Department took on a legendary classic for the first musical production in the new Jenison Center for the Arts and they did not disappoint! Performing to a sold out run for the first time in Jenison theatre history, the classic story of Dorothy finding her way back to Kansas was beautifully performed by the hundreds of actors, musicians, crew members and support staff.

Tryouts began after Christmas but rehearsals were thwarted by the many snow days this winter.  Bringing the show together with those set backs didn’t stop the group from being the kind of team required of this massive production. Kim Nagy, Vocal Director, says that is what impressed her most: “The kids have just done an absolutely incredible job, everybody has completely pulled together.  This has been the tightest cast we’ve ever worked with and absolutely delightful to work with from beginning to end.  Mr Avery stresses professionalism with the students and they live up to that.”

Senior Jenna Bassett was thrilled to play the Wicked Witch of the West which is her “dream role”, “I love being the villain; it’s really fun” and plans to try out for roles at the Civic Theatre in Grand Rapids after graduation because “it’s something, that once you get started you never want to leave”.

Will Docsa, a senior originally from a small town in Kentucky, played the great and powerful Oz and spoke about the role and his time with Jenison Theatre with a bright smile and unmatched enthusiasm.  “I didn’t really fit in very well, I was sort of an outcast and loner but I was encouraged by my English 9 teacher, Mr Brossiet, to join theatre and I really just flourished here.” Never having considered theatre before he caught the keen eye of Mr. Brossiet during a class reading of Romeo and Juliet, “I was reading it very dramatically and he recommended it and I thought I’d give it a shot.”  The role of Oz is one of his favorites and was particularly impressed with the culmination of the teams that came together for the pre-recorded pieces such as tech, audio, camera, make up and editing, “it’s one of the most incredible things I’ve seen Jenison theatre ever do.”

Will is also quick to give props to Mr. Avery, not only for his directorial abilities but the important role he plays in Will’s life:  “Mr Avery has always been like a father figure to me and without him I probably wouldn’t have gotten as successful in high school as I am today.”

“The show is bittersweet because it’s my last show here but our first show in the space”, says Katherine Searcy, playing the role of Dorothy. Amazingly, Katherine had not seen The Wizard of Oz until two years ago, but she was excited for the opportunity nonetheless. For her, singing and performing in the new space “is a little scary but it makes me really happy, it really does.”

The new theatre really got to stretch its wings by showing off the special effects required of this show such as a tornado, flying monkeys, a flying witch and even Miss Gultch riding her bike while flying through the air!  Of course, Toto [played by Lulu Byrne] stole his fair number of scenes as Dorothy did her best to keep him close.  The musical accompaniment led by Orchestra Director Dave Zomborsky, was positively professional and the entire musical team were the hidden stars of the show.

“The community came together to give us the wonderful gift of the new performing arts center.  With our production of The Wizard of OZ, our hope was to take that gift and give one of our own in return.  We love our gift and hope everyone enjoyed their gift, as well.  It was a joy to work with my fellow directors and this great cast, crew and orchestra full of talented young people.  History was made with this production, and it was an honor to be a part of it.”  Mr. Todd Avery, Director

Congratulations to the team for a fantastic run and an incredible job well done!  As always, you make us proud!

292 copy

Dorothy played by Katherine Searcy singing “Somewhere Over the Rainbow”

314 copy

357 copy

Glinda the Good Witch played by Marysa Miller floats to Munchkin Land

185 copy

Sean Daley playing The Cowardly Lion

411 copy

Scarecrow Gerrit Veldt, Tin Man Nate Altena, Dorothy and The Cowardly Lion are off to the see the Wizard!

162 copy

Sean Daley and The Wizard of Oz, Will Docsa

494 copy

188 copy

484 copy

There's no place like home!

There’s no place like home!