Congratulations Class of 2017!

Future plans had been made. For some, college acceptance letters are taped to the fridge and deposits mailed. For others, job were planned for. Finals were taken. Summer jobs were secured and vacations planned. Their gowns were freshly pressed and their caps were bobby-pinned in place. The Jenison High School Class of 2017 had done everything they needed to do to arrive at this amazing day and they were ready!

To begin the graduation festivities, seniors donned their caps and gowns and walked the halls of their elementary alma maters one last time as Jenison students. It’s a tradition meant to inspire the younger students but also, a chance for graduates to acknowledge how far they’ve come and what they have accomplished in their years as a student.

Then, under a gorgeous blue sky, the Class of 2017 received their hard-earned diplomas and looked ahead to their bright futures with Jenison High School in the rear view mirror for the first time.

Congratulations to the Class of 2017! Wherever your journey takes you, know that the entire JPS community celebrates with you and for you! Remember these invaluable words from Facebook CFO, Sheryl Sandberg:

“Don’t let your fears overwhelm your desire. Let the barriers you face – and there will be barriers – be external, not internal. Fortune does favor the bold, and I promise that you’ll never know what you’re capable of unless you try.”

“And now go, and make interesting mistakes, make amazing mistakes, make glorious and fantastic mistakes. Break rules. Leave the world more interesting for your being here.” – Neil Gaiman, Author

High School Students Accept the Student Leadership Challenge

miii0113This fall, 40 Jenison High School students were invited to join a group of their peers known as the Student Leadership Challenge. Based on the book by Barry Posner and James M. Kouzes, students are encouraged to examine their own leadership actions and aspirations. They were nominated by the students who make up the Principal Advisory Board and the group meets once a month before the school day even begins – at 7am!

captureHigh School Principal, Dr Brandon Graham, sees the group as a way to develop leaders at the school and give a voice to those demonstrating leadership skills.  “We’re reading through the book, identifying ways they can improve their own personal leadership skills and the ultimate goal is to develop kids as leaders and bring that leadership into the school.”  As students are examining themselves, Dr Graham wants them to ask themselves about their every day choices and decisions. “Everything matters. How do you hold yourself to a higher standard?”

Throughout the year, the group would like to have members of the community who are successful in their positions visit the group and share what it takes to get there. By hearing from outside voices, Dr Graham hopes to inspire students to develop goals and find ways to work towards them, even now. “We look forward to continuing to elevate the leadership skills found in the kids at Jenison.”

Principal Advisory Board member and 12th grader, Ayesha Kothari, believes there is value in meeting and encouraging students to consider their role as a leader. From her personal experience of feeling anxious speaking in front of groups and now, finding it easier to manage, she wanted to be able to help others find ways to grow. “I think it’s important to foster leadership talents in kids that may not find a way to access it otherwise.” When the students were selected by the Advisory Board, Ayesha says “we saw ourselves  in those students and we wanted to reach out to them and access those leadership qualities.” They are studying the book by focusing on each of the five segments of the book and doing short, visual presentations on each portion and leading activities based on the reading.

miii0062Although 40 students were invited in October, Dr Graham says there is room for more. If you’re a high school student with interest in joining the Student Leadership Challenge, please talk to Dr Graham or any member of the Principal Advisory Board [Jafet Cruz, Alex Bennink, Ayesha Kothari, Tristan Milarch, Tabitha Hill].

Congratulations to the students rising to the Student Leadership Challenge! We believe and in all of your leadership skills and think it’s incredibly valuable that you continue to find ways to share them with us and your fellow students!

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Jenison High School Graduation: 2013

Jenison Public Schools, Jenison High School graduation, Tom TenBrink, Brandon Graham

As if to offer a glimpse of their bright futures, the rain held off nearly completely last week Thursday, allowing the sun to poke through and deliver a gorgeous night for our 2013 graduates.

With a packed stadium filling the evening with applause, over 350 Jenison High School students filed solemnly past moms and dads and grandparents and onto center field for the last time. It was their moment to shine.

Jenison Public Schools, Jenison High School graduation, Tom TenBrink, Brandon GrahamSuperintendent Tom TenBrink began the evening with a gracious welcome and a reminder of how blessed our students are to attend a school as accomplished as Jenison, with teachers who care deeply, and with parents who are involved and supportive. He went on to outline the notable feats that Jenison has come to be known for, including:

  • 13th best high school in the State of Michigan by US News & World Report
  • Newsweek’s list of “Best High Schools in America” (only about 6% of all U.S. schools make this list)
  • Grand Rapids Magazine’s 3rd best high school in West Michigan (although Mr. TenBrink argues we should be #1!)

Mr. TenBrink went on to encourage all of the graduates to pursue servant leadership in their lives — to think of others and to do more for them than you would for yourself. He admonished them to consider the words of so many great leaders and thinkers of our time, from Ghandi to Martin Luther King Jr., and live in such a way that elevates others while offering love and encouragement over selfish ambition and conceit.

Jenison Public Schools, Jenison High School graduation, Tom TenBrink, Brandon GrahamJenison High School Principal, Dr. Brandon Graham, was moved at the thought of these students beginning a new chapter, and chose to read selections from the children’s picture book, I’ll Love You Forever. He added his own take on the familiar classic with these words:

“I’ll love you forever, I’ll like you for always, as long as you’re living, a Wildcat you’ll be!

Aside from these emotional words, he shared thoughts on living a disciplined life going forward:

“You can walk away from this high school knowing that you’ve cemented your legacy.  …But know there is always a price to be paid to be great, and it starts with doing what needs to be done, when it needs to be done. If you can keep your eyes fixed on your goals and say no to the quick fix and the easy road, you’ll reap the rewards of discipline.”

Jenison Public Schools, Jenison High School graduation, Tom TenBrink, Brandon Graham

Dr. Brandon Graham welcoming Valedictorian Don Lee to the stadium. Don will be heading to Stanford University in the fall to study computer science.

This group of graduates has certainly shown discipline and determination thus far, securing over $2.3 million in college scholarships collectively! Their hard work has garnered the attention of many in our community and across our great state. Please join me in celebrating our 2013 graduates and the future that lies ahead for each of them!

We wish them the best of luck, more sunshine than rain, and the discipline to follow their dreams.

JHS Homecoming Pride Rally in Pictures

There was more than the wind howling last week Friday! Jenison High School’s gymnasium was alive with raucous laughter and excited cheering as students prepared for the 2012 Homecoming festivities.

This “Pride Rally”, organized by student congress advisors Julie Roby, Tracy Mossburger and Chuck Russell, along with Principal Brandon Graham, is part of a bigger focus on fostering school pride through participation in school events. Each grade level is awarded “Pride Points” when they dress up for Spirit Week, for example, and those points are recorded and tallied throughout the year. At the end of each school year, the class with the most points is invited to take part in a picnic celebration complete with carnival games.

“Creating an environment of pride in our school and in belonging to something bigger than any one individual has been a culture-changing element at Jenison High School. Kids take responsibility for things they’re proud of, and it shows in the hallways, in our classrooms, and on the playing fields, ” Principal Brandon Graham said.

This year’s rally began with a wonderful band performance before Homecoming Court introductions were made. Students were escorted by meaningful teachers in their lives while a short biography was read about each of them. Performances by the high school dance and cheer teams followed.

The festivities culminated in the opportunity for students to win pride points for their class in a “Mystery Food” competition. Students chosen to represent each grade were asked to make their way through stations where a brown paper bag awaited them. Inside the bag were several food items for them to blindly draw out. Whatever item was selected had to be eaten, and the class who completed all four stations first, won!

It’s amazing what school pride will compel students to eat! Seen here: hot peppers!

Yum! Cold ravioli!

Interspersed throughout the afternoon were trivia questions and ovations for new students. But after the contests ended and the students sat down, the sentiment that remained on display was a fervor for Jenison, for a community of friends, and for the school these students love.

On display was pure Wildcat pride.

What Homecoming festivities were you able to attend? We’d love to hear your stories in the comments below!

Jenison High School Media Center Gets a Face-Lift!

For many students returning to school this week, the question that has been asked more than any other was, “How was your summer? What did you do?” If the walls of our high school media center could talk, they would smile and answer that question by merely saying, “Take a look around!”

Thanks to monies brought in by our bond proposal, the “library” that hadn’t been touched in decades was re-imagined and brought into the 21st century with the kind of forward-thinking that will help shape student learning for years to come.

Six large, flat-screen television sets are mounted on the walls for computer hook-up, creating alcoves for study and collaboration. Now, rather than four students gathering around one small computer to work on a group project, those same students can connect a single computer to the TV and have their document or presentation displayed for all to easily see. Access to information means that more voices can join the conversation and play an active role in scholarship.

Hailey Wardall and Aubri Roberds (pictured above) love that the handful of new, soft-seating areas have created an environment more similar to a college than a high school. Working in partnerships or in groups is more comfortable and more fun, they both noted, adding, “…we rarely came in here before the renovation — and now that it’s so nice we wish it could’ve happened sooner!”

Both girls echoed sentiments of feeling more respected after the school gave them the responsibility to steward this special area. “The school gave us more responsibility to take care of this place, and knowing they trust us makes me feel respected.  This new media center is a big step up for our high school and a better way to learn. For instance, right now we’re collaborating on the yearbook layout and it will be great to come in here and work on our slideshows and theme presentations together.”

Lexi Petersen, Courtney Talsma, Aubrey Brown, and Breanna Hansen (working above) said they were “Shocked!!” when first seeing the completed space saying, “We didn’t think we’d get all this!”

Breanna summed it up perfectly with her comments. “It will bring more group work into our learning and into our school. Whereas before we might have had to crowd around one computer, now we can all see what we’re working on and we can all add our input.”

Scores of tables and chairs on casters were also added, allowing students to reconfigure their workspace to fit their needs. Floor space can be easily opened up if physical space is demanded, and groups can come together by merely rolling tables and moving chairs. Additionally, desktop computers were situated in an open section of the media center to preserve a traditional “lab” housed within the media center.

“I think our media center more closely resembles many business environments now. More and more we’re seeing offices move away from cubicles to a more collaborative setting, and providing that for our high schoolers is just one more way that we’re preparing them to be team players and contributing group members after they graduate, “ explained Jenison High School principal Brandon Graham.

“I’m just so proud that we can bring a state-of-the-art learning setting to the students of Jenison High School. We hope it will invigorate them and spur discovery, creative thinking, and problem solving.”