High School Chamber Orchestra Performs with GVSU!

thumb_MIII1290_1024 copyThe fall performance season was enriched by another year of the Jenison High School Chamber Orchestra partnership with the Grand Valley State University Symphony Orchestra.
In 2008 Jenison was the first high school orchestra asked to do a side by side concert with Grand Valley and they met up again on the stage of the JCA at the end of October this year.  The entire 70 member GVSU Symphony Orchestra was represented, including all woodwinds, brass, and percussion. The Jenison Chamber Orchestra is an elite musical ensemble made up of the top violin, viola, cello and bass players at Jenison High School.  Students are in 10th – 12th grade and perform a rigorous audition in the spring to be accepted into the ensemble.  Though the size of the group varies it’s roughly 25 students each year.
thumb_MIII1280_1024 copyDirector Dan Scott says, “Jenison students rehearsed in class [while also preparing our fall concert and our performance for the Betty Ford Breast Cancer Awareness Event], but they also had one 90 minute rehearsal with the GVSU Symphony on the day of the concert.”
The concert opened with the brass players from GVSU performing Fanfare from ‘La Peri by Paul Dukas from the balcony.  Included in the GVSU part of the program will also be Mars  from ‘The Planets by Gustav Holst followed by the Jenison Chamber Orchestra performing by themselves.  The GVSU Symphony performed three works by themselves before everyone joined together to perform Night on Bald Mountain by Mussorgsky.
Henry Duitman, GVSU Director of Orchestras explains how the side by side aspect works:  “For the Mussorgsky piece, the GVSU Strings will sit “side by side” with the Jenison High School Chamber Orchestra strings.  This gives younger students a chance to learn from older students and gives the entire string section the full sound that this mighty work requires.  It is a lot of fun for the students as well.  thumb_MIII1269_1024 copyOur students love to perform with the high school students and were especially looking forward to performing in the wonderful new Jenison Center for the Arts.”
Professor Duitman knows that music education is about more than performances and reading music. “This is just one more way of exposing students, parents, and the community to the exciting world of classical music, an important part of any liberal arts education.”
Mr Scott adds that the experience of playing alongside college students has a deep value as well. “This was a wonderful opportunity to learn about continuing to play their instruments in college.  Our students worked with students who are still playing in college while experiencing the musical level and expectations of a college ensemble.   As usual, our students were excellent musicians and people throughout the experience.”
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Thank you to both Mr Scott + Professor Duitman for bringing together these two very talented groups of musicians!  Students, we’re so proud of your talent and hard work!  Keep it up!

Homecoming 2013 in Review

Last week Friday brought out plenty of sunshine and smiles as Wildcats roamed the streets for another community celebration.

Jenison High School Homecoming, parade

Little Wildcats fill the streets!

The 2013 Homecoming parade lined up at 4 pm at Bethel United Reformed Church to ready themselves for a 4:30 start time. Homecoming floats were judged by various members of the Junior High and High School faculties and were created around the theme of Superheros:

  • The Freshman brought Batman & the Joker to life
  • Sophomores channeled their inner Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles
  • The Junior class created the Justin League on their float
  • …and Seniors brought The Avengers to life

It is worth noting that the 2016 float, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, not only featured the turtled heroes, but incorporated dry ice and a fog machine to simulate their sewer home. Such creativity helped them grab a first place nod from the judges as best 2013 JHS float!

Class representatives said that they chose the turtles as their superheroes because “…They are four turtles who work together to overcome their mutant-ness to be human…and they eat pizza!”

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle Float builders enjoy their victory.

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle Float builders enjoy their victory.

Aside from float building and caped crusaders, Jenison High School enjoyed tremendous participation on behalf of the student body. The following groups were present for the parade: Homecoming Court, JV football team, cheerleaders, dance team, volleyball team, women’s swimming & diving team, men’s water polo team, thespian troupe, Sandy Hill Elementary families, JPS staff and their families, Jenison International Academy and “Power of Pink” (pictured below).

The evening football game put the Wildcat toughness on display, with green and white blazing on our new turf. Despite losing to East Grand Rapids 28-14, the ‘Cats showed tremendous determination and fight — something that always deserves applause!

Jenison High School Principal, Dr. Brandon Graham, had this to say about the festivities:

“Homecoming is a special time in Jenison and this year was no different. We had great participation from students of all ages who came out for the parade and the game– it was awesome to see their school spirit on display! I’m especially proud of our high schoolers for demonstrating creativity, for getting involved, and for supporting their team on the field!”

Until next year, here are some highlights and great memories from a fun night with the entire community:

Jenison High School Homecoming, parade

Perfect weather for a parade!

Jenison High School Homecoming, parade

Jenison High School Homecoming, parade

Members of the Homecoming Court

Jenison High School Homecoming, parade

Best Friends: Abby, Molly and Maddie celebrate together.

Jenison High School Homecoming, parade

HomecomingCourt, Jenison High School Homecoming, parade

football, Jenison High School Homecoming, parade

JHS football looks tough but comes up short on Friday night.

fireworks, Jenison High School Homecoming, parade

It’s a night to remember!

We Choose Jenison: The DeWitt Family

This summer we are privileged to share the thoughts from Jenison families who stand as our most devoted and eager advocates. Please join us each week as we hear from parents with students of all ages.

JPS summer, Jenison Public SchoolsMy name is Miranda DeWitt and my husband’s name is Steve. We have one little girl named Kaleigh who will be in 2nd grade in the fall.

Our family moved from the Saginaw area in June of 2012. Steve had grown up in Grand Rapids and after he lost his job we decided to come here to seek better job opportunities.

When we arrived in Grand Rapids we started looking into schools for our daughter who, at that time, was going into the 1stgrade. Kaleigh had attended 2 different public schools in the Saginaw area and we were not impressed with the education nor the organization. We were debating on whether to pursue public or private schools when a good friend suggested checking out Jenison.

Soon after hearing glowing reviews from this friend, we also found out that our neighbor worked for JPS and had nothing but good things to say about it. We decided to take the drive and check it out. After looking at the school and meeting some of the people on staff, we decided to enroll Kaleigh as school of choice and drive her in. We believe that a 20 minute drive is well worth a good education!

DeWittSteve and I have been most impressed with how everything is organized and in order. Sandy Hill has always kept us in the loop with all the info we need. We were amazed that after accepting Kaleigh the office already knew who Kaleigh’s teacher would be! Kaleigh’s teacher Mrs Harig always sends us e-mails and makes sure the lines of communication are open and she is always quick to respond to e-mails. The staff is always friendly and always makes me feel like I am the most important person while I am asking a question.

Our experience in Jenison has been wonderful and we’re so thankful for those who pointed us to this school district. Kaleigh has felt welcomed and right at home since the moment she started!

JHS’ Green Bean Gives Many a Reason to Smile

At just one year old, the Green Bean in-school coffee shop is doing more than adding a splash of caffeine to the lives of Jenison High School teachers and students. It’s adding warmth, both literally and figuratively, to the lives of all who cross the threshold.

Jenison High School, Jenison Public Schools, Green Bean Coffee Shop

This past winter, after diligent effort by Dr. Brenda Clark and her DECA students Emily Garland, Jon Nordquist, and Anthony Lemanski, the Green Bean was awarded a Gold Level Certification for this School Based Enterprise (SBE). According to the DECA website:

“The School-based Enterprise Certification Program was developed to provide recognition for outstanding achievement by school-based enterprises and to motivate SBEs to strive for excellence and to grow. The program provides SBEs with standards for model school store operation and provides recognition for school-based enterprises at three levels: bronze, silver and gold. The number and type of activities a school-based enterprise completes in each of the twelve sections will determine the level of certification awarded.” (quote HERE)

Jenison Public Schools, Jenison High School, Green Bean

But more than an award-winning feather in our cap, the Green Bean is helping to create community within our student body. With booths for breakfast or biology homework, students are welcomed into this space and invited to snag a muffin and a cappuccino before class.

Student employee and 2013 graduate Desiree Kennedy says that not only is it fun getting to know new people and interacting with underclassman, but working in the Green Bean is a welcome way to break up her day. She knows that making smoothies and pouring coffee prepares her for real-world work, encourages teamwork and collaboration, and creates an atmosphere of friendship.

Jenison High School, Jenison Public School, Green BeanPrincipal Brandon Graham is proud of the success of the shop and is quick to share credit with others.

“The Green Bean has been a terrific real-life entrepreneurial experience for our kids. They helped construct this business from the ground up — from the build out to the business plan to the execution of daily operations. Under the leadership of Dr. Clark, this has been an exceptional opportunity for Jenison High School students to grow.”

When autumn rattle the leaves again and the wind blows colder, stop in for a warm drink and tip your hat to those who are going the extra mile to bring some java to Jenison.

Jenison Senior Wins Distracted Driving Billboard Contest

With the increasing prevalence of cell phones and the temptation of text messaging, accidents have been on the rise and drivers young and old have reason to be wary. That’s why the Ottawa County Sheriffs office has educated high school students on the dangers of distracted driving for the past five years.

After spending time in Ottawa County high schools and teaching specifically on the dangers of being distracted behind the wheel, officers turned the teaching over to the students. They presented them with the opportunity of a lifetime: create a piece of art that will be displayed on westbound 196 in Grand Rapids.

We are proud to announce that for the second year in a row, a Jenison High School student has won first place! Senior Cody McConnell will have his creation (seen below) positioned near the Market Avenue exit.

Jenison High School, Distracted Driving, Ottawa County

Mrs. Moynihan is the JHS art teacher who assigned the billboard project to her entire Computer Creations 2 class. Using it as an opportunity to introduce various graphic design fundamentals, she showed the class “two very emotional videos in addition to having deputies come in.” She also secured a driving simulator so that her students could clearly see and experience what it’s like to drive while distracted.

Cody was Mrs. Moynihan’s student in both Computer Creations 1 and 2. She shares, “During the 1st computer class his designs showed a lot of promise so I strongly encouraged him to take the second class as he would be able to take the creative part of his work to the next level.”

After three years of participating and two first place awards, Mrs. Moynihan couldn’t be more thrilled.
“I really enjoy introducing this project to my students every year. It’s a difficult subject to address for some of the kids but I think the message to drive safe and keep your eyes on the road and hands on the wheel is one worth hearing. I know my own driving habits have changed for the better since working with this program.”

Congrats to Cody for winning this important, life-saving contest!

JHS Senior Emily Garland a Record Quadruple DECA Qualifier!

Today, to help celebrate Ms. Garland’s achievements, we will be featuring Emily “in her own words.” It is worth noting that no other Jenison High School Student has ever achieved this level of success in DECA!

Dr. Clark had this to say, ” I am so proud that a student who has worked so hard, understood what it takes to compete at a district, state, and international level, and put in the time and effort needed to do all that work.  She is almost irreplaceable as one of the students I know that when handed any project, large or small, will get it done.  Beyond that she is the ideal student – intellectually curious, motivated, always positive, strong ethics, and a willingness to help wherever needed without complaining.”

We congratulate Emily’s diligence in pursuing excellence.

Emily Garland, DECA, Jenison High School, Jenison Public School

DECA allows you to meet people with the same passions as you from all over the country and, if you qualify for Internationals, from all over the world! I am a very shy person, but through DECA I have learned to get past being shy, to not let opportunities pass me by, and to become a leader.

DECA is a club to help develop the future business leaders of the world. One way it does this is through the competitions it has, such as the role plays where you are given an issue and you have ten minutes to plan out a solution to this.

The first event I worked for was the Stock Market Game. This was an investing simulation from September to December that was a part of my marketing class. We did research into stocks and made investments based on this. I had the 23rd best return out of over 2000 people which qualified me to compete in this event in the International Career Development Conference (ICDC).

The second competition I worked on was the School Based Enterprise in November up until January. I worked with two other people to write a 60 page paper on our new coffee shop, The Green Bean. When this got gold certification (which is the highest it could receive), I had another opportunity to compete at ICDC. I chose not to compete in this and instead give my spot to someone else who had not qualified.

Another event was THRIVE Academy which functioned in conjunction with DECA week. I helped my team mates in some of the daily events such as painting the rock, asking trivia at lunch, and working a DECA question table. In the end they chose that I would get one of the spots.

The last event I qualified in was Principles of Finance. In March I was a state champion in this role play competition along with four other people out of 70 people total. This was the final competition that I qualified for. Quadruple Qualifying means that I qualified in four separate events to go to the International Career Development Conference in Anaheim California. This means that I got to pick which event I’d want to compete in; I chose to go with the Stock Market Game.

I’d like to thank Dr. Clark for helping me so much in every project I’ve done. She allowed me to work on these projects during her classes and was always there for questions that I had. Dr. Clark has helped me become a leader and be the best I can be. This is my first year in DECA but it is because of Dr. Clark that I’ve done what I’ve done. I never thought I would be an officer and I never thought I would get the opportunity to go to California, but her support helped me to achieve so much more than I thought I ever could.

This fall I will be starting my first semester of college at Aquinas. I plan on studying business and work towards starting a collegiate DECA. I’m sad that high school DECA will be done, but I believe that the experiences it has given me will help me to excel in college and in my future career.

Jenison’s ECC Wraps Educational Excellence in Hugs and Smiles


After a harried morning of looking for shoes, fighting traffic and dodging flood zones, you turn the corner on Connie Street to drop your child off at Jenison’s Early Childhood Center. Walking through secure doors, you pass an impressive aquarium whose bright colors are matched only by charming displays of artwork dotting the halls.

Making your way past the infant rooms, you locate your child’s preschool classroom and scoop her up for a last kiss before she skips into class. Stopping at the coffee kiosk for a free cup of flavored Joe on the way out, you nod to the chef who’s returning to the kitchen with an armful of veggies from the school’s garden.

You realize that your bologna sandwich will pale in comparison to the lunch your four-year old will be eating, but you wouldn’t have it any other way.

One of the preschool rooms in Jenison's Early Childhood Center

One of the preschool rooms in Jenison’s Early Childhood Center

The scenario above is not part of a movie or a facility reserved for an elite crowd of Hollywood starlets. It is a snapshot of life at the ECC for every parent and every child who walk through the doors (*bologna sandwich optional). With room for little ones starting at 3 months and up to 5 year old pre-kindergarteners, this school is buzzing with laughter and finding innovative ways to make learning fun.

Mr. Westervelt at the coffee kiosk.

Mr. Westervelt at the coffee kiosk.

Principal Lee Westervelt beams like a proud parent as he weaves through the hallways. He knows this school is special, and notes that parents drive from as far away as Allegan County and Grand Haven to grab a coveted registration slot.

At the moment there is a waiting list for preschool at the ECC, despite incorporating the use of several portables and rooms at other Jenison Elementary Schools. Currently, 450 children are in the building every day, with another 300 in satellite locations.

We’ve been fortunate that there is a lot of stability here. We’ve proven that we hire people who have graduate-level preparedness and who stay. We really don’t experience a lot of turnover, which is great for the kids. I hire the best people out there,” said Mr. Westervelt.

iPads, technology in schools, Early Childhood Center, Jenison Public Schools

Ms. Keriann Poquette

One such teacher is Ms. Keriann Poquette who uses the latest technology to foster growth in reading. Two days a week, students use iPads to read with a reading buddy from Mrs. Ryan’s class at Bursley Elementary School.

Using Facetime, ECC kids sit and listen to an older student read to them while the iPad sends images from the book. This partnership allows older students on the other side of Jenison to practice reading and gives younger students additionally examples of fluency.

In mid-April the 5 year olds at the ECC will begin to read back to their reading buddies, practicing their newly forged skills in a tangible way.

Students view pages to their reading buddy's book via Facetime on the iPad.

Students view pages to their reading buddy’s book via Facetime on the iPad.

Aside from the gifted staff of teachers, the ECC boasts an amazing army of volunteers who come in every day to run the morning coffee kiosk, work with students, and organize the “Motor Moms” group. Motor Moms focus their attention on developing fine and gross motor skills by employing techniques used in Brain Gym and Bal-A-Vis-X. Examples of those activities include: obstacle courses, balance beams, crawling, rolling, galloping-to-marching, catching and throwing.

Motor Moms work with students each day.

Motor Moms work with students each day.

Chef Wade Borysiak preps black beans for the next day's lunch menu.

Chef Wade Borysiak preps black beans for the next day’s lunch menu.

All that galloping works up an appetite in the kids, and they’re fortunate to have GRCC Culinary Institute graduate and former Head Chef at GR’s One Trick PonyWade Borysiak, prepping fresh vegetables and healthy meals each day for the entire facility.

Aside from the community garden on the ECC grounds which provides food each spring and summer, Chef Borysiak shops locally at least every-other day for the freshest foods. On the menu that day: whole grain brown rice with mirepoix and slow roasted pork shoulder.

Mr. Westervelt is passionate about the connection between healthy eating and healthy, well-fed, attentive kids who are ready to learn. His dream is to expand the kitchen, hire a sous chef, virtually eliminate sugar and processed food from the school, and begin to partner with local farms for a larger variety of garden-fresh options.

But more than anything, Mr. Westervelt and his staff are excited about kids. They take good care of each other. They pursue excellence. They focus on what’s important.

“The great thing about my job is knowing that for many kids, being here is the best part of their day. And I love being a part of that.”