As he prepares his team for a state Senior Little League tournament hosted by District 9 Southern Little League this weekend — a tournament WKTV will be broadcasting — Southern manager Jamie Billo is glad to have several players who have “been there; done that.”
Not only will he get the on-field talent, but also the off-field wisdom, of five players who return from a team that won the state title and won three games in the Central Regional tournament last year before falling to an eventual national champion team from Illinois.
And that leadership was evident last weekend as the Southern team, after rolling through three games in the District 9 tournament, had to bounce back from a title-game loss to Georgetown to win the tournament.
That loss “taught the kids a valuable lesson — on any given day, if you do not play up to your capability you get beat,” Billo said in an interview with WKTV. “It (also) helps a lot (to have experienced players). They can explain to the kids there is no reason to have that ‘awe’ factor. It is just another baseball game. They also reinforce that they have to come to every game ready to play.”
Attend the games; watch them on WKTV
WKTV will also be at every District 9 game this weekend, ready to play. WKTV’s coverage crew will broadcast live Southern’s opening game Friday, July 14, at 7 p.m., and then also be live on Saturday for the team’s games at 10 a.m. or 4 p.m., depending on Friday results. All live games will be available on Comcast Cable Channel 24. Some later games will be taped-delayed.
Southern will open action against the District 16 representative from Onsted. The other teams in the tournament will be Portage, from District 2; Ypsilanti, District 3; Commerce, District 4; Taylor NW, District 5; and St. Clair, District 7.
All games will be at the Southern Little League field complex at 2525 Kalamazoo Ave. SW, just north of 28th Avenue. The title game will be Monday at 5:30 p.m. with a second title game to follow, if necessary.
The winner of the state tournament will play in the Central Regional tournament, along with teams from nine other Midwest states, in Peru, Ill.
The team and its coaches
The Southern team is an all-star team made up of players, age 15-16, selected by the coaches from four Senior level teams who played in the Southern Little League this season.
Billo is in his first year as head coach of the Senior team, but has coached Southern Little League teams for eight years. He is the junior varsity head football coach at East Grand Rapids.
“I have coached a lot of these kids over the last few years,” he said.
The players include, from Central Catholic High School, Myles Beale, a centerfielder and pitcher; Matt Moore, outfielder/catcher; Kyle Tepper, 3rd base/outfielder/pitcher; Luke Passinault, 2nd base/outfielder; Joe Collins, outfielder/pitcher; and Nate Trudeau, short stop.
From East Grand Rapids are Reilly O’Connor, infielder and pitcher; Micah Baermann pitcher/outfield; Billy Bernecker, 1st base/outfield; John Shelton lV, catcher; Jack Billo, 3rd base; Peter Kratt, outfield; Ryan Sullivan, pitcher; and Nick Lambert, pitcher.
Also on the team are, from Grand Rapids Christian, Keegan Batka, middle infielder and pitcher, and Luke Elzinga, 1st base/pitcher.
Shelton, who started on the EGR varsity team this season, will be the team’s clean-up hitter. Billo, the manager’s son, was a starter on last year’s team that won the state tournament, as was Lambert, Trudeau, Elzinga and Kratt. Also of note, Batka’s brother, Austin, pitches for the University of Michigan.
“John Shelton is huge part of the team, batting,” Billo said. “Peter Kraff is probably the vocal leader of the team and has a great bat. Jack (Billo) will hit from the 2-hole two and is very fast. Kegan Batka leads with RBIs.”
Pitching, however, is a little more of uncertainty for the team.
“The strength of the team is batting and defense,” Billo said. “Last year we had two pitchers who we could just roll the ball out to. This year we have a lot of pitching depth but no top pitchers, but we have eight guys we are confident of to put out there.”
In addition to Billo, the other coaches for the team are Jim Passinault and Pat Batka.
“When it comes to pitching, I defer to Pat, his sons are pitchers and he pitched. He calls all the pitches,” Billo said. “We have known each other, coaches against each other in the regular season. As manager, I could pick my coaches and I could not have picked two better ones.”
The Kentwood Summer Concert series continues this Thursday with the Kalamazoo-based funk and soul band The Mainstays.
The Mainstays are set to perform at 7 p.m. on the lawn of the Kentwood City Hall, 4900 Breton SE.
The group includes singer/songwriter Andrew Schrock, bass player Neal Conway, guitarist Nate Heymoss, drummer Paul Bauer and organist/clavinet player/wurlitzer player Tom Eldred.
Having recently performed with the legendary organist Booker T., of the 1960s R&B band Book T. & The M.G.’s, earlier this month, The Mainstays draws heavily from the groovy elements that made Funktion (Heymoss’s Michigan funk/dance band) a bonafide dance party, while crafting dynamic, insightful and almost folk-influenced songs. Bauer behind the drum kit and the dirty playing of Eldred on keys bring the sound fully together.
Guests are encouraged to bring a lawn chair and enjoy the evening. A variety of food trucks will be on hand for the event.
For more information about this Summer Concert Series or other programs offered by the Kentwood Parks and Recreation, visit www.yourkprd.org.
A drone buzzed over the East Kentwood Freshman campus, snapping photos to document the path of water runoff from the school building to a Buck Creek tributary that runs across the property. While watching the miniature aircraft, science students talked about how to reduce humans’ impact on the environment. They would later use technology to create maps and documentaries.
Welcome to 21st-century biology, where students have tools like drones for snapping photos from a bird’s eye view, 3-D printers for creating three-dimensional models and smartphones to create video.
In science teacher Nicholas Bihler’s class, they also had the drive to tackle a real-world problem: Water that comes off the school roof simply drains onto the ground, collecting sediment and chemicals and polluting nearby waterways.
While solutions to fix the runoff problem are still unfolding, students completed several projects connected to nonpoint source pollution, and the ramifications it has on the community and local watershed. They recently showcased their work – models of campus that show the runoff path, reports, informational posters and videos – after several weeks exploring the issue and building awareness.
“Our whole purpose is to educate the community on how water runoff affects the community and the environment as a whole,” said freshman Emily Kwekel.
Students’ projects and data will be used by next year’s class, and could eventually be part of a local information campaign to spur efforts to reduce pollution in the watershed. Research included gathering and testing water from the creek to create an analysis of the stream’s health. Results showed excessive phosphorus levels. Insects lacked diversity, indicating poor water quality, and next year’s students will use the data as a baseline.
“I want my students to be able to educate others about nonpoint source pollution and meaningful ways citizens can take action to reduce it,” Bihler said.
Students said they learned that pollution can come from everyday things: Fertilizers and cars have a far-reaching effect.
“It hurts the animals and then those animals can’t eat because their food source is dying off, and then they die and go extinct and people wonder why,” said freshman Lilli Crowley.
Taking action at a staff level, Bihler and his colleagues, teachers Adrienne DeMilner, Alan Freudigmann and Beth Thompson, partnered with Groundswell, an initiative through Grand Valley State University, in creating a rain mitigation garden in the school to capture water runoff and hold it in the soil with native plants.
As for sharing the message, freshman Will Chatlosh’s report, presented to his class and earning loud applause from peers, gets to the point.
“Human activities such as deforestation, agricultural advancements, and increased urbanization are all factors that increase pollution in this way,” he said, while reading his report to the class. “However, it may be a lack of information that kills millions of animals a year and increases the chance of disease around the world. However, more specifically our community is also affected by nonpoint source pollution.”
He said becoming informed is key. “Nonpoint source pollution could destroy the world but it doesn’t have to.”
Editor’s Note: This story was first published in August 2016
Gloria Tungabose’s eyes flash as she tells of her father, killed in Burundi. Her mother’s ethnicity was Tutsi and her father’s was Hutu, and the two groups were engaged in a bloody civil war. Her mother, Butoyi, was arrested.
“My mom went to jail and was raped there and had my sister,” said the East Kentwood High School student, describing how men measured her mother’s nose to determine her ethnicity.
The family moved to Congo, where violence also raged, Gloria said. They eventually arrived at a refugee camp in Namibia, living off rations of flour, beans, oil, sugar and salt, carrying drinking water to their shelters and going to school. She was 10 years old, and would remain there for three years.
Sponsored by a local organization, Gloria moved to Michigan four years ago, to discover a place where snow falls in the winter, people ride daily in cars and buses and where she can go to school with students from many different backgrounds. Now she can graduate from high school, go to college and become a nurse.
“I feel like it’s a dream and I’m still sleeping. Am I in America, really?” she asked. “I just have to live life and accept the reality in it. Even though the past was horrible and bad, I want to make my future better and help people in the future.”
Gloria’s story is similar to many refugee students who attend East Kentwood High School. They’ve escaped war. They’ve ridden on top of trains to elude dangerous gangs. They’ve seen family members murdered. They’ve crossed oceans and lived in refugee camps. They’ve faced religious and ethic persecution unlike most Americans ever experience.
Now they are seated at their desks Monday through Friday, reading literature, learning algebra, studying U.S. history and taking Michigan Merit Curriculum tests. They dream of careers, financial security, a future without violence.
A Mosaic of Backgrounds
School diversity is often painted with a broad brush: white, black, Hispanic and Asian. But in Kentwood Public Schools, where students there come from 89 different countries, that picture is much more detailed. Diversity means students hail from all over the globe: from bustling Indian and Chinese cities to mountainous Balkan countries, to African tribal communities.
“We have 61 languages spoken here, which creates unique challenges,” said Erin Wolohan, an interventionist who works with students learning English. “We have many, many languages and cultures, so we have to come up with unique solutions.”
Many students speak half a dozen or more languages, a result of growing up in several countries, as their families fled areas and resettled in others. Gloria speaks Swahili, Kirundi, Kinyarwanda, English, French and Portuguese. She has already graduated out of the English Language (ELL) Learner program, and her accent is barely detectable.
“I feel great. I am surrounded by different cultures. I feel at home,” she said.
Newcomers arrived in waves to the Grand Rapids area from Bosnia, Kosovo, Vietnam and other Asian countries, Burma, Nepal and Africa. Many have moved to the Kentwood area because of housing availability. In the 8,856-student Kentwood Public Schools district there is an English-language learner population of 1,686 students, 19 percent of the district.
“For the past two decades Kentwood Public Schools has experienced a demographic shift within our student population,” said Shirley Johnson, assistant superintendent of Student Services.
One way the district has responded is to provide cultural competency training to all employees to address the numerous challenges: logistic, communication and cultural. Teachers help with transportation and in reaching parents who don’t have cars or driver’s licenses, and who work second- and third-shift jobs. The district spends approximately $60,000 annually on translation services.
Two Kentwood schools, Meadowlawn Elementary and Crestwood Middle, have Newcomer Center programs for which students receive full-time, intensive ELL instruction. The high school also has many newcomer classrooms. Recently, in ELL social studies teacher Carlotta Schroeder’s class, students from Nepal, Burma, Congo and many other countries finished their first-semester exams.
Damber Chhetra, who came from Nepal five years ago, said his family came for better opportunities. “It’s a better life. I can have a better education,” Damber said. “I like the way the teachers teach. It’s different. They are so nice to the students.” He wants to become a computer engineer.
Students Settle Where Housing is Available
Families often live in apartments, and children who come unaccompanied by parents live with foster families and have church sponsors. Many high school students, without families to take them in, begin living on their own.
There are several reasons the Grand Rapids area became a destination for refugees, Johnson said. Grand Rapids participated in the resettlement of refugees even before 1980, when the Refugee Resettlement Act was passed authorizing more organizations to help facilitate refugee migration to the U.S. Some local agencies include Bethany Christian Services, Lutheran Social Services and West Michigan Refugee Education & Cultural Center.
Placement of refugees is based on housing availability. Resettlement agencies work with landlords to get fair and affordable housing, said Susan Kragt, executive director of the West Michigan Refugee Education & Cultural Center, located in Kentwood. Because Kentwood and Grand Rapids school districts have newcomer center schools, most refugee children end up in those schools.
School is sometimes entirely new for refugee children. Many come from non-urban areas without formal education systems, putting them behind academically. For teachers, nothing can be assumed or taken for granted, ELL Interventionist Wolohan said. Even the volume of someone’s voice can seem aggressive to non-English-speaking students.
Students have cultural differences and experiences that affect attitudes toward education, the roles of men and women and how they interact with each other. They may have never seen snow before, so aren’t prepared for cold winters. There’s also pressure from family members for teenagers to go straight to work to make money, Wolohan said. Kentwood teachers encourage them to stay in school because they will make more money in the long run, she said.
Adjusting to the Culture
A key piece in breaking down barriers is helping students and their families adjust to U.S. culture, as well as educating teachers about their needs, Kragt said.
The center works with refugee students through its School Impact Program. The program provides orientation sessions for students and parents; holds workshops for educators on the resettlement process and the cultural backgrounds of refugees; hosts panel discussions with refugee students and offers eight-week peer support groups for middle- and high-school students.
Workshops inform educators about students’ prior school experiences, and alert teachers to the symptoms of culture shock and trauma that can leave refugee students feeling isolated and depressed, Kragt said.
“Unfortunately, sometimes our kids get bullied,” she said. “We talk about the trauma of what they’ve been through, but sometimes it can be more traumatic trying to fit into a new culture… Their classmates are looking at them going, ‘You’re different.'”
Also, Wolohan added, it’s incorrect to assume students are here because they want to be. While many came for a better life, often they wish they could have stayed in their own countries.
“It’s a lonely life, it’s a hard life. They know they are better off than where they were, but it wasn’t their idea,” she said. “It’s not like they woke up one day and said, ‘I want to live in America.’ We have that misnomer that we think they should be so thankful to be here, and they are grateful, ultimately. But that doesn’t mean they don’t miss their families. If they could go back to their homeland and have it be more free, they would.”
A Welcoming Environment
Teachers are encouraged to lead by example in the classroom, giving other students “less permission to pick on that kid,” Kragt said. “These kids are not going to be the ones going around introducing themselves to everybody. They need people to reach out and say, ‘Hey, how are you?'”
The big picture is to help students acclimate permanently. A successful school experience is crucial to refugee families’ fortunes in America, Kragt said. Without students learning English, graduating high school and going on to college, refugees are apt to stay in an “enclosed community” apart from the broader society.
But in schools where there may be 21 foreign languages in one classroom, teaching is “a pretty daunting task,” she noted.
Her center provides after-school tutoring and other programs to help students catch up. More broadly, it strives to provide a welcoming culture for refugee resettlement in West Michigan. When Gov. Rick Snyder last fall sought to pause the state’s acceptance of Syrian refugees due to terrorism concerns, Kragt accused him of “leading with fear rather than reason” in a teleconference sponsored by the World Affairs Council of Western Michigan.
“We have a strong history of welcoming refugees (in West Michigan), and a lot of people are informed about refugee resettlement,” she said. “That’s allowing us to maybe push back on some of the misinformation that’s out there.”
Just walking the halls at East Kentwood High School helps dispel fears and promote acceptance. Students are often dressed in native clothes, speak their native languages and celebrate their traditional holidays, all while navigating the U.S. education system.
Wolohan said refugee students and the perspectives they bring add to the richness of the district.
“It’s an education you can’t buy,” said Wolohan, who’s had four children in Kentwood Public Schools. “What we have here doesn’t exist anywhere else. I think this is one of the most diverse schools in the country. For my own children, it’s given them more acceptance of other cultures and also a world view. It brings the world to them.”
That kind of attitude is one of the district’s core values, Assistant Superintendent Johnson said.
“We believe that our district reflects the real world. As students prepare to live and compete in a global market place, they will fully appreciate the rich differences among their peers, understand the value of diversity and be equipped to successfully interact within a multicultural society.”
SNN reporter Charles Honey contributed to this article.
The Wyoming-Kentwood Chamber of Commerce’s monthly Government Matters meetings bring together government leaders of all levels and topics often range from local libraries to Washington. D.C. politics. You can see for yourself as WKTV replays the meetings.
At the July 10 meeting, discussion on the current state of healthcare reform took center stage as Greg VanWoerkom, district director for U.S. Rep. Bill Huizenga (R-Michigan 2nd District), gave a status report to the other government officials and representatives.
“Really, all the eyes have been on the Senate the past two weeks, what their strategies are regarding healthcare, and we hope to hear more information on that this week, ” VanWoerkom said. “Everybody is watching every senator and what they are saying about it.”
Rep. Huizenga has consistently called for repeal of the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare).
“What we are seeing, with the Affordable Care Act, is that more and more people are not having options to purchase (medical insurance) in the individual market,” VanWoerkom said. “Counties, states, individual insurance companies are just dropping out of that exchange marketplace at a pretty good clip. … the Affordable Care Act is not working.”
To see the entire discussion, check out WKTV’s replay of the meeting (link below).
The Chamber’s Government Matters meetings include representatives of the cities of Kentwood and Wyoming, Kent County, local Michigan House of Representatives and Senate, and, often, representatives of other State of Michigan and federal elected officials. The next meeting will be Aug. 7 at Wyoming City Hall.
The meetings are on the second Monday of each month, starting at 8 a.m. WKTV Journal will produce a highlight story after the meeting. But WKTV also offers replays of the Monday meetings on the following Wednesday at 7 p.m. on Cable Channel 25. Replays are also available online at WKTV’s government meetings on-demand page (wktv.viebit.com) and on the chamber’s Facebook page.
For the first time in its history, the Gerald R. Ford International Airport (GFIA) will be a venue for ArtPrize.
GFIA has been a sponsor and welcoming point for artists and visitors for several years, and decided to sign on as a venue for the 9th annual art competition, given the connection to the community. Seven artists will have art displayed at the Airport, which includes both indoor and outdoor work.
“We are thrilled to be a part of ArtPrize in more ways than one, and serving as a venue will not only give visitors a first impression of our city; but it will hopefully bring in those from around West Michigan into the airport to see the art and check out our newest facilities,” said GFIA President & CEO Jim Gill. “The Ford Airport strives to be reflective of the people and events in West Michigan, and what better opportunity is there to do so other than partner with ArtPrize? We look forward to welcoming in both local and international artists, and look forward to seeing their talents on display.”
ArtPrize is an open, independently organized international art competition which takes place for 19 days each fall in Grand Rapids. More than five hundred thousand dollars in prizes are awarded each year, which include a $200,000 prize awarded entirely by public vote and another $200,000 prize awarded by a jury of art experts.
Any artist working in any medium from anywhere in the world can participate. Art is exhibited throughout downtown Grand Rapids—museums, bars, public parks, restaurants, theaters, hotels, bridges, and for the first time – the Airport. Over eight years, 2.9 million visitors have cast 3.2 million votes and artists from around the country and world have received $4.1 million in awards.
“In addition to their stunning renovations, we are excited to expand the ArtPrize boundaries to include The Gerald R. Ford International Airport allowing visitors from all over the world to experience — an vote for — the work of ArtPrize Artist on their first and last stop in West Michigan,” said ArtPrize Executive Director Christian Gaines.
For real-time updates from the City of Wyoming, go here.
The City of Wyoming’s yard waste drop-off site will be open 24/7 through the weekend to allow for storm damage clean up.
The drop-off site, located at 2660 Burlingame Ave. SW, will return to normal hours of 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Monday, July 10. The site is free to Wyoming residents. Go here for more info.
The City is currently working to repair storm damage as quickly as possible. Trees blocking a roadway or a power line can be reported to non-emergency dispatch at 616.530.7300, ext. 1. For information on power outages, go here.
For more information, follow the City on Twitter @WyomingCityHall and on Facebook here.
As of 11:30 am, the City of Wyoming has issued a PARK CLOSURE & STORM DAMAGE UPDATE: Please exercise caution when visiting any park or trail during this weekend.
BUCK CREEK TRAIL. Closed.
PINERY PARK: Closed.
HILLCROFT PARK: Playground & shelter closed. Trail and general park area open.
LAMAR PARK: One section area closed. Disc golf open. All other areas of park, including splash pad are open.
ORIOLE PARK: No power – splash pad not working as a result. All other areas are open.
DOG PARK: Overhanging tree limb over access road requires caution – avoid. Dog park is open.
FROG HOLLOW: No power. Playground open.
LEMERY PARK: No power. Playground, tennis courts, active play areas open. Buck Creek trail closed.
From the City of Wyoming: “We cannot anticipate and identify all concerns immediately. Again, look up & down when visiting any park or trail following storm events. Exercise caution and report (message) any concerns.”
For real-time updates from the City of Kentwood, go here.
City of Kentwood crews are cleaning up debris and fallen trees on city streets and sidewalks. Remember, it is the property owner’s responsibility to clean any debris from your yard. At this time, Kentwood does not have debris drop-off, but they are currently assessing the situation.
The City of Kentwood reminds residents to contact Consumers Energy if you see a downed line. Downed Line phone number is 800.477.5050 — and stay at least 25 ft away from the line. More information about what to do with a downed line can be found here.
Consumer’s Energy is working to restore power. Please check their outage map for more about your location.
As of 10 a.m. today, Friday, July 7, Kent County Emergency Management has been working since the early morning hours to determine the severity of storm damage throughout the County. Thus far, no injuries have been reported due to storm damage in Kent County.
Public works crews throughout the County are working to remove debris in roadways and utility crews are working to repair downed power lines.
More than 50,000 people lost power in Kent County this morning.
“Because of the busy activity of our responders, we are not going to run the monthly siren tests throughout Kent County at noon today,” said Jack Stewart, Emergency Management Coordinator for Kent County. “Monthly testing will resume August 4. We want to focus today’s efforts on the more immediate needs of our communities.”
Kent County Road Commission has additional crews working to remove large trees from roads.
“Much of the work is from Five Mile Road through southern Kent County at this time,” said Jerry Byrne, Director of Operations of the Kent County Road Commission. “Right now, the Alto area has significant damage, with trees in the road on Whitneyville Avenue and on Buttrick Aveune SE. If you see our crews, please either turn around or proceed with caution.”
Central dispatch in Kent County has been
busy responding to calls all morning. Kent Count Emergency Management staff reminds residents:
If you see a downed power line, do not approach it!!! Call 911.
If you have lost power, report it to your energy provider either by phone or online.
If you plan to use a power generator, follow manufacturer instructions. DO NOT use a generator in the garage or basement of a home and make sure there is good clearance for exhaust to move away from your home. Carbon monoxide, the gas that is produced by a generator, can be odorless, tasteless and deadly.
Now is a good time to make sure you have a plan for storm-related damage. Make sure you have a week’s supply of water, several days of non-perishable food, flashlights/batteries, a first aid kit, and a weather radio. Several apps are available for smartphones, including weather warning apps and incident preparation apps.
Lace and gear up your sneaks and get ready for the first ever Runway 5K, starting this fall at the Gerald R.Ford International Airport (GFIA).
The event will take place Saturday, Oct. 7, at 9 a.m., on airport grounds.The race will begin near the cargo facilities, under a runway tunnel, loop around by the airport fire station, and wrap around on runway 8L/26R.
The proceeds will be donated to Make-A-Wish Michigan, with the cost of $28 per person. That includes T-Shirts, post-race snacks and beverages, and awards for top finishers as well as other giveaways.
“It’s through the generous support of our Michigan Community, like our friends at GFIA that we are able to grant life-changing wishes to Michigan children,” Karen Davis, president and CEO of Make-A-Wish Michigan, said in supplied material.
There will also be a 1-mile fun run/walk, starting at 9:05 a.m., with the cost of $15 per person.
“This is a tremendous opportunity for runners, walkers, and families who want to come out for a Saturday morning stroll or a competitive race, and to experience a fun event on a runway that is normally only being used for aircraft,” Jim Gill, CEO and airport president, said in supplied material.
The Salvation Army Kroc Center is holding a series of “Family Fun & Fitness Nights” during the month of July, on Wednesdays (July 5, 12, 19, 26). All events are free to both members and non-members.
This event will feature an all-ages fitness class in the Kroc’s outdoor amphitheater at 5:45pm. Classes will include Zumba, Urban Kick, Family Fit, and Family Boot Camp.
Once the class is over, kids and parents alike can cool off on the Kroc Center’s giant slip & slide from roughly 6:30 to 8:30pm.
Kroc staff and volunteers will also offer face painting and concessions; local organizations will also have tables with information and activities for families.
“We are excited to bring back Family Fun & Fitness Nights this summer,” said Lieutenant Bill Brutto, senior officer for The Salvation Army Kroc Center. “We love giving families the opportunity to get active and enjoy time together in a fun and safe environment.”
Family Fun & Fitness Nights are made possible through financial support from Molina Healthcare of Michigan.
The event will be cancelled in the event of heavy rain or lightning. Visit www.grkroccenter.org or call 616-588-7200 for more information.Free
A pancake breakfast, 5K run, carnival games and of course, fireworks, all adds up to one event — the City of Kentwood’s annual July 4th Celebration.
Taking place on Tuesday, July 4, the celebration kicks off with a pancake breakfast from 7:30 – 9:30 a.m. at a new location, the Kentwood (Richard L. Root) Library, 4950 Breton Rd. SE. For $5, its pancakes and sausage to start off the day.
From there, participants can head next door to City Hall, 4900 Breton Rd. SE, watch the start of the Autocam 5K Race and Fun Walk, which starts at 8:30 a.m. Cheer the runners on as they follow a new course this year that will start and end at City Hall along with allowing race participants to travel through the East West Trail and the neighborhoods west of City Hall.
From City Hall, visitors have an excellent opportunity to snag a viewing spot for this year’s parade which will step off at 9:30 a.m. from Crestwood Middle School, 2674 44th St. SE, exiting out of the south drive on to Walma Avenue. The parade will travel south down Walma to Breton, going right past the Kentwood City Hall. From Breton, the route will go west on 52nd Street, ending at Challenger Elementary School, 2475 52nd St. SE. The annual parade is covered live by WKTV on Channel 25.
The celebration takes a break for the afternoon with evening activities set to start at 6 p.m. at Crestwood Middle School. There will be carnival rides, giant inflatables, food vendors and food trucks along with music by Great Scott, games and of course, the entire evening wrapping up with fireworks. Additional parking and viewing will be available at the City Center, 4900 Breton St. SE. Note, no personal fireworks, sparklers or Chinese lanterns allowed at the public event.
Volunteers for the annual event are still needed. To volunteer or for more information about the July 4th Celebration, visit www.yourkprd.org or call 616-656-5270.
The Kentwood July 4th Celebration is part of the city’s 50th Anniversary celebration. The 50th Anniversary community-wide celebration is set for Aug. 11 and 12. For more information on the Kentwood 50th Anniversary, visit www.kentwood50.com.
Kent County is taking advantage of both its Triple A Bond Rating and favorable interest rates to refund two separate bonds originally sold in 2007 and 2008. By combining the two issues, the County will save an estimated $4.0 million in interest payments on a nominal basis.
In 2007, Kent County issued $27 million in Building Authority Bonds to acquire, construct, furnish, and equip the Human Services Complex on Franklin Street in Grand Rapids. The following year, the County issued $14.3 million in Capital Improvement Bond to make improvements at the Kent County Fuller Campus and to acquire land and construct a building for 63rd District Court on the East Beltline in Grand Rapids Township. Since the issuance of the two bonds, interest rates have significantly declined so that it now is opportune time to refund both bonds and take advantage of associated interest rate savings.
High bond ratings – similar to high credit scores when buying a house – can have an impact on the rate of interest charged. County Administrator/Controller Daryl Delabbio, who is retiring in June of this year, credits the hard work of his Fiscal Services staff for the savings. “The staff, led by Fiscal Services Director Steve Duarte, have kept the County’s credit rating strong over the years,” Delabbio said. “When people ask, ‘Why is a Triple A credit rating important,’ it’s great to be able to point to projects and issues like this and say, ’Here is one reason.’”
“Daryl and his staff have provided great leadership over the past two decades, setting a solid foundation for economic policies and fiscal responsibility,” said Board of Commissioners’ Chair Jim Saalfeld. “This Board is fortunate to have elected and appointed leaders that look for ways to deliver services in the most effective and efficient manner, saving our residents and businesses money in the long-term.”
In June rating agencies S&P Global and Moody’s Investors Service affirmed the long-term Triple-A credit ratings for Kent County, marking the 19th consecutive year of this distinction. Credit ratings from these agencies are important in allowing local units of government to borrow money at lower interest rates, reducing costs to the average tax payer.
Kentwood-based building materials and supply company Lumbermen’s, has acquired Michigan Prestain, a manufacturer of prefinished wood products. The sale involving the local companies was finalized June 9. Terms of the deal were not disclosed. The merged entity will produce and distribute products under the “Great American Spaces” brand.
Lumbermen’s, located at 4433 Stafford Ave. SE, in Kentwood, and Michigan Prestain have had a successful partnership for nearly two years with Lumbermen’s distributing Michigan Prestain products, including Easy Barnwood.
Michigan Prestain was founded in 1989 by Greg Troutt. At the time of the acquisition, the company had nearly 30 employees working out of a 66,000-square foot manufacturing facility on Roger B Chaffee Drive in Wyoming. All Michigan Prestain employees will continue to work out of this facility.
Troutt intends to stay with Lumbermen’s to develop new products and support the combined sales team as the company continues to increase sales with current dealers as well as new networks across the country.
Lumbermen’s is 100 percent employee owned and strives to be the first choice of building materials for its customers. The company has 400 employees working at locations across Michigan, Ohio, Indiana, and northern Kentucky.
Acquisition of Michigan Prestain meets Lumbermen’s strategic vision to diversify its products and offerings, as well as its focus on value-added services in its Building Materials division.
“We are thrilled to add Michigan Prestain to our already diverse product offering,” said Steve Petersen, president of Lumbermen’s. “There is a natural synergy between our companies. We’re excited about the growth opportunities and value it will bring to our customers, as well as what it will mean to our employee owners.”
Agnes Fischer bustled behind her serving station in the the East Kentwood Freshman Campus cafeteria. The fried chicken went fast and she grabbed another tray. She passed out the hearty pieces with sides of mashed potatoes and salad to hungry students.
Freshman Alexis Thomas walked up to Fischer for a quick hello and a noontime hug. “Every day I come down to lunch and she always has a smile on her face,” Alexis said. “She serves the best food and she keeps me motivated.”
At age 87, and with nearly a half-century spent in the district’s cafeterias, Fischer fed a lot of children, and got to know generations of them as they passed through her lunch line.
“I love the kids, and there are so many things you find out about them that really make you feel good. They come back behind the counter and give me a hug every single day,” Fischer said.
She was serving her last week of school lunches before retiring June 14, giving up her 8:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. routine and handing over her apron.
“I’d like to stay more, but I think it’s time,” she said. “I’m gonna miss it. I’m gonna miss it a lot.”
“It’s going to be sad to see her go,” Faith said
Tried Once Before
Fischer started working for Kentwood Public Schools in 1964 at the former high school building, serving milk and wiping tables. She later worked as a baker at Townline Elementary, and then a baker and manager at Crestwood Middle. She retired for the first time in 1990, but in 1994 came back as a substitute. In 1999, she was hired as a server at East Kentwood High, and later the Freshman Campus.
“I came back because I missed it and I was bored,” she said. Widowed twice, her first husband, Richard Koning, died in 1980, and, 17 years later, her second husband, Lawrence Fisher, died after they were married for just one month.
She said others told her she was crazy to be that attached to a job, but for Fischer, it wasn’t about the job. “It was the people.”
Fischer plans to continue to work as a lunchtime substitute and to keep baking her signature chocolaty and caramel-y cookies for Board of Education meetings.
Young at Heart
The daughter of Alma and John Bouterse, Fischer grew up on the West Side of Grand Rapids, the eldest of six children and one of only two surviving. She attended Union High School through her junior year, and worked in the tea room at Herpolsheimer’s department store and later as a telephone operator for Michigan Bell. She also ran a catering company with her sister for 30 years.
Working around children has kept her young, she said. “Myself, when I see older people, I don’t think I’m old. They are old, but not me.”
But she remembers the days when school lunches were home-style and made from scratch, and when not nearly as many students attended the district, which now includes 17 schools.
Still, whatever the decade, hungry students are hungry students. “They love fried chicken and mashed potatoes with gravy, taco salad and the salad bar,” she said.
The job truly became a family affair for Fischer. For a few years at the Freshman Campus, Fischer worked under her daughter, Nancy Rounds, who was supervisor, retiring three years ago. Fischer’s sisters, Alma and Florence, also worked as servers and her son-in-law, Dale Rounds, was a driver for the department. Fischer’s children and grandchildren also attended Kentwood schools.
‘Food for the Soul and Tummy’
Like rice, corn and wheat, Fischer has been essential for students’ midday diets.
“She’s been a staple in this building,” said Freshman Campus Principal Michele Siderman. “She loves kids, is a hard worker and makes the best desserts ever.”
“She makes great cream puffs!” Assistant Principal Andy Kolzow shouted from a nearby office.
Jeff Hilaski, business and physical education teacher, visited with Fischer every day. “Lunch is a break from everyone’s day, so it’s nice when the cafeteria workers are smiling and she usually is,” Hilaski said. “She’s friendly and easy to get along with. … She is the cafeteria to me.”
Kristen Curtis, administrative assistant, said Fischer is special to many staff members and students.
“She cooks for me; she makes the best chicken. She brings me flowers. I always get hugs from her. I don’t have grandmas anymore, so I’m like, ‘I’m adopting you.’
Child Nutrition Services Director Mo Shamali said Fischer, whom he calls “Aggie,” has been the heart of his program, offering experience, customer service and a personal touch.
“She does things from her heart,” he said. “The kids are her grandkids and the teachers and the staff are her kids. She has that grandma’s love, unconditionally. The kids are very savvy and they sense it.
“She looks at a student not as a just a student but a human who needs love, and food for the soul and the tummy.”
Check out School News Network for more stories about students, schools, and faculty in West Michigan.
Registration is still available for the Rod Korhorn Memorial Scholarship Fundraiser Golf Outing, a four-person scramble at Cedar Chase Golf Course, will be held Wednesday, July 19.
The Korhorn event is an effort of the Midwest Michigan APWA (American Public Works Association).
Rod Korhorn was born and raised in Grand Rapids, graduating from Grand Rapids Christian High School and gaining his civil engineering degree at Michigan Tech University. With Nathan Vriesman, Korhorn owned the engineering firm Vriesman and Korhorn. Her died in 2014, and a scholarship fund was set up in his name.
“The scholarships are not for a particular school,” said Jim Wolford, City of Kentwood Department of Public Works, who is the event director. “There is criteria we use for the recipients and a committee reviews the applicants.”
Cedar Chase golf course is located at 7551 17 Mile Rd NE, Cedar Springs.
The event begins with a 10 a.m. shotgun start. the cost is $70 per person or $250 per foursome which includes 18 holes of golf, cart, lunch during play and dinner following the outing. (Foursomes must sign up and pay as a foursome to receive discounted price.) Deadline for registration is July 8.
The City of Kentwood will be closing westbound 44th Street between Breton Avenue and Walma Avenue for repairs beginning June 23. Eastbound 44th Street is unaffected and will remain fully open.
Westbound 44th Street will close at 7 p.m. on Friday night until Saturday morning to minimize impact on travelers. Westbound 44th Street will reopen late Saturday morning to one-lane through Sunday evening. All lanes are expected to open Sunday evening. Eastbound traffic will not be affected.
During construction hours, motorists are encouraged to find an alternate route or to use the posted detour.
Tom Cutts has shared the stage with many leading artists such as Al Green, Shirley Caesar, Andre Crouch, James Cleveland, Marvin Sapp among others. He’s performed on various television, radio, and conference showcases across the U.S.A., including the Gospel Music Workshop of America, Dr. Bobby Jones Gospel Show and the Singsation Gospel show.
On June 22, he treated a Kentwood audience to his musical talent.
Cutts’s musical styling crosses into gospel, jazz, blues, R&B and rock. His concerts bring refreshing covers of many musical stands, and include surgical music penned in multiple genres.
In 2013, Cutts was the Midwest Regional champion of the Guitar Center “Battle of the Blues” contest. Since 2014, Cutts has increasingly expanded his musical resume by performing swing jazz with Big Band Nouveau of West Michigan. He’s performed in the Grand Rapids Festival of the Arts, Hastings Jazz Festival and the West Michigan Jazz Society “Monday Night Jazz Concert Series.” Additionally, Cutts has performed with the Grand Rapids Symphony on a number of “Symphony with Soul” events. He also supports gospel and other musical groups performing in music festivals, churches and venues throughout the area.
Cutts comes from a musical family known for making a “joyful noise” with music that uplifts the spirit and stirs the soul. His first single “Sunday Morning Shuffle” was released in June 2016 and he currently is working on a full EP of original music. Supporters and fans can find him on Facebook at “Music By Tom Cutts.” Listeners are invited to enjoy the sweet sounds of “gospel-jazzy-blue” that are set upon The Rock.
Did you know that WKTV televises the Wyoming-Kentwood Chamber of Commerce’s monthly Government Matters meetings? Well we do, and if you had caught this month’s meeting you would know that Kent County is in the search process for a new county administrator.
“Our biggest news (at Kent County), probably in terms of administration and operation, is that our administrator, Daryl Delabbio, after being there 19 years, is retiring,” County Commissioner Harold Mast said at the June 12 meeting. “His last day of work, I think, will be the 27th or 28th of this month (June). Temporally, our interim administrator will be (assistant administrator) Wayman Britt. … but we are moving pretty methodically and carefully in terms of recruitment and selection of a successor to Daryl.”
Mast told the meeting attendees that the county hopes to have selected a recruitment firm by the end of this month and then that firm will be spend several months to find possible candidates.
“The objective is to have someone (new) onboard by the first quarter of next year,” Mast said.
The county will host a retirement ceremony for Delabbio on June 27 at the outer lobby of the DeVos Performance Hall. The event is open to the public and will run from 3-6 p.m., with remarks at 5 p.m.
The Chamber’s Government Matters meetings include representatives of the cities of Kentwood and Wyoming, Ken County, local Michigan House of Representatives, and, often, representatives of other State of Michigan and federal elected officials.
The meetings are on the second Monday of each month, starting at 8 a.m. WKTV Journal will produce a story each week soon after the meeting. But WKTV also offers replays of the Monday meetings on the following Wednesday at 7 p.m. on Cable Channel 25. Replays are also available online at WKTV’s government meetings on-demand page (wktv.viebit.com) and on the chamber’s Facebook page.
Nearly 70 restaurants will participate in Restaurant Week Grand Rapids, which is set to take place Aug. 9 – 20, with more than 10 new restaurants such as Indian Masala Restaurant on 28th Street, participating this year.
The annual event includes the popular Ganders Grand Rapids located in the Double Tree by Hilton, 4747 28th St. SE. and several restaurants close to the Wyoming/Kentwood area such as Indian Masala, 5769 28th St. SE; Aryana Restaurant, 5700 28th Street; and FireRock Grille, 7177 Kalamazoo Ave. SE.
New to the event this year are more than 25 participating locations that will be offering a lunch option. Lunch will include two courses for $14.
“By adding lunch, we are inviting more individuals to dine out and ‘Taste the City’ during Restaurant Week,” said Experience Grand Rapids Marketing Director Kate Herron. “Going into our eighth year, we are excited to add something new to entice more people to check out our participating restaurants.”
During RWGR, most of the participating restaurants will continue to offer dinner options with either a three-course menu for $28 per person or a menu for two people who can dine for $28.
RWGR not only promotes the Greater Grand Rapids culinary scene, but also helps selected students from The Secchia Institute for Culinary Education with educational support. Since 2010, Restaurant Week participating restaurants and sponsors have contributed more than $110,000 to the Secchia Institute for Culinary Education’s Student Scholarship fund at GRCC. Participating restaurants donate $1 for every Restaurant Week meal sold to the scholarship fund, which then provides grants to selected students within the Institute’s culinary program.
For more about Restaurant Week Grand Rapids, click here.
Big names in teaching in Kent County – Michigan Teachers of the Year for 2016-2017 and 2017-2018 – have joined forces to share the best ways to engage students and get them to achieve at high levels.
A cohort of 12 teachers, including six from Kent County and six from the metro-Detroit area, met over the past year to achieve National Board Certification, recently submitting their work, which is similar to a Ph.D. thesis, for final consideration. Certification results will be available in early December.
Kent County teachers, who met at Kent ISD, are:
Luke Wilcox, math teacher at East Kentwood High School and 2017-2018 Teacher of the Year
Dave Stuart, history and English teacher at Cedar Springs High School and 2017-2018 Michigan Teacher of the Year finalist
Chris Painter, math teacher at Cedar Springs High School
Tracy Horodyski, reading interventionist and instructional coach at Zinser Elementary School and 2016-2017 Michigan Teacher of the Year from Kenowa Hills Public Schools
Heather Gauck, special education teacher at Harrison Park Elementary School in Grand Rapids Public Schools
Shantel VanderGalien, English teacher at Wyoming Junior High
The teachers received scholarships from the Michigan Department of Education to pursue the 25-year-old certification in partnership with the Michigan National Board Certified Teachers Network. National Board Certified teachers are under-represented in Kent County, and getting more of them certified is part of an effort to help Michigan become a Top 10 education state in 10 years, said Cheryl Corpus, an NBCT consultant for the Michigan organization and a National Board Certified teacher in English as a New Language. To date, more than 112,000 teachers in all 50 states and the District of Columbia have achieved National Board Certification.
Certification a Plus for Students
The credential is considered a hallmark of accomplishment across the state and nationally, Corpus said. The certification process involves teachers learning from each other, reflecting and sharing practices and promoting high standards. Together, they watch videos of each other’s teaching and reflect on evidence of effective instruction. The process was facilitated by Corpus and Christina Gilbert, a Godfrey Elementary School teacher who is National Board Certified.
Historically, National Board Certified teachers outperform their non-certified peers in improving student achievement, Corpus said.
“When teachers come together and reflect on their instruction, students and practices, it’s one of the most powerful and meaningful professional learning opportunities in our career,” Corpus said. “It’s that culture of reflection, problem-solving and becoming lifelong learners.”
Teachers said they have improved their practice as a result, becoming more deeply in tune with their students.
“I have gained so much from the process,” Vandergalien said. “I had to record lessons to submit and that was such a valuable tool. I really enjoyed being able to capture excellent conversation and activities occurring in my classroom, and then being able to share that with colleagues.”
Horodyski said the focus on helping each other continually improve teaching for the sake of learners inevitably results in improved results.
“This type of shared learning experience empowers educators, and empowered educators equal empowered students,” she said. “There’s a ripple effect that influences beyond what will ever be known to us.”
Wilcox said the National Board has very clear definitions of what it means to be a master teacher, and he has that in mind as he embarks on his year as Michigan Teacher of the Year.
” I am now very familiar with the qualities and actions that make teachers great, and I will use this framework to guide my work,” Wilcox said. “I will encourage other great teachers to consider going after this certification in order to push them forward.”
Candidates will now become ambassadors for the Michigan Department of Education, working as teacher leaders in their field.
“It has improved my teaching by getting me to open up to my students about why I do the things I’m doing in the classroom, and verbalizing it to them so that they can understand it,” VanderGalien said. “I think that helps them to buy into the process of what is going on in the classroom.
“They also appreciate the fact that I am working hard to be the best teacher I can be for them.”
Exalta Health is a south Division Avenue based healthcare provider for low income residents of Wyoming, Kentwood and south Grand Rapids — serving patients who “have no place else to go,” the organization likes to say.
“There is a saying in health care that the best predictor of you heath is not your genetic code but you zip code,” President Bill Paxton said during a recent taping of WKTV Journal’s new “In Focus” public affairs program. “What we know is where people live is often reflective of their access to good health care services. It is really reflective of socio-economic status.
“What we are seeing is that people who have less income, less revenue, have poor health and poor access to health care — and that is across the country. Both in rural areas and in urban areas such as Wyoming and Kentwood and Grand Rapids. … What we see is that people with lower income often have other barriers to health care — cultural barriers, language barriers, transportation barriers.”
Exalta works to break down those barriers to health care by providing “compassionate … quality … and accessible care” at its Clínica Centro, at 2060 Division Ave S, and its South Clinic at Streams of Hope, 280 60th Street SE.
We provide “mainly primary care, that’s medical care, trying to have patients have continuity care with the provider,” said Medical Director Dr. Laura Vander Molen. “We also have dental care — in the past we have separated dental care from medical care but now we are trying to see the patient as a whole person.”
Exalta has many care providers who either work or volunteer at their clinics, but it also works with community partners — including Spectrum Health, Mercy Health St. Mary’s, and Metro Health-University of Michigan Health — for speciality care services. But that sometimes leads to problems for patients.
“We work to get our patients in to see specialists if they need care beyond us,” Vander Molen said. “But when we send people out for speciality care, that tends to drive up the costs” and “becomes an insurance issue” for the patients.
“We (also) try to educate people on chronic diseases, so we do a class for people with diabetes. We also have behavioral health, which includes medical and social workers, and also counseling for our patients who may be struggling with behavioral health issues.”
Lastly, she said, there is spiritual support if needed and requested.
“We also have spiritual care. We feel that people are emotional, spiritual and physical, so we are trying to meet all those needs,” Vander Molen said.
While Exalta is proud that it is a religiously-motivated organization, Paxton makes clear they are more focused on serving the community than spreading the Gospel.
“We are a Christian organization, that is really our motivation for doing what we do,” Paxton said. But “overall, what we really want to see is a healthy community. Reflecting what we think the call is to us — as Christians, to do as Christ would do — to show compassion, and (provide) quality care. That is why we do what we do.”
For more information on Exalta Heath, call 616-475-8446 or visit exaltahealth.org.
The wait is over. The Kentwood Summer Concert Series kicks off tonight with a bang as the local favorite The Crane Wives take the stage at 7 p.m.
“Kentwood’s concert series offers something for the whole family,” said Kentwood Parks and Recreation Director Val Romeo. “It’s a great opportunity to kick back, relax with your favorite snack or local craft beer and enjoy the show.”
The annual concert series is every Thursday from 7 – 8:30 p.m. on the lawn located behind the Kentwood City Hall, 4900 Breton Rd. SE. Concert-goers can bring their own food and drinks or sample from food trucks, such as Patty Matters, Moochies Dream Cream, Doughrunts, and B.D.’s BBQ.
“We have a few different food trucks this year,” said Laura Barbrick, the marketing and events coordinator for the Kentwood Parks and Recreation Department. The series also is part of the Kentwood’s 50th Anniversary celebration, which kicked off in February and continues throughout the year. In fact, the week after the Summer Concert Series ends, the city will host the Kentwood 50th Anniversary community celebration Aug. 11 and 12.
This year’s Summer Outdoor Concert Series has an impressive line up with female-fronted, harmony-driven folk-rock/pop group The Crane Wives starting the series off. From murky origins in Chinese restaurants, high school ska bands, and dorm room jam sessions, the band came together in 2010. Since then, the group has won seven “Jammie” awards from WYCE; Best Folk/Country song winner from ArtPrize 2012; and the group’s song “High Horse” was selected as one of the “Entries We Love” from NPR Tiny Desk Contest in 2017.
The group has released four albums including the dual set “Coyote Stories” (2015) and “Foxlore” (2016), plus a series of new singles in 2017.
The Crane Wives includes founders Kate Pillsbury, guitars and vocals, and Emilee Petersmark, guitars, banjo, and vocals, along with Dan Rickabus, drums and harmony vocals, and Ben Zito, bass.
The rest of the Summer Concert Series includes June 22 Tom Cutts & Friends; July 13 The Mainstays; July 20 Look Out Lincoln; July 27 The Tomas Esparza Blues Band; and Aug. 3 May Erlewine.
The Gerald R. Ford International Airport’s celebrated the $1.1 million renovation of its viewing area with a grand opening May 31 where a big crowd heard about the commitment of the airport management — including to making the facility as safe as it is scenic — and the involvement of community donors to the park.
But, like the visceral thrill of watching a big jet airplane take off or land, the new facility will be viewed in very personal terms by two very different people.
Jennifer Zirkle will always see the park as the place where her autistic son James really began to interact with the world. And David Bottrall, whose family foundation made a substantial contribution to the Cascade Community Foundation’s fundraising effort for the project, will always see the park — and its restroom facilities — as a grand memory of his father.
Zirkle, who spoke to the crowd and then to WKTV after the event, said viewing airport activities from the old park was a “life-changing” moment in her son’s life.
“My son was diagnosed with autism at 2-1/2, he is now six. At three he still had no words,” she said. “In July of 2014, he was 3-1/2 and we came to drop my mother off at the airport for a vacation, we ended up coming out here and he just got so excited, seeing the airplanes, he wanted to come back.
“When we did, he said ‘airplanes’ and I said ‘Oh my gosh, he just said something.’ It has been absolutely amazing that the airplanes, watching them, has actually brought him out. … It sparked something in his little brain that said ‘It is its for me to express myself.’ That was a big catalyst for him. He wanted to share, he wanted to learn more. It brought him out into the world.”
A father and son moment
Bottrall, with his mother Joyce S. Wisner, was present at the park opening representing the Tassell Wisner Bottrall Foundation, a major contributor to the park project. However, he will likely always view the park as a special place, a special moment spent with his deceased father, Thomas Wisner
“My father, Thom Wisner, was fascinated with the subject (of aviation), he had a lifelong desire to learn to fly helicopters,” Bottrall said. “It was a dream he was not able to check off his bucket list, before he died of pancreatic cancer 2-1/2 years ago.
“But shortly before he passed away, he sat under a tent during a fundraising status event for this park an out of the blue, spontaneously, he gave another gift to this project. This time for the restrooms. He so badly wanted to see this park built, he knew how much fun it is to just sit here. I also think he knew that these restrooms would make him the most popular person in the park several times a day.”
Safety and security in design
With the park offering one of the closest view of a major airport runways in the country, it will also offer new visitors the ability to have their own personal stories associated with the park.
And while airport CEO Jim Gill is proud of the new facility and its ability to give viewers outstanding visual access, he also is proud of the safety and security measures that were a key part of the design by Mathison & Mathison Architects.
“This location opened in 1995 and it has been a favorite among folks in the community and aviation enthusiasts. … We hope we can continue to be part of creating memories,” Gill said. “Interesting fact, the viewing park you are sitting at not is actually the closest viewing park to any active commercial runway in the united states.”
But, Gill told WKTV. “At the airport, our number one goal is always safety and security. If we are not safe and secure, we are not much of anything else.”
The renovation of the park started in 2016, and it not only brings a covered viewing facility and restrooms to the location but increases the parking available from 56 to 104 spaces, and adds space for four buses.
“This is all because of the efforts of our partners (in the project), who we could not have done without, the Cascade Community Foundation, we want to thank you for your fundraising efforts and your continuing efforts. … and also airport board.”
Local high school graduate Jared Veldheer, now a player for the National Football League’s Arizona Cardinals, will return to the area to host the Metro Health – University of Michigan Health’s Jared Veldheer Football Camp.
The camp will be held Tuesday, June 27 from 5:30-8 p.m., at Grand Rapids Christian High School Stadium, 2300 Plymouth Avenue, SE. The cost is $20 per student, and is open to students from third through eighth grade.
Veldheer is a team co-captain and left tackle for the Cardinals. In 2014, he was the team MVP. He is a Hillsdale College 2-time All-American and a Forest Hills Northern graduate.
At the camp, Veldheer teams up with area football coaches and Metro Health – University of Michigan Health Sports Medicine for the night of instruction.
“I’m excited to get back to Grand Rapids for another year of this football camp,” Veldheer said. “It is exciting to teach young athletes who have a passion for sports and are eager to learn. More importantly, I’m excited to share my message about playing multiple sports, eating healthy, and being a team player. My goal is to encourage all student athletes to ‘Stay in the Game’.” All proceeds from the camp go to the Keeping the Beat Program.
Dr. Ed Kornoelje, sports medicine medical director for Metro Health – University of Michigan Health will discuss with parents and athletes sports injury prevention.
“Athletics provide a great opportunity for students to learn many skills outside of just their sport,” Kornoelje said. “It is important for all student athletes, and their parents, to understand what it takes to be a healthy athlete. This camp provides a great platform to discuss these items.”
In additional to the on field practice, Veldheer will share his personal message on the drive, focus and discipline it has taken to be one of the best offensive tackles in the NFL.
All participants registered by June 27 will receive a free T-shirt and an autographed book “Stay in the Game — Jared Veldheer’s Journey to the NFL”.
In the library of Harrison Park School, Ryan Rose read aloud from a book about African animals as a dozen students listened expectantly.
“We all went on a safari, past an old Acadia tree,” Rose read. “Nearby, giraffes were grazing. Caleb counted three.”
The children broke into screams of laughter and pointed at their classmate Caleb, the designated giraffe-spotter. They were learning about animals, but having plenty of fun as well.
This is the LOOP program, which serves about 3,000 children from Grand Rapids Public Schools with after-school learning, recreation and meals five days a week. Under the federal education budget proposed by President Donald Trump, it would be eliminated.
GRPS and other school districts in Kent ISD are responding with alarm to the proposed $9.2 billion in cuts to the U.S. Education Department budget, which is now being taken up by Congress. Among its many effects on local school districts, the 13.5-percent spending reduction would eliminate a $1.2 billion grant program for after-school and summer programming.
School leaders are speaking out against many of the proposed cuts, such as $2 billion in grants for teacher development as well as reductions in special-education funding. But of particular concern is cutting off funding for after-school and summer programs that serve some 6,500 students in Grand Rapids, Kentwood and Wyoming. More than $8 million was awarded this year to districts in those cities by the Michigan Department of Education, which administers the federal grants for the state.
“Just the mere fact the president has proposed such dramatic cuts to public education creates this level of uncertainty, at a time when we have finally stabilized our district,” said John Helmholdt, GRPS executive director of communications and external affairs. “It’s sending a signal that they’re disinvesting in public education, disinvesting in public school teachers, and that they don’t value after-school programming.”
Helmholdt and GRPS Superintendent Teresa Weatherall Neal last week met with U.S. Rep. Justin Amash, telling the 3rd District congressman the proposed budget would cost GRPS more than $8 million. That includes nearly $4 million from the 21st Century Community Learning Centers grant for the LOOP program. Without replacement funding, that program would be eliminated, they said.
“We wouldn’t be able to do this” if federal funding is axed, said Irma Alicia Lopez, director of the LOOP program. “There’s no way.”
Earlier this year, the Grand Rapids Board of Education issued a statement that the proposed budget would have a “devastating impact” on the schools and community, asserting programs like LOOP and professional development for teachers are “increasing student achievement and helping more students graduate.”
Amash issued a statement saying it was great to hear of the “impressive progress” GRPS has made in recent years, and that he will “discuss these issues with my colleagues as Congress prepares its own budget and appropriations.”
Schools just south of Grand Rapids also would take a huge hit. The TEAM 21 after-school program serves 15 schools and over 2,000 K-8 students in the Wyoming, Godfrey-Lee, Godwin Heights and Kelloggsville districts. It also offers a six-week, full-day summer program including academics and enrichment activities like field trips and exposure to careers.
TEAM 21 is funded entirely through the federal grant program with a budget of more than $2 million, employing 80 staff members during the school year and 100-plus in the summer.
“That money is never going to be able to be made up by local districts if it’s eliminated,” said Scott Bloem, TEAM 21 program director.
Bloem notes that in the districts it serves, 80 percent of students qualify for free or reduced-priced lunches. TEAM 21 provides students a dinner and snack along with transportation.
“I think it’s a shocking suggestion (that these programs could be cut) and I think a lot of people would agree with me,” Bloem said, adding the programs receive broad support from people regardless of political affiliation. “It’s really shocking news that this is even being discussed.”
Becki Barrenger, assistant project director for Kentwood Public Schools’ after-school and summer program ARCH, said the program is licensed to serve up to 1,500 students across 15 sites, though numbers fluctuate. It is funded completely by the 21st Century fund with three $675,000 grants, each serving five sites.
“I truly believe in this program and I believe it’s made a difference in the lives of our students and their families,” Barrenger said. “I want to see it in our community for years to come. I think it’s necessary and needed.”
Investment or Disinvestment?
Their perspective is far different from that of U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos, who in announcing the budget called it a “historic investment in America’s students.” The West Michigan native touted it as returning decision-making to the states and more control to parents while providing more options for school choice, including $250 million to provide private-school vouchers and $167 million more for charter schools.
DeVos asserted the budget maintains support for vulnerable students but takes “a hard look at programs that sound nice but simply haven’t yielded the desired outcomes.” One of those, she argued, is the 21st Century Community Learning Center program, which her budget outline said “lacks strong evidence of meeting its objectives, such as improving student achievement.”
Local school and civic officials strongly disagree.
In Wyoming, Grand Rapids and elsewhere, the benefits of after-school and summer programs are multifaceted, officials say. Among them: a safe environment for youths who might otherwise be unsupervised; nurturing relationships with caring adults; extra academic help; and exposure to cultural experiences and possible career fields.
The programs’ worth is attested to by strong demand from parents, said Lynn Heemstra, executive director of Our Community’s Children, a partnership between the City of Grand Rapids, Grand Rapids Public Schools and the community.
Heemstra works with after-school program providers as part of the ELO Network, a coalition of community stakeholders consisting of over 60 organizations serving over 21,000 children at 180 sites, to help after-school programs shape curriculum around academics and enrichment including exposure to careers. Many programs have more demand than space for students, she said.
“There continues to be waiting lists for students. As after-school programs become more tuned into science and math and those kinds of programs, there is greater demand.”
Programs such as LOOP, TEAM 21 and Kentwood’s ARCH provide a safe environment for many low-income students whose parents work two to three jobs, Heemstra said. “The majority of our kids, 99 percent, are not involved with the police and we know that for a fact.”
A 2014 report by the Johnson Center at Grand Valley State University found a 44 percent drop in Grand Rapids juveniles involved in crime or curfew violations from 2006 to 2012. While many factors may have contributed, the report notes a major increase in after-school programming since 2001 aimed to make “a positive impact on the life trajectories of Grand Rapids’ children.”
Heemstra said students in after-school programs, especially African-American and Latino males, are doing better academically than those who aren’t, and all students have better school attendance than those not in programs. The ELO Network provides data on those trends, while Johnson Center research shows African-American students in after-school programs are 1.5 times more likely to meet or exceed growth expectations in math than non-participants, Heemstra said.
“If those programs are not there, the communities are going to see some repercussions,” she said.
In Wyoming, more than 90 percent of parents surveyed said their children are getting better grades and have better homework completion because of TEAM 21, and 97 percent say “staff know how to work with a child like mine,” Bloem said.
A Parent’s Perspective
Lisa and Jordan Wiseman’s twin daughters, fifth-grade Wyoming Intermediate School students Carmen and Cadia, have been attending TEAM 21’s after-school and summer programs for several years, beginning as Oriole Park Elementary students.
“At first it was something they could do that was fun during the summer,” Lisa Wiseman said. “Then, as they got older they needed a little help in certain areas, and it wasn’t difficult to convince them to go because they had been going and had fun.
“That worked for me because I was able to pick them up after I got out of work,” she added. “They would get help with their homework and it would be all done by the time I pick them up to take them home.”
It was particularly helpful this school year for Carmen while 10-year-old Cadia spent many days in the hospital receiving treatment for leukemia. “Carmen welcomed the distraction,” Wiseman said.
Cadia continues to recover, and both girls are enrolled in the summer program, partly because Cadia missed quite a bit of school, their mother said.
If TEAM 21 is eliminated, it would be “a huge loss” for many Wyoming families will be negatively impacted, Wiseman said.
“It gives the kids something to do in the summer. So many of these kids have parents who work during the day. They get breakfast and lunch (during the summer and dinner during the school year), which helps a lot of the lower-income families.”
Local and National Pushback
Heemstra’s office is working with the Michigan Afterschool Partnership to advocate for programs at the federal and local levels, and make sure the public is more aware of their importance by spreading the word. Our Community’s Children is also advocating for the State of Michigan to match the 21st Century grant funds, as well as tapping other potential funding sources.
Despite the uncertainty around the 21st Century program, the Michigan Department of Education plans to announce 2017-18 grant awards in the next few weeks, said spokesman William DiSessa.
At the national level, ASSA: The School Superintendents Association is lobbying against what it calls “deep, damaging cuts” in federal funding. After-school funding in particular has had broad, bipartisan support from Congress in the past, as a proven program to help provide structure, academic enrichment and social support in students’ lives, said Noelle Ellerson Ng, associate director for policy and advocacy. She noted some programs for older students include college guidance, mental-health counseling and teen pregnancy reduction.
“The neediest communities tend to be the poorest, meaning they’re disproportionately reliant on federal dollars,” Ellerson Ng said, adding that eliminating after-school funding “disproportionately impacts students who need it the most.”
She said the chances of the budget being approved by Congress in its current form are “next to none.” Indeed, during DeVos’ testimony this week before a Senate appropriations subcommittee, Republican chairman Sen. Roy Blunt said deep cuts to programs such as after-school would be “all but impossible” to get through Congress.
However, Ellerson Ng said lawmakers must be held accountable based on what students need, not on this proposed budget: “We cannot allow a very flawed Trump proposal to become a baseline to measure anything realistic. Because the Trump budget is unrealistic.”
Impact is Academic… and Beyond
Back at Harrison Park School, students spent an afternoon earlier this semester doing lots of things, starting with an hour of help with homework. Fourth-graders split for the gym while younger students did crafts centered on African cultural studies: making necklaces in the style of the Masai people, or painting African thumb pianos. Fifth- and sixth-graders created bright, splashy paintings using a pendulum.
They were supervised by staff from the YMCA, one of three partner agencies that run LOOP programs at about 30 GRPS schools. Others are United Methodist Community House and Camp Fire West Michigan 4C (see related story).
A big plus for these students is the friendships and relationships they build, said Lopez, who’s directed LOOP for five years.
“If they’re not in sports, they have something they’re attached to,” she said. “Parents are always so grateful, because they see the students more outgoing, more interested in coming to school. I think the interest in coming to school and having better attendance is because they are building those relationships and are more social.”
That spills over into academic gains in the classroom and fewer chronic absences, she added.
Ryan Rose, the site coordinator, says LOOP creates a supportive atmosphere.
“They’re with people who care about them, and they feel safe and it’s fun,” Rose said. “It motivates them to want to come to school, because they know they’re a part of LOOP, and then they engage throughout the school day.”
At the end of the afternoon, students would take home snacks provided by Kids’ Food Basket; middle school students get hot meals provided by the YMCA.
All told it was a full afternoon for students, of the kind Lopez hopes will be able to continue. If not, she doesn’t know what parents would do who can’t afford child care, or what students would do without the structure of LOOP.
“What are they going to do after school, if there’s no funding?” she said. “It would be a huge loss for the kids, and for the families.”
Check out School News Network for more stories about students, schools, and faculty in West Michigan.
The Wyoming Department of Public Safety and the Kentwood Police Department are together reminding the public to secure their vehicles when left unattended. Both agencies report several larcenies from vehicles in different neighborhoods between May 30 and June 7. The larcenies occurred between the hours of 1 and 6 a.m. In Kentwood the thefts occurred around the area of Princeton Estates and the surrounding neighborhood. In Wyoming, the thefts occurred in the Chateau Hills neighborhood and in the neighborhood along Valleyridge Avenue SW.
Reports indicate that the suspect looked for unlocked cars that were parked on the street, in driveways, and in open garages. The suspect took cash, new or high-end electronics, and medication. Many cars were ransacked with no items taken.
Multiple reports indicate that the suspect is a male of slim build, and an approximate height of 5’10”. In some reports it is mentioned that the suspect may have been carrying a red backpack or riding a bicycle.
Both Departments want to remind the public of these simple safety tips to keep your valuables safe:
First and foremost, lock your vehicle when it is left unattended
Hide or keep valuables out of sight
Remove portable electronic devices such as smart phones and GPS navigation systems Please report suspicious activity when it is occurring
The Departments will continue with their investigations. Anyone with information in regards to these larcenies are asked to contact the either the Wyoming Department of Public Safety at 616-530-7300, the Kentwood Police Department at 616.698.6580, or Silent Observer at 616-774-2345.
VoiceGR, Grand Rapids’ community survey, is expanding to become countywide thanks to a new partnership between the Dorothy A. Johnson Center for Philanthropy at Grand Valley State University and the Kent County Health Department (KCHD). As VoiceKent, the survey will gather critical public health information from all areas of Kent County’s more than 600,000 residents.
The larger data collection area means that more valuable information will be available to community partners and nonprofits seeking to learn about the needs of Kent County’s many diverse communities beyond the Grand Rapids area.
“This partnership with the Kent County Health Department allows us to expand the data-collection area of the survey and explore public health with greater depth, as well as increase the usefulness of the survey within our community,” said Jodi Petersen, director of the Johnson Center’s Community Research Institute (CRI) which conducts the survey each year. “This year’s survey results will build upon previous years’ data and provide access to more information for local stakeholders to inform their decision making.”
The survey, which collects responses from June-October, connects demographics with the opinions, attitudes and perceptions of Kent County residents on topics such as employment, education, racism and discrimination, ability to meet basic needs, access to health care and neighborhood safety. The data gathered from the survey will help create a baseline for conversations on these important community issues.
“This is a large, community-wide effort that will involve the participation of many Kent County agencies,” said Chelsey Saari, public health programs supervisor for the Kent County Health Department. “The KCHD and Healthy Kent are excited to partner with the Johnson Center on this project.”
By partnering with the Kent County Health Department and Healthy Kent, the Johnson Center hopes to increase the number of collected responses to more than 6,000.
Survey results will be released in spring 2018 and will help neighborhood associations, schools, nonprofits, funders, local government and businesses better plan their programming.
The survey is available online at www.VoiceKent.org and is open to all residents who live, work, or do business in Kent County.
The survey, originally called the Greater Grand Rapids Community Survey, began in 2001 as a phone survey to the owners of 500 randomly selected landline telephone numbers in the city of Grand Rapids. The methodology was revised in 2013, and the survey, renamed VoiceGR, grew to collect responses from more than 3,000 Grand Rapids area residents through a combination of paper and online surveys.
Healthy Kent is a collaborative effort to identify and address public health issues with the goal of improving community health through community action.
A Kelloggsville High School student has been named a finalist in the 2017 Meijer Great Choices Film Festival.
Kolton Toothman is among the 60 finalists. He submitted a film for the K-6 Celebrating Diversity category. He is in the running for awards totaling $21,150. Awards are scheduled to be presented on Saturday, June 3, at 10 a.m. at the Van Singel Fine Arts Center, located at the corner of Burlingame Avenue and 84th Street. The Van Singel Fine Arts Center is part of the Byron Center High School.
Students from throughout the state submitted nearly 400 thirty-second public service announcement videos promoting positive choices in the areas of Character Education, Healthy Living, and Celebrating Diversity. There are two different audiences that the young filmmakers targeted in their PSAs: kindergarten through sixth grade or seventh through twelfth grades. The Meijer Great Choices competition was designed for Michigan student filmmakers to exhibit their creative talent in audio/visual communications and to share their messages with K-12 schools throughout Michigan.
Audio/Visual/Advertising students and professors from Compass College of Cinematic Arts, Ferris State University, Cornerstone University, Grand Valley State University, Northwood University and Western Michigan University were the preliminary judges and choose the finalists based on specific criteria. High school students throughout Michigan have been notified that they are finalists and are invited to participate in the June 3rd awards presentation activities. There are eighteen first, second, and third place winners who will be announced at the awards presentation who will receive prizes of $1,500, $1,000, or $500 in the form of a gift card to Meijer or Apple. The 42 runners up (fourth through tenth place) will each receive a gift card for $75. All of the finalists in attendance will receive an award and gift at the awards presentation.
All 60 of the top PSAs will be shown at the Awards Reception at the Van Singel Fine Arts Center. In September, the winning PSAs in each category will be reproduced on DVDs and distributed to schools across the state as tools for their Character Education, Health Education and Diversity programs.
The month of June may not have many scheduled events but each of them will be very important as they are all part of their respective MHSAA State tournament leading to the crowning of both individual state championships along with team state championships. The final school sports seasons draw to a close the weekend of June 16-17 when the girls soccer, boys baseball, and girls softball have the final competitions.
All the best to the student-athletes that have graduated and we look forward to seeing the underclassmen returning starting in August as the new year starts up and the fall sports seasons start it all over again.
While July will be an “empty” month as far as the high school sports schedule is concerned, the WKTV truck and crews will be covering various events over the course of the summer, so keep checking the broadcast schedule for more sporting events coming to you.
WKTV sports events will be broadcast on Live Wire Comcast Channel 24 throughout the Grand Rapids Metro Area and repeated later in the week on WKTV Comcast Channel 25 and AT&T U-verse Channel 99 in Wyoming & Kentwood.
For a complete schedule of all local high school sports action each week, and any changes to the WKTV feature sports schedule, see now.wktv.org/sports/
The complete list of local high school sports events this week is as follows:
Thursday, June 1
East Kentwood @ FH Central – MHSAA Div. 1 State Districts
West Michigan Aviation vs West Catholic @ Catholic Central – MHSAA Div. 3 State Districts
Godwin Heights @ Catholic Central – MHSAA Div. 3 State Districts
Covenant Christian vs Potter’s House @ NorthPointe Christian – MHSAA Div.4 State Regionals
Calvin Christian vs Tri-Unity Christian @ NorthPointe Christian – MHSAA Div. 4 State Regionals
The City of Kentwood will mark Memorial Day with a parade on Monday, May 29, hosted this year by the Amvets Post 23.
For the past several years, the Amvets Post and the America Legion D.W. Cassard Post 208 have shared the responsibilities of hosting the annual parade and service with one group hosting it one year and the other hosting it the next. For 2017, it is the Amvets who have organized the event.
The parade will kick off at 10 a.m. from the Disabled American Veterans (DAV), near the corner of 48th Street and Eastern Avenue. From there, it will head west down 48th Street to Kentwood’s Veteran’s Memorial Park located in front of the Kentwood Activities Center, 355 48th St. SE. At the park, there will be a ceremony including the laying of five wreaths, one for each of the branches of the military service: Army, Navy, Marines, Air Force, and Coast Guard. The service will last about an hour.
The entire parade and service will be rebroadcast on WKTV 25, at 12:30 p.m. and 8:30 p.m. on Memorial Day, Monday, May 29. In fact, the entire program for that day will focus on Memorial Day activities and will include “Salute to Honor” at 9:30 a.m. and 3 p.m.; a Memorial Day Tribute at 10 a.m.; “Lost Boat Ceremony” at the USS Silverside at 10:15 a.m. and 9 p.m.; City of Kentwood Memorial Day Parade at 12:30 p.m. and 8 p.m.; “Lest We Forget” at 1 p.m.; the Vietnam Moving Wall at 6:30 p.m.; and the City of Wyoming Memorial Day Service at 8:30 p.m.
The WKTV Government 26 channel will feature “Salute to Honor” at 6:30 p.m. and the National Veteran’s Creative Arts Festival at 7 p.m.
For West Michiganders, at least those sticking around the Grand Rapids area and not heading up north, a Memorial Day weekend visit to the Lake Michigan shoreline is a great option if not a must.
But with the un-official start of the summer outdoor season also a Memorial Day weekend, outdoor adventures also bring the un-official start of Michigan’s deer tick season — and with black legged (deer) ticks comes the risk of Lyme disease.
Most humans are infected with Lyme disease through the bites of immature ticks, called nymphs, that feed during the spring and summer months. But these nymphs are approximately the size of a poppy seed, so they are hard to see.
“Prompt removal of ticks is the best method to decrease the chance of Lyme disease,” Dr. Paul Heidel, Ottawa County Department of Public Health medical director, said in supplied material. “Seek medical attention if you develop a fever, a rash, severe fatigue, facial paralysis, or joint pain within 30 days of being bitten by a tick.”
Routinely, ticks must be attached for 36 to 48 hours for the Lyme disease bacterium to be transmitted.
The State of Michigan and local health officials have suggestions to avoid Lyme-carrying ticks:
When outdoors, walk in the center of trails, and avoid wooded and brushy areas with high grass.
Around home, create tick-safe zones in your yard by keeping patios and play areas away from vegetation, regularly remove leaves, clear tall grasses and brush around home, place wood chips or gravel between lawns and wooded areas, and use a chemical control agent.
Use an insect repellent containing DEET (20-30 percent) or Picaridin on exposed skin, and treat clothing and gear (such as boots, pants, socks and tents) with products containing 0.5 percent permethrin — do not use permethrin directly on skin. (Always follow the manufacturer’s instructions.)
Bathe or shower after being outside in tick-infested areas (preferably within two hours). And conduct a full-body tick check (under arms, in and around ears, inside belly button, behind knees, between legs, around waist and especially in hair), especially inspect children.
Finally, if you find a tick attached, use fine-tipped tweezers to grasp the tick as close to the skin’s surface as possible. Pull upward with steady, even pressure. Don’t twist or jerk the tick; this can cause the mouth parts to break off and remain in the skin. Clean the area with rubbing alcohol, an iodine scrub or soap and water.
KISD Assistant Superintendent, Organizational & Community Initiatives and Legislative Affairs
Kent County voters on May 2 turned out to the polls and expressed confidence in their schools by approving a ballot proposal that will provide crucial support to all 20 districts in Kent ISD. The enhancement millage will yield approximately $211 per pupil for each of the next 10 years, beginning with the 2017-18 school year.
These dollars are essential to help our schools meet the needs of students, maintain programs and create more connections to the world of work as we prepare young adults for careers.
They also create a small, but stable and reliable source of revenue for schools as Lansing grapples with perennial budget problems, which make it very likely legislators will be tempted to drain even more money from the School Aid Fund for higher education in coming years. Currently, more than $600 million is going out of the School Aid Fund to support community colleges and universities.
Just a week earlier, the Senate Fiscal Agency projected a $2.072 billion hole in the general fund budget in five short years, due largely to the road package that passed in 2015 with a commitment to use general fund dollars to augment the fuel taxes dedicated to road repair. Other factors contributing to the projected deficit were elimination of the Personal Property Tax on business and the sales tax on the difference between the price of a new vehicle and the customer’s trade-in.
Legislators are already responding to the pressure. In the wake of the bleak general fund projections, Republican Rep. James Lower of Montcalm County introduced HB4261 to divert some $430 million from the School Aid Fund to the general fund by reversing the decades-long policy of applying all tax refunds to the state’s general fund.
Amid all of this, Kent County taxpayers sent a clear message to Lansing: Education is important. Students deserve better. We need to adequately fund our schools to ensure a positive future for our children, and our communities.
So, again, on behalf of our students and our schools, thank you. For those of us who have devoted our careers to the education of children and the betterment of our communities, it is reassuring to know our community values our commitment to this work. Cheers!
Check out School News Network for more stories about students, schools, and faculty in West Michigan.
Math teacher Luke Wilcox, who is credited with playing a large role in creating a culture of success at East Kentwood High School, is the 2017-2018 Michigan Teacher of the Year.
Wilcox, who began his teaching career at East Kentwood 16 years ago, was honored today with the award, announced by State Superintendent Brian Whiston, at an assembly attended by students, educators and Wilcox’s family. He was selected from between 60 and 70 nominees.
Wilcox said he is thankful to many, including teachers who served as incredible mentors to him and his students, who “inspire, push and help me to grow.”
“You guys are the reason I come to school every day,” he told students in the audience.
He succeeds Tracy Horodyski, a Kenowa Hills teacher who was the 2016-17 MTOY.
Wilcox teaches Advanced Placement statistics, with a very high percentage of his students passing the AP test. He has served as a leader in school improvement since East Kentwood was named a state Priority School four years ago. Since then it has leapt from the 4th percentile mark, meaning 19 out of 20 schools in Michigan were deemed better, to the 49th percentile today.
Buffered between Godfrey-Lee’s Early Education Center and an industrial building is a swath of wilderness complete with trees, brush and a winding creek. It’s the habitat of birds, small mammals and on recent sunny afternoon, kindergartners.
“Forts are our forte,” joked Deb Schuitema, a math coach who joined in the effort with physical education teacher Julie Swanson to design the new Outdoor Learning Lab’s natural play area.
Kindergartners were challenged to make their own shelters after listening to a story called “A House is a House for Me,” by Mary Ann Hoberman. They used branches and colorful pieces of cloth to design their shelters. Some added rocks and leaves turned into decor, and, when finished, they went inside their “houses” and peeked out of the sheer material.
Around them, another class joined a representative from Blandford Nature Center in exploring the area for bird habitats. A third class spread out on the grassy hill to read.
“We have had five different classes out here at the same time,” said Swanson, who introduces those in her classes to different ways to use their muscles and develop balance by climbing rocks and jumping from stump to stump. “A year ago, nobody would have come out here.”
The lab, planned for two years, now includes a rock grotto and a sandy play space where toy trucks stay busy excavating. And there’s a nearly complete stage made of logs. Plans are to add a slide built into the hill, a teepee surrounded by native plants, a texture garden and a student-designed nature path.
“We really want to make this part of the kids’ everyday experience,” Schuitema said.
The City of Wyoming, Dykema Excavators Inc., and Tontin Lumber Co. donated rocks, downed trees, other materials and services. Last fall, Women Who Care of Kent County, a group that supports non-profit groups, donated $12,000 to the district for outdoor education.
Kindergartners hoisted up big sticks, adding another layer to a fort, and wrapped material around it.
“I like making homes,” said Arielly Sanchez. “We can go in them.”
As class ended, Swanson let out a huge, wolf-like howl, signaling to kindergartners that she needed their attention. They howled back, running up from their shelter-building to head back inside.
Check out School News Network for more stories about students, schools, and faculty in West Michigan.
Kelloggsville High School students now have a sparkling addition to their building, complete with a repositioned entrance, new gymnasium, two-story media center and classrooms, and plenty of open space. Paint and decor reflect Rocket pride in blue and orange, and natural light streams through new windows.
Construction recently was completed on the new entrance area of the school, allowing students to enjoy the space for the remaining weeks of the semester.
“It’s amazing. It’s a major upgrade,” said senior Anna Jensen.
The project was made possible through a $30 million bond issue passed in 2015. The bulk of it, $27 million, went toward improvements at the high school, 23 Jean St. SW, including demolition of a 1930s wing and the large addition. The entrance of the school now fronts Division Avenue instead of Jean Street. Other renovations are in progress.
A new competitive-sized gymnasium will host varsity games and allows for more practice space. The auditorium has new theater-style seating for 480. A two-story media center outfitted with updated technology will serve as a hub for learning and a community center. The goal is to open some facilities to the public.
“The district realized the high school would be a hub for the community,” said Principal Kevin Simmons.
“It’s like a whole new high school,” said senior Sadie Mitchell.
Check out School News Network for more stories about students, schools, and faculty in West Michigan.
If you are planning to head down 44th Street, you might want to consider an alternate route as the road will be closed between Breton Road and Walma Avenue Saturday and Sunday, May 20 and 21.
Kentwood Assistant City Engineer Dan VanderHeide said the reason for the closure is so that contractors for the development at Holland Home’s Breton Ridge can install gas and water lines to the site’s newest building located near the corner of 44th Street and Breton Woods Drive. The water and gas services need to go under 44th Street which means the contractor will have to cut the road open to put the service lines in place, VanderHeide said.
Lane closures to accommodate the construction was not possible because of the 44th Street median which made it difficult to re-route traffic. It was decided the best way to handle the project was to close the street over a weekend, he said.
“There is not a time when 44th Street isn’t busy, but the weekend is when it is less busy,” VanderHeide said.
While the street is closed, cars and trucks will be detoured separately. Cars will be redirected through the roundabout using Breton Road and Walma Avenue, while trucks will be detoured north using Breton Road, 32nd Street and Shaffer Avenue.