We Choose Jenison: The Van Dyke Family

JPS summer, Jenison Public Schools
This week we are pleased to hear from Mike and Beth Van Dyke. Their son Caleb graduated in 2010; daughter Emma will be a sophomore this year. Here is their story:

“I wish we had a more compelling story as to why we chose Jenison schools, but what it came down to for us was that we got so much more for our money as far as house and property and we heard the schools were good as well.

We had moved Caleb a lot throughout elementary while my husband Mike finished college and got established in his career, so I was so worried about him moving yet again (we’ve lived here since 2004).

When we moved, Caleb was going into 7th grade and Emma was going into 1st grade.  I was originally concerned for Caleb because of the thought of him being the “new kid” (I didn’t realize junior high didn’t start until 7th grade) and for Emma because the other kids will have already gone through Kindergarten together, but it worked out well for both of them.  That year was the first year that Maplewood was not open for elementary anymore, so those kids were disbursed throughout the district. While sad for many, this worked in our favor so Emma wouldn’t be the only new kid in first grade.  We also found out that many kids from 6 different elementary schools were all going into one school for 7th grade, so that helped Caleb’s adjustment.  It was great for both of them.  They fit in perfectly.

Both of our kids have very good friends, and actually, Emma and her friends from 1st grade are still very close.  There have been additions to that group, certainly, but it’s nice to see this core group is still together.

As I reflect on the years we’ve been here, what has most impressed me about Jenison is that the district is very successful at preparing kids for after graduation.  The teachers are phenomenal!!  Caleb really connected with many of his teachers.  They would get into deep discussions that would really challenge him.  I remember Caleb telling me that VP would really critique his work in a positive, helpful way that would make him become a better artist and he welcomed it immensely. He is in his last year at Kendall and has had many offers for internships as a Graphic Designer.

Both of my kids are very good students — however, science was the one class that really didn’t interest them in the least bit.  But, last year, Emma had Mr. Zuber for the first semester.  He has a way with the students that made her so excited for that particular science class.  He truly knows how to share his passion.  She liked that class so much, she chose to take Zoology in her sophomore year because he teaches it.  Also, Mr. Diekman was a life changer for Emma.

I have seen Caleb grow, learn to think on his own, and decide what he believes because that’s what he believes.  This happened in part, from his discussions he’d have with his teachers like Schuiteman, Veeneman, VP, AB, Hast, and the list goes on.  Emma is very serious about her grades and she wants to always do the best she can.  She thinks through things before she does them.  She is a risk-taker, but a wise risk taker.  I think Jenison has helped to shape this in her.

 I will never forget shortly after we moved here and we were coming back from visiting relatives from the Lansing area (where we moved from).  We rounded the corner on Main St. heading into Jenison and Caleb said, “Mom, this is home.” 

That was the best confirmation that we made the right decision.”

Jenison Students Offer “NuHope” in Partnership with NuWool

Four years ago, ACT students had no idea that their paper peddling would have the potential to change lives and provide warm homes for folks they had never met.

But it was four years ago when Mrs. Karen Weaver’s ACT program moved to Pinewood Elementary School and she was introduced to Blake Watson, a Pinewood Parent who was also a manager at NuWool. Over the course of conversation, the NuWool partnership was born, inviting students to collect unwanted phone books to be donated, shred, and converted into cellulose insulation. Since the project’s inception, ACT donations have also been dedicated for use as insulation in Habitat for Humanity homes.

Jenison Public Schools, ACT, Karen Weaver, NuWool

6th grade ACT students

“Green” since 1949, NuWool is committed to helping homeowners lower their energy bills or work toward LEED certification. They note that insulation made from 100% recycled paper (enter ACT phone books) is manufactured using much less energy than what is needed to make fiberglass insulation — at least ten times less!

These principals of environmental stewardship that govern Jenison’s ACT class are are pillars for Karen Weaver personally, making this project a standout for her and her students alike.

“Our main goal at the time was to keep the books out of the landfill and give them a second life as cellulose insulation.  Then, two years ago, we decided to collect and donate the books for insulation for Habitat Homes. The HUGE collections continued, in spite of the books getting smaller…

…We were always particularly proud of this project, since NuWool is a LOCAL green industry–turning trash into product.  It is located in our neighborhood and employs our parents.  All concepts we endorse,” said Mrs. Weaver.

Jenison Public Schools, ACT, Karen Weaver, NuWool

3rd grade ACT students

This year, NuWool marketer Trisha Henderson perked up with an awesome community tie-in idea: why not use JPS-donated books to create acoustical tiles for our new Fine Arts Center?

In partnership with its sister company, Cellulose Material Solutions, LLC, NuWool helped to manufacture innovative cellulose batts from the recycled phone books. Sold under the name ECOCELL (see photo below), these batts have superior thermal and acoustical properties, making them perfect for concert halls.

Because of their unique properties, dozens of cellulose batts (made from our recycled phone books) will be installed in Jenison’s new Performing Arts Center! They will be suspended like sound absorbing “clouds” in the performance hall as well as installed into adjoining office walls.

photo of NuWool, Cellulose Material Solutions, Jenison Public Schools, JPS, Pinewood Elementary School, Jenison Fine Arts Center

[L to R} Jenna Boelkins, Andrew Ferguson, Tom TenBrink, Karen Weaver, Rachael Lyon.

“The phone book drive is a true testament of how recovering waste locally can lead to new products made locally, then installed and used locally in a sustainable facility,” said Ms. Henderson.

CMS employee works on the new acoustic "batts" to be installed in Jenison's Fine Arts Center.

CMS employee works on the new acoustic “batts” to be installed in Jenison’s Fine Arts Center.

“Who knew that when our ACT students started recycling phone books years ago that they would some day be used to help insulate our brand new Performing Arts Center! It is exciting to know that the Nu-Wool insulation that is being used throughout our new building is a byproduct of the efforts of our past and present ACT students. What a great story,” commented Tom TenBrink.

Students at Pinewood Elementary collected over 9,000 pounds of phone books this year alone!

We applaud their diligent care of our planet and the way they have ensured that others’ trash … becomes Jenison’s treasure. Bravo!