Stand By You: Pink Out 2017

miii3935The High School gym was, once again, a sea of pink on Friday night as the Jenison community showed their support for those fighting the battle of breast cancer.

This year, there were eight honorees: Jill Barnes, Jane Carlson, Carolyn DeJong, Dianne Duch, Michelle Gradisher, Shirley Kerkstra, Joni Otto, and Stephanie Tuttle [not necessarily pictured in this order].

miii3411For Michelle [3rd from right], she was overwhelmed by being an honoree but once she arrived to the “pinked out” gym that night and started getting to know some of the other honorees, those fears were gone. Michelle was diagnosed through a mammogram that she desperately wanted to avoid that particular day but chose to go through with it. The office was calling her to return to the hospital before she even got home that day. On March 31 of last year she underwent a double mastectomy which she describes as a “no brainer” based on the test results and family history of breast cancer. She is incredibly thankful for her amazing support team and encourages women not to avoid those important mammogram appointments!

miii3660Joni Otto [1st on the left] was a Jenison teacher for 22 years and is thankful for the science and availability of genetic testing, which she believes is a gift we all need to take advantage of. Joni discovered she had breast cancer and opted for the lumpectomy. Meanwhile, she had genetic testing done which revealed she was at a high risk for breast cancer, so she chose to go a step further and have a bilateral mastectomy to prevent any further occurrences which seemed likely in light of the test results. It wasn’t an easy decision for Joni but she felt that it was the right thing to do to protect herself and her family. She is hoping that her former students will dig deep into their pockets to donate to the Pink Out cause on her behalf!

miii3685Stephanie and Shirley [3rd and 4th from the left respectively] are daughter and mother honorees and Stephanie also says that genetic testing is an essential and lifesaving aspect to her story as well. Her mom Shirley is a breast cancer survivor [and three time honoree!] and Stephanie didn’t want her family to go through another season of cancer. She believes her mom feels guilty for passing on the gene but she also sees genetic testing as a gift, especially when it revealed the BRCA gene which can lead to breast and ovarian cancers. She also urges readers to consider genetic testing if you have a family history of breast cancer as the preventative measures “are much better than going through treatment.”

[If you’d like to explore genetic testing, you can do so locally at Spectrum Health. Please note – this is not an endorsement, merely a local resource.]

miii3680Three of our honorees discovered their cancer through self exams and took a moment in their introductions to make sure and encourage women in the audience to remember to do this. Everyone stressed the importance of regular mammograms and the Spectrum Health mobile mammography unit was in the parking lot, available for tours!

miii3770Finally, High School Principal, Dr. Brandon Graham, introduced Cindi Sigmon as a special honoree. Cindi has been battling Multiple Myleloma since January 2016. “She has undergone numerous rounds of chemotherapy and received a stem cell transplant this summer” and “for the past 21 years, she has shown love to the students, staff, community members and parents that have traversed the halls of Jenison High School.” Cindi was escorted to the floor by her husband and received a standing ovation for her courage, service, and strength.

All of our Pink Out Honorees are extra-special reminders to our community of the value of perseverance and we thank them for being willing to come forward and share their stories. May you and your support teams know how important you are to all of us!

Thank you to all of the Pink Out volunteers, financial supporters, and participants who came out last Friday to make this another great year! It’s a powerful message we send each year to those who are struggling as well as those have suffered a loss. Together, we will Stand By You. We are Jenison!

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Homecoming 2016

miii7641The weather may have had us all bundled up in scarves and blankets this Homecoming weekend but it didn’t stop our Wildcat pride! We hope you enjoy this post – a journey through Homecoming through pictures and take a minute to congratulate our Jenison football team on a winning season and record so far of 5 – 2!

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Homecoming King Tom Docsa and Queen Brianne VanDyke

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JHS Water Polo Team Celebrates Appearance at State Meet

Jenison High School, Jenison Public School, Jenison Water Polo, Coach Pete Hewitt

(left to right) Weston White, 12th; Jason Wesseling, 11th; Travis Bordewyk, 12th; Josh Bouma, 11th.

Four young men.

Four extraordinary water polo players.

The 2012 season has been a memorable one for Weston, Jason, Travis, Josh, and the rest of the Jenison Water Polo team. Their strong regular season standing of 26-5 sent them into Regionals with confidence and poise. Further success followed at at the Regional meet, earning them the opportunity to go on to compete at the State level last weekend where they took 4th place.

While all everyone agrees that teamwork matters more then individual awards, these four men also got their own nod of recognition for hard work in the water. Please join me in applauding:

  • West Region 1st Team & MVP: Travis Bordewyk
  • West Region 1st Team: Jason Wesseling
  • West Region 2nd Team: Weston White
  • West Region Honorable Mention: Josh Bouma

Travis Bordewyk, team MVP and goalie, was shy about dwelling on his own accomplishments, but did admit that something like this did feel pretty special. “Hearing that I was MVP was a really big honor. I’ve been working so hard all through high school and it’s nice to have that work recognized.”

Josh Bouma, whose pool duties range from driver to wing, agreed. “This was my first time actually winning an award — any award! So it’s a big deal for me. I am pleased.”

Weston concurred that the awards are “…pretty cool” but emphasized that for everybody on the team, state recognition is always the goal.

These young men graciously credit much of their success to Coach Pete Hewett, an icon in the sport who was once again named West Region Coach of the Year.

“Coach knows what we’re capable of. Sometimes if we have a really hard practice I’ll think the next day will be a little easier, but it never is. He knows what we can do and he works to help us see that we can achieve it, ” Jason added.

The student-athletes who know him best share that he is affectionately referred to as the “godfather of water polo,” and that his 25+ years of coaching have produced several JHS-grads who have gone on to coach themselves. The team is convinced that this new generation of coaches have learned from the best and now want to pass along what they’ve been taught.

“Pete is more of a friend than a coach,” said Weston. “You can go to him for anything — even school stuff.” Travis was eager to jump in. “No matter what you’re talking about, he can make you laugh. It’s impossible to be unhappy around Pete.”

We congratulate Coach Hewett and the entire Jenison Water Polo team on their outstanding performance this fall!  Bravo!

If you are a water polo parent, please leave a comment below to share a season-highlight moment with our community. What will you remember from 2012?

“Meet the Teams Night” a Great Introduction to our Student Athletes

With temperatures comfortably hinting at fall, Dr. Brandon Graham and JPS Athletic Director Todd Kolster opened Jenison Stadium last week to introduce the student athletes that make up the fall sports teams. In their second annual “Meet the Teams Night,” the community filled the bleachers to hear Mr. Kolster describe his vision for a new era of athletics in Jenison.

“I’m excited to be here. I’m honored to be here. We have a lot of work to do in a short period of time, but we’re going to get it done. We have what it takes to be successful.”

He continued by outlining the importance of expectations when it comes to achieving great things.

“Expectations are critical. Without expectations there are a lot of people wondering, what are we doing?…where are we going? We’re going to work hard for you to understand where we’re going from a communication perspective.”

“The kids I got to work with this summer are gifted. Competition is so critical in today’s world. For example, when you’re job searching, it’s generally you and one other person lined up for a job, a military position, entrance into a trade school. In those positions you can draw from your years of competition in athletics. What we want to convey to these kids is that there are no short cuts when it comes to working hard!”

Coach Schalk & 2012 Girls Cross Country Team

The night continued with comments from JPS Athletics Boosters’ President Matt McKinnon, who extended an invitation for any interested parents to join the boosters for their monthly meetings:

Every 2nd Monday Evening;

7 pm in the High School’s Triple Conference Room 

The work of the boosters is critical when you consider that 90% of the general athletic budget goes to pay coaches’ salaries. That means there is very little budget money left for uniforms and equipment. Any money generated by the boosters enables teams to purchase and pay for the necessary “extras” throughout the season.

Coach Scripsema & 2012 Girls Swimming + Diving

Mr. Kolster reminded parents that an accurate schedule for all athletics can be found at schedulestar.com. His last words for the stadium redefine success for JPS teams:

“I want to be clear: our work is not just about state titles, conference titles, or winning championships. It’s about being the best that we can possibly be — it’s using the outstanding facilities we’ve built and tapping into the talent we already have. We have a tremendous school district that’s only getting better and better.”

2012 Jenison Football Team

6 Reasons We Appreciate The Jenison Athletic Boosters

I’ll be honest: narrowing down my appreciation list to only six was more difficult than I had first imagined. The reality is, our athletic boosters are the scaffolding to our athletic programs, adding a bit more support and helping us all reach a lot higher.

Merely expressing our appreciation doesn’t quite capture the level of our gratitude, however we owe them thanks and are eager to honor their work. So this past weekend we invited them to the high school for a pizza dinner to celebrate them. It was a small gesture, but a heartfelt one.

6 Reasons We Appreciate our Boosters:

1.  Our boosters coordinate and staff all of our concession stands. Working together to seek out volunteers, our boosters schedule helpers at all events, stock items for sale, organize the displays, and greet our guests with a smile. If you love popcorn at the game, you have these folks to thank!

2. The boosters also encourage our teams by hanging up signs to root them on to victory. We appreciate their positivity and their willingness to support our athletes!

3. Each team has a “team mom” (one of our boosters) who also plans the team dinners at the ends of each season. This mom helps the team wrap up the season with a celebration that showcases the wonderful memories made together.

4. Our athletic boosters also put out a monthly report to our coaches and join them in recognizing an “Athlete of the Month” for each sport. Each student recognized receives a T-shirt from the boosters along with a certificate of their accomplishment. These small nods to our students are so meaningful and would not be possible without the caring help of our parents on this committee.

Booster President, Matt McKinnon

5. The boosters are an integral part of fundraising dollars to supplement our athletic budget. Last year alone the group raised $60,000 for our school athletics. What a gift!

6. But of course the thing we love most about our boosters is that they serve because they love Jenison kids and want them to have a fantastic athletic experience. John Koziatek shared, “It’s not so much about what we do — we do it for the kids. The reason we do what we do is because we want them to have the best opportunities possible.”

This group of friends has in many ways become more like family. Steve Meyer says that they’ve all “grown up together,” adding, “Some of these kids we’ve known since they were little and we’ve known the parents just as long. It’s really neat.”

That bond was evident Friday night as our group was honored at halftime of the boys varsity basketball game. They demonstrate a servant leadership that puts joy on display and keeps the kids at the center of everything.

We thank them for their tireless efforts on behalf of Jenison athletes!

Onward to the OK-WHITE!

While many of our surrounding high schools continue to sprawl into neighboring farm land, Jenison’s size has remained steady at around 1,400 high school students. In our eyes, this as a huge “plus” because it allows our teachers to really get to know the faces in the hallways, minimizing the possibility of kids “getting lost” in the crowd. Additionally, it offers more students the opportunity to get involved in clubs and other activities as there is less competition for coveted openings.

Being a smaller school, however, can sometimes pose a challenge when it comes to athletics. Rather than having dozens of kids trying out for a given team, for example, Jenison may only have a handful. For this and other reasons, we have been working diligently to level the playing field by leaving the OK-Red conference and join the OK-White. This proved to be more difficult than we initially expected, but we are pleased to announce that our colleagues around the voting table have given the thumbs up to our move. We are grateful and excited about this new chapter!

Beginning in September 2012, we will be playing teams from East Grand Rapids, Forest Hills Central, Caledonia, Grand Rapids Christian, and Lowell. My thanks go out to Jenison’s Athletic Director Leroy Hackley and the entire OK Conference!