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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High School Students Join County Collaboration on Suicide Prevention!

c23ixoyxcaaovueOn January 23, Jenison High School Social Worker, Kris Faber, Superintendent, Tom TenBrink, Assistant Principal Rhonda Raab, Counselor Jenny Riha and seven Jenison High students joined other students from Ottawa County to talk about the realities of suicide and how to help prevent it.

The event (called the Ottawa County Suicide Prevention Summit) was on at Zeeland East High Sshool and it was a coordinated effort with OAISD with twelve districts in attendance.  The group spent the day collaborating with local districts to learn what efforts are being utilized to address mental health needs and suicide prevention.

c23rcdlvqaen73uThe Mental Health foundation of West Michigan was a co-sponsor for the day promoting the positive benefits of the Be Nice! program throughout West Michigan.  Ms. Faber adds, “We were also able to hear speaker Rick Chyme share his personal story and challenge everyone to “plant seeds” of kindness and love toward others as you never know how one might positively impact others.”  The team also had time as a JHS group to plan how we might impact our school specifically and work to diminish the stigma of mental health and seeking support.

In a 2013 Youth Assessment Survey of students in Ottawa County in grades 8, 10 and 12, that had seriously contemplated suicide, there was an alarmingly high rate of 16.7%.  “Many adolescents are experiencing increased incidents and greater severity of mental health needs [especially anxiety and depression].  The stigma attached to seeking treatment can, at times, exacerbate the issues. ” Thankfully, JHS is working towards providing help any way they can.

Students are hopeful to continue the conversation in district and develop some tangible ways to provide support for existing mental health needs, as well as prevention of suicide.  We are hopeful to create a culture of kindness toward others as well as a place where seeking support is seen as a strength.  Sharing existing resources with students was one way we are hoping to be helpful to our students immediately.

Students! If you, or someone you know, has thought about or talked about committing suicide, there are people who care about you and are willing to help! You can visit Ms Faber or talk to any of your teachers, administrators, staff, or counselors. You can also call the Ottawa County Crisis Helpline: 866-512-4357.

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[Photos courtesy of Kris Faber and @benicemi]

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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Peter Pan Has a Prequel? Of Course it Does!

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Before you see Jenison theatre perform “Peter Pan” this winter, you’ll want to know the back story, of course!

Director and theatre teacher, Todd Avery, has been waiting to perform “Peter and the Star Catcher” for three years, ever since he saw it performed in Chicago and watched it win five Tony Awards in 2012. He was drawn to the unique qualities of the show including wonderful opportunities for an ensemble cast, creative scenery and the need for the audience to participate through their imagination. “Everything is very suggested. For example, we don’t have swords that we fight with, we fight with plungers. The actors create a ship with just a big piece of rope and their bodies and a couple crates, so the concept is just really interesting. It’s a unique way of storytelling and it’s a style called Story Telling Theatre.”

miii4226It’s not a traditional show where the actors play a single role. In this show, the actors are playing multiple roles, keeping track of where they need to be at all times and even wearing multiple costumes on top of each other!

While the winter musical performances are stories told through music, this weekend’s show is a “play with music” and students filling this role had very challenging music to master. All of the music is performed by a pianist and percussionist providing exciting sounds that take on a character of its own.

Sophomores Emma Byerwalter and Caden Hembrough play the leading roles of Molly and Peter respectively and are both alums of the theatre program beginning in junior high and taking on their biggest roles to date with this show. Emma loves her character and says it’s her favorite of her theatre career, so far. “Molly is confident, strong-willed and down to earth.” Caden says that he enjoys playing Peter who starts off being quiet and mad at the world and builds confidence and leadership skills throughout the show.

miii4287As so many other theatre students have said in the past, the Jenison theatre community has meant “everything” to Emma and Caden. “You make friends with everyone and they all count on each other. There’s no exclusion.” says Caden. Emma adds, “It’s a really open community. No matter who you are, you are welcome here.”

Mr Avery knows that this group of students is ready and well prepared to tackle this challenging and entertaining show. “I knew this was going to be a particularly challenging show and I saw some great things in [these students] the last couple of years, even back in junior high, and I knew they could do it. And they’ve risen to the challenge and it’s like nothing they’ve ever done before.”

If you’d like to spend some time this weekend getting to know the beginning stories of Peter Pan, Wendy and the rest of the Peter and the Star Catcher crew, check ticket availability and purchase them here.

Break a leg, Jenison Thespians! We can’t wait to see you shine!

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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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Say “Hi” to New Teachers!

This year we welcomed 23 new staff members to the Jenison family! Here you can meet some of them and feel free to say “hi” in person when you cross paths!

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Anna Flood  |  Burlsey, 6th Grade

“I grew up in the area and have always heard amazing things about Jenison. As a new teacher to the district, I have noticed the strong community and support that surrounds education. I am excited to grow with my group of 6th grade students, and watch them use their abilities to be successful.”

 

mcelweeAlexa McElwee  |  Bursley Interventionist
“I have grown up in this community.  Living in Hudsonville, attending GVSU and now working in Jenison, I have seen this community from so many sides.  From being a child, to a student, and now as a educator.  This community stands behind you and support you in every way.  When I graduated the one thing I knew I wanted in the school I worked for was a huge community involvement.  When I accepted my position in Jenison, I knew I was going more than a community, I was joining a family.  Jenison is such an amazing school district who wants the best for the students and their families.

On the first day of school I was feeling like most students do when they walk in the door, nervous, anxious and excited.  I definitely had first day jitters.  I was nervous for joining a new team and for meeting new students who have never seen me before.  By the end of they day I was getting high fives and lots of hugs from all the Kindergartners as they walked by my room to head to the bus.  To see their faces light up each morning when they see me in the hall or working with them makes me so excited to see the relationships that are being formed.  This is going to be a great year.”

vandebergJosh VandeBerg  |  Sandy Hill, 4th Grade

“My family and I are very excited to return to the area!  My wife Amanda and I are from the area, but moved to Florida 9 years ago. We have 4 children Ben (10), Abigail (9), Hannah (6), and Levi (3).  All of our extended family lives in the area and my children are thrilled to live by their cousins.

I am a big believer of living in the community that I teach in.  Jenison is an amazing place to live and raise a family.  The schools are top-notch and we can’t imagine a better place to be. I am so excited for this school year because everyone that I work with truly cares about each other.  The district leaders, the team at Sandy Hill, and everyone I meet throughout the district is amazing. Jenison has a lot to offer its students.  I am currently involved in the robotic’s program and we have a blast using what we’ve learned in the classroom to solve a problem.

willieMaura Willie  |  Elementary Music

“I was drawn to JPS because of their excellence in music. I love how the district and community supports the arts in their schools. So far, I’m most excited for the year because of all of the collaboration I’ve seen. Everyone I’ve come into contact with has been eager to help each other and work together. ”

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Jenny Huizenga  |  High School Math
“I was drawn to JPS because my children attend JPS and I love the schools and the community.  I am excited to be teaching in the community where I live.  The staff and students are amazing at Jenison and I am looking forward to getting to know everyone and get involved. “

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Bridget Ehlich  |  Bursley Elementary, 6th Grade Spanish Immersion

“I was drawn to JPS by the reputation it has in the Greater Grand Rapids area as forward educators. I am excited about the year because I have already felt welcomed by the community and can tell that this is a good place to be as an educator.”

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Dustin Morley  |  Junior High ELA
“I first heard about Jenison Public Schools while I attended Grand Valley State University ten years ago and heard nothing but good things about the district and community ever since. After moving from the Detroit area to West Michigan I was very excited when a long-term substitute position opened at Jenison Junior High. The building and district felt like home for me from the first interview for that position.  After being a long-term substitute for a year and a half, I couldn’t be happier to now be a full time teacher at Jenison Junior High School. I’m particularly looking forward to getting more involved with the school and community this year.”

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Rachel Nichols  |  ECC Special Education

“I was looking for a district that wanted to everything possible to benefit their students. I talked to some friends and they all were so pleased with Jenison and what they are doing.  So far it has been great everyone has been so friendly and welcoming it has been an amazing start to 2016/2017 school year and I am excited to continue!!!”
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Anna Siegel  |  Pinewood + Sandy Hill Special Education

“What drew me to JPS is the success of the district and the sense of community. I am in two different elementary buildings throughout the day this year, and so I am excited to interact with many different staff and students this year!”
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Kristen Dantonio  |  Pinewood, 5th Grade

“I was drawn to Jenison because I was told that it was a district that cared about people. It is a district that puts relationships first and I knew that I wanted to be part of that. I am most excited to get to know my students and coworkers at Pinewood. It has been a great year so far and I am excited to see how those relationships will grow.”

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Christina Salinas  |  Rosewood, 6th Grade Spanish Immersion

“The wonderful Jenison community and Spanish Immersion program drew me to JPS.  This year I am excited to see students continue to grow in their literacy skills in Spanish and English.  I am also excited to work with the supportive teachers and staff at Rosewood Elementary. I have learned so much from them already. Their dedication and passion for teaching is contagious!”

We’re so thankful for all of our teachers and all that they do for our students and families! Thank you to the new teachers for bringing your talents and passion to Jenison!

The Marching Band Goes Nordic!

miii0169If you’ve been to a Jenison football game at home you’re no stranger to the impressive talents of the marching band! This year is no exception as the band tackles the theme of ‘Valkyries’ who, according to Norse mythology, are female figures who fly over battles and decide who lives and dies. Those who are chosen to die are welcomed to the afterlife, or Valhalla.

miii0105The color guard will play the role of the Valkyries choosing their “victims” from the 153 members of the band. Director, Dave Zamborsky, develops, choreographs and arranges the performance from scratch. The first part of the show is set on a battlefield, the middle portion is when the soldiers are being slain and the first fallen soldiers being chosen and the show concludes with the final soldiers ascending into Valhalla.

But, of course, a production of this size can’t come together overnight. While you may have been sunning yourself at the beach this summer the Jenison marching band was busy training. They did a two day camp in June to learn marching basics and some show music. In July they spent their Monday and Tuesday evenings for three weeks learning music while the color guard worked toward a dance recital that was performed at the JCA. The first week in August they spend in pre-camp camp at Jenison [4 days, 8 hours a day] and then they travel to Hope College to spend another week training and bonding as a group. And finally, they spent 4 days in post-camp. Exhausted yet? Thankfully, the members of the band are happy to work hard and be part of the team. “The band gives a lot of students a community of belonging here at Jenison High School that they might not find elsewhere.”

miii9435The football schedule was a little unique this year with the first home game on August 25 – well before school began – but the marching band was there, debuting the first portion of their Valkyries performance. In fact, each home game, the band will reveal a little more of the performance as they continue to learn and develop the choreography and musical content.  “Part of what makes the fact that we’re a competitive band different [is that] we’re working on one show over the course of the whole season, really trying to enhance it and increase our production value throughout the season and, obviously, perfect it by the time we’re finishing our season.”

“We work on dance and body movements with the kids in the band because we’re expecting them to move in ways that are not traditional marching band; we’re expecting them to emote and put character into the show in ways that are more like theatre.”

The marching band has already begun it’s competition season with the Rockford Marching Band Invitational where they took home 1st place in their class in the categories of music, visual, color guard and they were named Grand Champion! On October 1 they are travelling to Toledo, OH for the Regional competition before moving on to Indianapolis for Nationals. But before they can conquer Nationals they will be at Detroit’s Ford Field on November 7 for state championships where they are looking to avenge their nail biting, second place loss [.05 points!] to band rival, Reeths-Puffer.

miii9582Marching band is about more than learning music; it’s a place for students to learn life skills.”I think the kids tend to form a very strong bond. As much as our focus is on music, it’s also on building a team and learning how to work together, be disciplined and mature. One of the things that make us different than groups that are playing a sport is that [the students] have eight and a half minutes of pretty complex musical and visual responsibility that all has to be memorized and if you zone out for a minute, we’re going to see it.”

miii0131Of course, none of the band activities would be possible without the support of the Jenison Band Boosters. Props used by the band and show flags used by the color guard are being built and sewn by parents. They chaperone camps and trips as well as organize and run the Jenison Invitational in mid-October which is the largest marching band competition in the state outside of state championships with 44 performances. If you’d like to find a way to support the Boosters’ efforts please visit their website here.

Be sure to check out the Valkyries performance at Homecoming – the last home game of the season – on Friday, October 7! Go Wildcats!

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Summer Series: Student Writing Sample [High School]

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This summer we will feature a writing sample from a student in each grade as we all enjoy a beautiful summer in West Michigan! Please join us each week to read these fantastic teacher-submitted examples of excellent writing!

Guard Dog
By Skyler Maitner

I dialed the number for a third time hoping that he would answer. My nervous fingers scrambled on the old, peeling paint of the windowsill. The sun high in the sky shone in my eyes as I listened to the annoyingly loud phone dial.

“Hello, this is Rob, how can I help you?”

“Dad it’s me. I know I’m not supposed to call your work number but this is important,” I replied frantically.

“What’s wrong?”

“King got off of his leash and Kyle Isn’t home to put him back, will you please call him and tell him to come home?”

My fingers gripped the landline tightly as I watched my neighbors pitbull run circles in his yard, barking vigorously.

“Sky,” countered my father, “Kyle is busy at work, just go over there, grab his leash, and put him in the garage.”

I glanced out the window and took in the size of the dog. King’s strong shoulders came up to my abdomen. His back legs were built with muscle, allowing to jump up and over me if he pleased. Although I had been around the dog numerous times before, the idea of getting pinned to the ground by an overly hyper, 90 pound dog was very unappealing, Especially when seven year old me was just about equal weight to the dog soaking wet. However, even that was the least of my problems.

“Dad you don’t understand. There’s this guy parked in Kyle’s driveway, and king doesn’t seem to like him.”

“What do you mean?”

The glossy back sedan was parked askew in the driveway. I watched as the man I never met before strode with purpose up to King. King was trained to protect his home and the people inside, therefore strangers in his yard didn’t suit him too well. The man’s shoulders were hunched forward as he stormed up to the dog. The stranger had a determined look in his eye, but hiding behind that were wisps of arrogance and fear. King continued to bark as the man got closer to him, rearing up. The man thrust his hand down towards Kingts head, most likely to grip his black fabric harness. King growled and froze, watching his movements. The man snapped his arm back up to his side, startled by the dog’s actions. He turned on his heel and started at a full sprint back to his vehicle. A mistake on his part. With a few long bounds, King lunged forward and caught the fabric of his blue jeans in his mouth, tearing a strip off. The man stumbled but continued to run before making it inside his closed vehicle.

“Nevermind I think he’s leaving now. Please still call Kyle though, King’s too big for me to grab.”

“Okay I will, just let me know what happens, alright?”

“Yes Dad.”

I hung up the phone and looked out of the window again. I was shocked to find that the man hadn’t driven away, he was just sitting in his car, almost like he was waiting for something.

King sat like a statue ten feet from the sedan, watching him. I began to get a sinking feeling in my stomach, but I wasn’t sure why.

King’s interest in the man lessened as the pitbull went to walk around the side of the house. However the car still stayed stagnant in the driveway.

I left my bedroom to return the landline to its charger in the kitchen. As I walked through the living room, I checked on my own two dogs, just to be sure that they weren’t freaking out after seeing King outside. When I returned to my bedroom window, my stomach dropped. In the short amount of time that I had left, two police cars now were parked in the street. I watched as two officers from each vehicle approached the house. My hands began to shake as they strategically walked up to King in a pattern that was meant to trap King against the side of the house. I frantically ran back to retrieve the phone and dial my dad’s number. My hands shook the the extent that even holding the phone was difficult for me.

“Hello, this is Rob-” He answered one more.

“Dad, Dad you’ve got to get Kyle to come home there’s police here and- ‘

‘Slow down! What are you even talking about?”

“There’s police here and Kings guarding the house and he’s scared and I don’t know what

“There are cops there? Okay I’m going to call Kyle again. Just stay where you’re at, all right? I’ll call you right back.”

The line went dead as I pulled the phone away from my ear. I continued to watch the scene across the street unfold in front of my eyes. King was backed up against the house, the hair of his back raised in a line, barking to the point where his voice was becoming hoarse. One of the officers took another step forward. I could see panic and fear mixing in the dog’s eyes. King lunged forward to find an escape from the trap the police officers before him had set.

The officer in front took the advance from the dog entirely differently, and he quickly drew the pistol from the holster at his hip. The officer held the gun just below his chest, aiming the barrel directly at King. His second hand was braced against the butt of the handle, his legs were separated and slightly bent to find firm grounding. Tears streamed down my cheeks as I sat helplessly, too shocked and scared to do anything other than watch.

King took another step.

I saw it before I heard it.

King’s face recoiled back first, then his body fell to the ground in a heap. Blood specks flew out from his mouth. Less than a second later, the loud crack of the gunshot reached my ears. Despite the distance, it felt like the gun had been fired off directly next to my ear. The world around me felt as though I was underwater, the noises around me were long and distorted. Slowly it came back to normal, like somebody was holding a fast forward button on a remote to my life. The ringing of my ears dominated all other sounds around me.

I screamed out, tears now a steady flow down my face, gasping for breath. My chest ached as I slowly fell on my knees, sobbing openly.

The officer returned to firearm to his holster and stared down at the dog momentarily. The police turned around to go back to their vehicles to file a report. My eyes were locked on Kings bloodied body in the grass. Flecks of blood painted the previously perfect white picket fence behind him. The man that was earlier locked in his sedan, now stood calmly in front the the officers, flailing his arms about as he pointed to various places around him.

As I looked back at king once more, I noticed the tiny rise and fall of his chest cavity. He was still breathing, very much alive and very much in pain. King was later subject to intensive surgery. The bullet shot through his front teeth and down his throat, causing to lose his ability to bark. King pulled through just fine, however I do not believe that afternoon will ever be erased from my memory.

Skyler Maitner is a graduated member of the Class of 2016 and this short story was submitted by twelfth grade English teacher, Aaron Brossiet.

Summer Series: Student Writing Sample [High School]

LogoThis summer we will feature a writing sample from a student in each grade as we all enjoy a beautiful summer in West Michigan! Please join us each week to read these fantastic teach-submitted examples of excellent writing!

Sown
By Elijah Drake

I grew out of a backyard
where broken bones were weeds and weeds
were really flowers
I was watered by picnics
and beach visits
Forests, God, Sharon Creech,
Coffee, Parents, Love
Eternal love
I was trimmed with insults screaming worthless
and an award proclaiming
Big Picture World-Thinker Man
I was fertilized by phone calls
home
Good night moon
A musical fountain, The musical fountain
Bike Rides that lengthened our leash
Sunlight that came through
Skylights over my Grandma’s table
a since moved kitchen
and a broken pray-house roof
Branches grew around iron fences
and do not enters
wood splinters
lost jobs, no money, hot dogs
The backyard slowly grew too- smaller
even now it fades
(as fall leaves often do)
from the animation it held
the power of experience a gardener

Elijah Drake is a graduated member of the Class of 2016. This poem was submitted by his twelfth grade English teacher, Mr Brossiet. 

Summer Series: Student Writing Sample [High School]

LogoThis summer we will feature a writing sample from a student in each grade as we all enjoy a beautiful summer in West Michigan! Please join us each week to read these fantastic teacher-submitted examples of excellent writing!

Note from the Author: This story is about a relationship struggle I went through that ended poorly, and the ways I was able to conquer/get over the tragic feeling of loss. Talking a little bit about myself, I have a very big passion for helping the poor and needy. I have been on a couple mission trips including to Florida, in our community, Grand Rapids, and Haiti. Those days have changed my life completely. I am also very athletic. I was in soccer for five years, plus volleyball, and am in marching band hopefully throughout my whole high school years. I love to play music. It gives me the chance to relax, letting stress leave the body. I’m in the top concert band currently, playing clarinet for my sixth year. On the side, I play an additional instrument, piano, which I enjoy practicing in my free time. Furthermore, I sing in my church band every Sunday.
— Rachel Warner

The Falling Grace
By Rachel Warner

            I can still remember when I was best friends with a girl who was passionate and full of life, loving and kind. That smile on her face and that laugh of hers brightened my day and that itself made everything worthwhile. We would hang out all the time,  telling each other our deepest of secrets and could fully trust one another. And then, as the days got longer, I started to realize that the connection we once had before was gone. She said nothing and headed for the door, leaving me dumbfounded; leaving me stranded. She left me with nothing but pictures, old memories to look at when I was feeling alone and empty. I can still recall that day when she began to be nothing more than another face it the crowd.

“What did I do?” I cried. “I don’t understand why this is happening.”

“Nothing. I don’t want to talk about it anymore. Stop asking me about it,” she said as she turned on her heels and walked away.

It killed me inside to know that I wasn’t good enough. That she was entirely and utterly fine without me. Those days became months and I was still hiding myself in my room, crying. Not wanting to talk to anyone. I just lay there, listening to the sad music I had planned to listen to. That light started to fade and I couldn’t stay away from the monsters that were catching up.

Staring at the ceiling, I listened to the music ringing in my ears. “Save me I’m drowning alive / And keep me from dying inside / I only want to find my way back home / But I can’t make it alone.”

Goodbyes are always the hardest when they are left unexplained.  Experiencing such loss is double the tragedy and most people don’t know what to do with themselves. No one should have to go through that pain of being forgotten, but having those kinds of things happen is a part of life. It helps you to be where you are today. Without those adversities, we wouldn’t be as strong and mature as before.

I have been thinking a lot about those relationships with others and how all the relationships we have in our lives affect us every day. If you look for the bad, you will always find it. If you look for the good, you will find that too, but our experience of humanity and life itself is truly up to us. Saying that you’re okay is so much easier than explaining all the reasons why you’re not.  Ironic isn’t it? How we tell others to stay strong, yet we can’t do it ourselves? That you cared so much that it destroyed you inside?  How the anger or sadness bubbles up to a rate that’s so high and you have no idea how to comprehend your feelings? I found that you have to forgive others, not because they deserve forgiveness, but because you deserve peace.

I decided to give it one more attempt. Right when I got to school, I saw her and another friend making conversation. I made a brave move by walking up to them to say hello.

“What do you want?” she asked.

“I… well…. I just thought…”

“Okay,” she rudely interrupted.  Rolling her eyes, they walked away laughing. That was the day I finally gave up.

The purpose of life is to live in peace, to love all beings and to know who you are. Know yourself, and you know everything. Throughout my years in middle school and high school, are some of the few places where I’ve learned the most about myself. Like most people say, I don’t like school, but I don’t love it either. In my mind, high school is like the waiting room for real life. To get to the real world, you have to go through all the experiences of being a teenager.

The immaculate knowledge alone is: emptiness. How can you come out of this when there are no limits? The appearance of a manifestation is but the play of this emptiness. Know who you are here, and now, by simply being quiet. Taking some peace and quiet might be all that you need. It’s all I needed, it just took a lot longer to bandage my shattered heart. Think about where you are now and how you can get through the situation.

You deserve to live your life filled with joy and happiness. Do not let the actions of others push you away from your religion, your family, or your real friends that care and deserve to have someone like you.

You can’t force love, I realized. It’s either there or it isn’t. If it’s not there, you have to be able to admit it. If it is there, you’ve got to do whatever it takes to protect the ones you love. There comes a time in your life when you walk away from all the drama and the people who create it. Surround yourself with people who make your life, forget the bad and focus on the good and not the kinds of people who leave a trail of memories and decide not to be there to make new ones. Love the people who treat you right. Pray for the ones who don’t. Life is too short to be anything but happy. Falling down is part of life, but getting back up is living.

Rachel is a rising junior at Jenison High School. Her persuasive narrative was submitted by her sophomore year English teacher, Mr David Hast.