KidCAT Players Inspire

On the surface, it may seem like another celebration for the football team but look closer and you’ll see an initiative bringing a community together and modeling some pretty amazing attributes.

The KidCAT program started about 10 years ago when a teacher had the idea to foster a connection between the elementary students and the high school, with community events such as football games. It’s not always natural – especially for families who don’t know any players personally; however it has grown to be something that the varsity players and the elementary students look forward to each year.

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Sully Russ is one of 20 seniors on the team this year. He enjoyed sharing a visit with his Bauerwood friends. Go #24!

Early in the football season, classroom teachers adopt a player; sometimes a teacher is able to choose a player that once sat in their elementary rooms. The teachers and players alike, really appreciate having the opportunity to reconnect. This year, all 43 Varsity players were paired up with an excited classroom of little Wildcats ready to keep this tradition going. Teachers guide the young students in thoughtful exercises as they get to know their KidCAT player, then share notes, cards of encouragement, and small treats throughout the season.

And the Varsity guys get to give back as well. They are able to be a positive role model; sharing their character and work ethic in return. On the big day of the KidCAT football game, all the players go visit their elementary friends and spend some time with them. When the players arrive, the kids are star struck and in awe like a celebrity has entered their little world! It’s awesome to see the guys having a good time with some silly questions and leading the way for future generations as they promote literacy, community and kindness. As October is Anti-Bullying Month, we are proud to watch as the football team has also joined the Stomp Out Bullying, anti-bullying campaign this year. I’m proud of the leaders we have in this team.

The grand finale is when the students and their families rally to cheer on their KidCAT player at the Varsity football game. At game time, students are grouped in sections with their schools and it’s so fun to see our young fans totally engaged in the game while they cheer for their Wildcat. 

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Senior, Kyle Nott leads the pack through the student tunnel at the KidCAT game, October 12. Photo Courtesy of Damion Van Slyke Photography

 

 

 

 

 

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

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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.

We’ve Got Bowling Royalty at Jenison High!

Brother and sister team, Nick and Lauren Slagter come by their incredible bowling talent naturally. They also come from longtime bowling royalty. Their grandmother and dad are both in the Grand Rapids Bowling Hall of Fame!

Their dad [who has a 230 average and has bowled 25 perfect games!] and their maternal aunt coach the Jenison Bowling Team. Their family bowls together in a league on Thursday nights and while their mom grew up in a bowling strong family, their dad found his passion for bowling when he met their mom.

In bowling competition, similar to Olympic gymnastics, athletes compete at both team and individual levels. This past bowling season, both the girls and boys teams won the OK Black conference. Nick finished in 14th for individuals, losing to the eventual second place winner. Lauren may have lost to the eventual winner in the semifinals, but she made it farther than any other bowler in the history of JPS! The girls team qualified 1st in states and made it to the semifinals, which is also the farthest that any bowling team has ever made it in the history of Jenison!

Next year both Lauren and Nick are looking forward to keeping the teams intact, as there are no current seniors moving on. “It’ll be the same team, with more experience. We’ll be better equipped for next year and it’ll be a lot of fun.” They want to give special recognition to their teammates: Sarena Overbeek, Anna Bartz, Dustin Smith, and Tyler Miller.

Nick tries to take it in stride when he gets grief from his friends about bowling not being a real sport. He knows it’s a mental game more than anything else. “It takes precision accuracy and just two or three shots can put your team ahead.” Lauren likes to cite her fifth grade paper, “Bowling is a Sport” for evidence when this argument arises.

The siblings may be busy with their bowling schedules, but they make time for other sports as well. Nick also plays on the Jenison baseball team and while he knows they are “two very different sports, but the pressure is all the same; they build off one another and make me better as an athlete.” Lauren plays softball and adds, “You have to take your momentum from your bowling season and bring it into other sports and we have to bring that success and confidence into softball and baseball.”

As a junior, Nick is thinking about college and hoping for scholarships to allow him to bowl at the collegiate level. Lauren is a sophomore and acknowledges that she “has time” but it has crossed her mind to play softball as well as bowl when she gets to college. She wants to give a shout out to her family for always being a strong shoulder to cry on when it comes to school, sports, life, and school. “We’re stuck with each other, but we’re competitive and have fun.” Nick wants to make sure that his fifth grade teacher, Mr Diekman knows he made an impact on Nick’s life. “He’s taught me more than just school, he’s taught me about life – to stay positive – and I really appreciate that.”

Athletic Director Kevin VanDuyn knows JPS is lucky to have these two: “It is quite something to have the top bowler in the conference, by average, from both our boys and girls team.  What is more amazing is to have the top bowler from each be a brother and sister.  Congratulations to Nick for finishing the year with a conference leading 212 average and his sister Lauren with a 190 average.  The best news is they both come back next year!”

Lauren and Nick want everyone to know that bowling is really accessible for adults and kids alike. Lauren says, “You can bowl once or twice a week and get really good so it’s easy for kids to pick it up.” Nick adds, “Make sure you stay positive through the ups and downs because eventually you will come out on top.” [And that’s just good advice no matter what you’re doing!]

Congratulations, Nick and Lauren! Your talent and accomplishments not only make us proud but we can’t wait for next year’s season! Go Wildcats!

Homecoming 2017!

Another beautiful and inspiring Jenison Homecoming is in the books! Last Friday night, propelled by the theme of “Dr Seuss”, all of our High School classes, groups, and teams showed up to celebrate Jenison. We hope you will enjoy reliving the fun of the parade and football game here – hey, did you know our Varsity football team is 4 – 2?! We won our Homecoming game against Reeths-Puffer, 20-10. Way to go, Wildcats!

 

Happy Homecoming Jenison!

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!