Tag Archives: Wyoming High School

School News Network: Wyoming grad shoots for the top

Basketball is Donnie Alford’s passion (Photos courtesy of School News Network.)

By Erin Albanese

School News Network


Donnie Alford owns his past with a perspective on where he comes from, where he is today and why it all matters that seems mature beyond his 18 years. The Wyoming High School senior, who graduates June 1, tells his story with the precision and detail of a writer, stating his intent to reach out to struggling young people.


“I kind of want to tell you everything, because I want to be an inspiration for kids not to give up,” he said as he began our interview.


In true autobiographer form, he starts at the beginning: “I was born Sept. 4, 1998.”


Julian and Stacey Goodson took Donnie in as a son

Donnie’s family lived on the South Side of Chicago in the Robert Taylor projects, public housing that was notorious for drugs, gangs and violence. “You couldn’t sit above a certain level in the house because you had to be afraid of stray bullets that would fly in the home,” he said. “We always tried to stay below couch-level because it was dangerous.”


Yet many residents, including his family, had few other options. “When I was 5 or 6 years old, they tore down all the the project housing in Chicago, which forced thousands and thousands of mostly African-Americans to be homeless.”


For Donnie, that piece of Chicago history was real life. After a few nights sleeping in an old Volkswagen, he joined his relatives– 14 people total – in a three-bedroom apartment where he lived for the next two years.


“My bedroom wasn’t a bedroom; it was a really big closet. I used my clothes as a bed. I didn’t get my own mattress until I was in fourth grade.”

Donnie Alford smiles just talking about basketball

Moving to Grand Rapids


Donnie’s mother, Shawntay Hill, left Chicago for Grand Rapids to search for work and a new place to live. She came back for Donnie when he was almost 9-years-old.


Life in Grand Rapids was “me and my mom against the world,” he said. Fortunately, Donnie found happiness on the basketball court.


“Basketball is my passion; it’s my life,” he said. “Basketball saved me from some rough times. If it wasn’t for basketball, quite honestly, I would probably be doing what the majority of kids that come from my situation do -– the gang and drug life.


“Basketball was like a safe haven. When I was on the court all my problems would disappear for those split seconds when the ball was in my hand.”


But that passion didn’t yet transfer to the classroom, because Donnie didn’t see the point of trying. By then, his father was serving a more than 20-year prison sentence. “My father gets out of prison when I am 24 years old,” he said. “I can’t remember a moment when my father was free.


Donnie Alford looks to Julian Goodson as a father and example

“I didn’t care about school because, why would I? I didn’t think I was going to be anything in my life.”


When Donnie was 10, his mother gave birth to a boy, Armontae, and Donnie soon embraced the idea of becoming a big brother. But when the baby was just two months old, Donnie’s mother had a stroke and a heart attack, shaking the little stability he had in his life.


Shawntay spent the next seven years, from age 31 to 38, in a near vegetative state at a nursing home, never relearning to walk or talk. Her absence left a huge void in Donnie’s life.


“My mom was like my best friend. Growing up, I was an only child. We did everything together. She was the one who taught me to play basketball.”


With his mom in the hospital, Donnie spent the next few years living with aunts in Grand Rapids and Wyoming, content to get by with D’s in school.


Teacher Kellie Self could see the potential Donnie had in her sixth-grade class, even though he battled frustration and anger.


“I remember him being a brilliant kid who was an incredible writer,” she said. “I knew how capable he was, and that he could accomplish anything he put his mind to. However, I don’t necessarily think he believed that himself yet.


“Honestly, I didn’t treat him any differently than I treat any of my other students, but he responded differently to my encouragement and nurturing -– he literally thrived from it. I kept telling him he could do anything he wanted, and just how smart I knew he was.”


Donnie Alford earned a scholarship to play basketball at Olivet College

Self remembers one particularly rough day for Donnie.


“The social worker and I were in the hallway talking with him and she asked him what was wrong. He screamed, ‘I just want to see my mom!’ ‘You want to see your mom? I’ll take you there!’ the counselor replied. He couldn’t believe we could actually do something like that.”


Self ran back to her classroom and grabbed an African violet flower someone had given her and told him to give it to his mother. “I still have the photo of him next to his mom holding the flower, with with a huge smile on his face.”


Enter the Goodsons

Fate twisted Donnie’s freshman year, when he met Stacey and Julian Goodson, foster parents to many children including a good friend of Donnie’s. They took Donnie in when he was almost 16.


“They were always on me about my grades, he said. “It was like a culture change. The first semester I had straight D’s. I finished the second semester with straight B’s.”


Stacey and Julian both reached Donnie in their own ways. “Julian did it with basketball,” Donnie said, but it was much more than that.


“He told me he cared about me and he loved me. I never had a man in my life tell me he loved me. He actually cared about me and wanted me to be great. He didn’t just see me as a kid living in his house. He felt I was his son.”


Julian remembers Donnie coming to them with a fierce sense of independence. But after learning he was part of the family, Donnie grew leaps and bounds as a student and community member.


“One of the biggest things he learned was how to be a part of a family structure and unit,” Julian said. “He showed incredible leadership among his peers and siblings. … It was really just seeing what type of potential he had. He was able to tap into his potential and he found he was good at a lot of things, not just basketball.”


Julian was the male example Donnie needed.


“Growing up I never seen a successful African-American man,” Donnie said. “I didn’t really know what that was. Julian was there to show me African-American men can be successful, because I didn’t believe we could in this world. He showed me we could. He gave me hope.”


Stacey reached him with what seemed to Donnie like super powers.


“Stacey does so much,” he marveled. “She works, coaches sports, comes home, deals with all our problems, cooks dinner and still has time to laugh and be a good mom to all of us. She’s like superwoman. … I have mad love for her.”


The love is mutual.


“I’ve seen him mature a lot, as far as being an older sibling,” Stacey said. “I’ve also seen him mature in his priorities, what they are and what they need to be aligned with as far as academics and so forth.”


For so long, college wasn’t on Donnie’s radar. No one in Donnie’s family had graduated high school since the early 2000s, much less gone to college. But as his grades improved and more opportunities in basketball came his way, that began to change. The Goodsons gave him the opportunity to play travel basketball, and his team won every weekend.

Promises to His Mother

While Donnie began to excel, he remained hopeful that his mother would someday get better. But last year, doctors informed him she was 98 percent brain dead following a major medical setback. At that point, he said, “I realized my mom was never going to be the same again.”


He and relatives made the heart-wrenching decision to pull her off life support. “I watched my mom suffer for seven years. It was quite honestly the hardest thing I ever had to do in my life.


“My mom was a free spirit,” he added. “She loved to have fun, to laugh and talk and joke and dance.”


Shawntay Hill died May 15, 2016, exactly one year before Donnie was interviewed for this story.


“When my mom died, it was surreal. I couldn’t believe it. It was literally like a part of me died. I lost my best friend and my mom at once. I didn’t connect with anyone like I did with my mom.”


He found support at school from his friends and teachers. “The thing I like about Wyoming is it’s like a family.”


Before his mother died, Donnie made some promises to her.


“I promised my mom I will graduate. I would graduate high school and I would go to college and graduate from there. I told her I would play collegiate basketball. I told her I will do it all for her, and so far I have kept every word.”

‘A Poor Kid from the South Side’

To keep his word to his mother, Donnie, a guard for the Wyoming Wolves, had to up his game in a major way. Always an energetic, up-tempo player, he described himself as average overall. But senior year, “Every time I stepped on the court I was one of the best players.” He ended the year as all-conference honorable mention and all-area honorable mention.


He also improved thanks to the Goodsons, both coaches in Wyoming, who gave him access to the gym and weight room during the summer before his senior year.


“I worked out the whole summer and my motivation was my mom.” He got up every day at 7 a.m., and headed to the track for two hours to run the bleachers wearing a 25-pound weighted jacket.


He would go home for breakfast and then head back to the gym. From noon to 2:30 p.m. he was in the weight room and from 2:30 to 6 p.m. he was in the gym. “I would make 2,000 threes a day, 5,000 free throws, I would dribble until my arms were numb. I would do sprints until my feet hurt.”


He was also inspired by varsity boys basketball coach Tom VanderKlay, who demonstrates life skills to help athletes be successful men in the long run, Donnie said.


Donnie has received a scholarship to play basketball next school year at Olivet College, where he plans to major in personal training and physical therapy.


“Sometimes it doesn’t feel real,” he confessed. “At one point I was content with being like everybody else (from similar backgrounds): I’m going to either end up in jail or sell drugs. That’s the only way out. That’s all I knew.


“Who would ever have thought a poor kid from the South Side of Chicago would go on to play college basketball?”


Always Improving


Donnie’s GPA has climbed from a 1.5 his sophomore year to a 2.7. He hopes to end the year close to a 3.0.


He’s looking forward to his next step.


“My plan is to go to Olivet and dominate. I don’t plan on being an average player. I don’t want to be average anymore. I want to be great.”


Donnie said he grateful to many people who have supported him.


“Most of the kids who come from my situation, they don’t get out of Chicago, let alone finish high school and go to college. To be the first college student (from his family) is going to be pretty amazing. I’m going to continue to work hard and make sure I am the first college graduate.


“I’m just blessed.”


Check out School News Network for more stories about students, schools, and faculty in West Michigan.

Update: Change of venue/times for Christy Paganelli memorial ballgames


Jake Paganelli (at bat), like his brother before him, will be playing in a game that is very personal for the family. (Supplied)


Wyoming’s Christy Paganelli ballgames remember past, eye a better future


By K.D. Norris



This Friday, an annual baseball and softball game will held between Wyoming and Grandville high schools, the sixth to honor the person and the spirit of Christy Paganelli, who lost a courageous 18-month battle with melanoma.


Christy Paganelli

But the game, and its message, is really so much more — the theme is “Play for Melanoma” but, according to Christy’s widowered husband Dino, the event recognizes all cancer awareness and prevention, and is committed to making sure everyone is aware that melanoma skin cancer can happen to anyone and how to prevent it.


“The importance of this is to just honor lost love ones and those currently fighting a battle with cancer — any cancer — but it’s melanoma that I am really aware of, and I want young people to be aware of the significance of prevention,” Paganelli said in an interview with WKTV. “I am really scared for this generation.”


The two games are scheduled for May 5 at Wyoming High School’s baseball and softball fields, with both games starting at 6 p.m.


The players will be wearing special “sponsored” jerseys in honor or in memory of someone. As a player is announced at the beginning of the game, that person’s story will be told.


The players will have special sponsored jerseys, each with a story to tell. (Supplied)

“Each player has a personal connection,” Paganelli said, who saw the connection firsthand with his and Christy’s sons, who play for Grandville. “Brady played in it last year and he was really humbled by the experience, to see the leadership their mom had and showed. And now Jake is on varsity and I know he will be humbled by it.”


Between innings, an American Cancer Society spokesperson will be reading facts on melanoma so everyone can be aware of the dangers of skin cancer and what the risk factors are. There will also be printed information available for attendees  to take with them.


“She (Christy) was really reserved, she would not really like all the hype” of the games, Paganelli said. “But she would have been in favor of getting the information out there. It is a community event that I am always amazed at, the stories you hear from the sponsors, and it always takes me back.”


All proceeds from this game go to melanoma education and research, as well as student awareness at Wyoming high. Separately funded, the Christy Paganelli Scholarship Fund at Aquinas College, where Christy attended and played softball, funds one or two student scholarships each year.


“Wyoming is a very special and caring community and we are thrilled to have everyone rally around this very personal cause.” Susan Brogger,  Community Manager of Making Strides Against Breast Cancer Lakeshore Division and the American Cancer Society, said in a supplied statement.


Wyoming high continues tradition


The very special cause, and sometimes very personal cause, is not lost on the student athletes either, according to the two Wyoming coaches, softball coach Troy Mast and baseball coach Shawn Veenstra.


A banner donated by Grandville High School for the 2016 event with Christy’s daughter Katelyn, 10, shown. (Supplied)

“I believe the event is special for our athletes as they know the event is for a great cause and they get to represent more than just themselves and their school,” said Veenstra, who with Mast has coached the games for four years, since Wyoming Park and Rogers high schools merged. Before that Rogers hosted the games.


“They know they are playing, not only for cancer awareness, but also for the sponsor on their jersey,” Veenstra said. “A lot of times the kids are playing in honor of a family member or family friend who either has passed away or survived cancer.”


Christy Paganelli, from her high school playing days. (Supplied)

Christy Paganelli played multiple sports at Rogers in the late 1980s, and went on to Aquinas College. Christy and Dino Paganelli’s three children are students at Grandville.


Dino’s father, Carl Paganelli, who has recently had a recurrence of a cancer, will be the honorary home-team captain of the baseball team. The honorary home captain for the softball, Terrance Sommerdyke, is a melanoma survivor, Paganelli said.


Carl Paganelli is a long-time Wyoming resident and patriarch of a family that includes three sons who officiate in the NFL, including Dino.


Game on:WKTV’s featured games for March 20-25

This week in WKTV’s featured high school sports games are:


Tuesday, March 21, the quest for a basketball state championship is underway as Tri-Unity Christian will face Buckley.

Tri-Unity Christian faces Burkley tonight.


Tri-Unity enters the contest with a 16-8 record while Buckley remains undefeated with a 24-0 record. The game will be at Tri-Unity Christian, 2100 44th St. SW.  where they will have the home court advantage and the winner of this game will advance to play at Michigan State in the semi-finals in hopes of winning a state championship.


Wednesday, March 22, both of Wyoming’s baseball and softball teams will be opening their season with an away game at Lowell. The boys will play at 4 tp.m. and the girls will play at 4:15 p.m.


Thursday, March 23, Wyoming will take on Grand Rapids Covenant Christian for a baseball game, while the softball team of Wyoming will play against Zeeland West. Both games will be at Wyoming and played 4:15 p.m.


Friday March 24, South Christian will have its season opener at Holland Christian in a boys lacrosse game at 6 p.m.


Saturday, March 25, Grand Rapids Christian will play against East Kentwood’s baseball team at Davenport University at 6 p.m.


WKTV videos and broadcasts several games each week during high school sports season.


For a complete schedule of all local high school sports action in January, see now.wktv.org/sports/


DVDs of each game are also available for purchase at $20 including shipping. For more information, visit WKTV.org

School News Network: Wyoming High students take tough topics with police

From left, Wyoming Public Safety Department Lt. Jim Maguffee, Sgt. Brian Look and Wyoming Public Schools Resource Officer Rory Allen talk to Wyoming High School students.

Erin Albanese

School News Network


It was a question teenage girls of color don’t often get to ask white police officers. “What do you think of the Black Lives Matter movement?” asked Wyoming High School junior Tracy Nunez-Telemin.


As part of a panel of police officers visiting high school students, City of Wyoming Lt. Jim Maguffee shared his thoughts.


Junior Tracy Nunez-Telemin asks officers for thoughts on the Black Lives Matter movement.

“First of all I want to say that black lives matter,” Maguffee said. “That’s an important tenet to get across.” He said he doesn’t agree with everything the movement stands for because he thinks it draws incorrect conclusions about policing. Still, he sees its positives.


“I vehemently feel that public discourse is part of what makes America great,” he stressed. “The fact that people can come together and form a movement and call it Black Lives Matter and march in the streets and demand to be heard, man, that’s what makes us so strong. That’s not common around the world. That’s a great thing.”


No Subject Off Limits


In a country where hot-button issues have become increasingly divisive, Wyoming High School students and police officers sat down in the media center to talk about a variety of issues. Police brutality, illegal immigration and diversity on the police force were all addressed by officers queried by students. They said they have sworn to protect everyone in the community, regardless of immigration status. “We are everybody’s police,” Maguffee said.


Junior Tony Joliffi asks officers about experiences making quick judgment calls

The purpose of the panel was for students and officers to learn from each other, teachers said. Discussion spanned a whole school day with several groups attending hour-long sessions. Panelists included Maguffee, Sgt. Brian Look, Wyoming Public Schools Resource Officer Rory Allen and Officer Pam Keen.


It was part of the junior class’ annual book study, in partnership with the Kent District Library’s KDL Reads program. Students read “All American Boys,” by Jason Reynolds and Brendan Kiely, a novel about a fictional African-American teenager who is assaulted by a white police officer. The event is witnessed by a white classmate. The repercussions that follow divide a school, community and nation.


For the past three years, juniors have participated in KDL Reads, and compiled essays to create their own book based on themes from the book study. This year, juniors are writing about social justice. “All American Boys” authors are scheduled to visit March 27.


Creating Community Dialogue


Including a visit from police officers in the book study was a way to offer different perspectives in a humanizing way, said English teacher Joslyn O’Dell, adding students often have negative perceptions of police.


“Having actual police officers come in here to create a positive interaction with them will help them move forward,” O’Dell said. “It’s so important we have open dialogue.”


“We wanted to open up the communication between our students and our local police so they can start to see those perspectives,” added media specialist Melissa Schneider, who helps coordinate the annual book project. “It was a hard (topic) because it’s controversial.”


Raul Valdez inquires about diversity on the police force

Wyoming High School has a very diverse student body and addressing racially charged issues can be difficult, she said. “That’s what we wanted to teach them, (that) there are ways to have those difficult conversations that can be meaningful versus just attacking and assuming.”


About Black Lives Matter, Maguffee said he hopes a result of the movement is progress in working together. “I think it’s great that they exist to the point that we can have a good conversation about how to make things better,” he said.


Junior Raul Valdez asked about diversity represented on the City of Wyoming Police Department. The police force is made up of a majority of white males, though there are black, Latino, female and officers of other ethnicities, officers said.


It’s always a drive to match the diversity of the department with the community, Allen told students. “In reality, you guys are the community and when we talk about diversity, ideally you want the police department to look like the high school here, and you’ve got a pretty diverse school.”


‘You Guys are Doing it Right’


As school liaison officer, Allen said he has to respond to very few problems at the high school where 25 countries are represented in the student body. “You guys are doing it right… For the vast majority, everybody plays nice together… It speaks a lot to you guys. Old people like us could probably take a lesson from you guys.”


Junior Tony Joliffi said he appreciated the officers’ visit. “It was a good experience for not only me but everyone in here to hear from police officers,” he said, noting that it reaffirmed his view of police as community protectors. “It was relieving to know that the view I wanted to have of police officers was actually true.”


Maguffee said he it was important for him to attend. “I have an opportunity to come in and talk to these teenagers face to face, learn each other’s names and talk about this problem. Any chance we can do that, we’ve got to seize it, because that’s what’s going to fix things eventually,”


Check out School News Network for more stories about students, schools, and faculty in West Michigan.

Running with the Wolves; Wyoming high inducts five into its athletic Hall of Fame

Wyoming High School inducted five student athletes, some from Rogers and some from Wyoming Park high schools, into its athletic Hall of Fame. (WKTV)

By K.D. Norris



When cross-town athletic rivals Wyoming Park and Rogers high schools combined to form the current Wyoming High School, two athletic traditions were combined and a new one was born.


That shared past and unified present was honored early this month as five one-time students athletes were inducted into the Wyoming High School athletic Hall of Fame.


The ceremony was held Feb. 10, between home boys and girls basketball games. Those inducted included Andy Vavere, Laura Erdmans Readle, Doug Chappell, Kim Blouw Norden and Eric Taylor.


For many of the inductees, it was not only night to be honored but to remember high school athletic careers and experiences still remembered fondly — including one where cross-town athletic competition led to a union of a different kind.


Andy Vavere, Rogers High Class of 1980, was not only a standout football, basketball and baseball athlete — highlighted by the basketball team’s deep runs into the state tournament in 1979 and 1980 — but he also met his future wife during his high school years.


Andy Vavere (WKTV)

“My favorite (athletic) memories were our tournament runs we had in 1979 and 1980. We were regional finalists in ’79 and semifinalists in ’80,” Vavere said. Rogers was 21-4 the first year and 21-5 the second.


During those years, Vavere was an OK Red all-conference baseball player in 1979, an all-conference quarterback in 1980, and a all-conference basketball player in both years. He was also the 1980 Adrian Allen Athlete of the Year Award winner.


But the longest lasting memory was meeting his wife, Margaret, who attended his school’s arch rival.


“I was a senior at Rogers High School in 1980 and she was at Wyoming Park, a competitive school, and we met through competition,” he said. “I started dating Margaret in 1979 and we got married in 1989.”


And, Vavere admitted, it was always a challenge to face Wyoming Park on the field: “Absolutely, those guys were great,” he said.


Running into the Hall of Fame


One of those “great” Wyoming Park athletes was cross country and track runner Kim Blouw, Class of 1990.


Blouw, who later graduated from Central Michigan University, was track all-state each of her four years of high school, and was an all-state cross country runner her junior and senior years. She held school records in the 800, 1,600, 3,200-meter runs as well as in the 2-mile relay run. And she was part of a state champion 2-mile relay team one year.


But, maybe, the highlife of her high school career was spring track practice after a 16-hour bus ride to Myrtle Beach, S.C.


Kim Blouw Norden (WKTV)

“I guess my favorite memories about high school would be my two coaches, Mr. (Frank) Grimm and Mr. (Dick) Locke, and traveling to South Carolina to go to Myrtle Beach, becoming a team, but not only a team but becoming a family,” Blouw said.


She also credits her family, both at home and on the Wyoming Park athletic teams, for keeping her focused and successful in her high school years.


“What made me do that was that I had two great parents who instilled a really good value system in us, myself and my brother,” she said. “I had really great coaches that really emphasized the importance of never giving up. I had a goal, and my goal was to go to college. And I was blessed with the ability to run. … So many people believed in me, encouraged me to excel in my career as a track and cross country runner. I embraced that.”


Three more honored with induction


Eric Taylor, Wyoming Park Class of 1988, had a basketball career that not only brought success to his high school, but to his college and professional teams as a player, and then carried him back nearly to full-circle as a high school basketball coach.


Taylor was an all-conference and all-state player his last two years at Wyoming Park, then  played basketball and earned a degree at Oakland University. He went on to play professionally in Europe, winning multiple championships, and earn his masters degree from Grand Valley State University. He now coaches varsity basketball at Grand Rapids Christian High School.


“My passion is giving back to students and to influence their lives in a positive way everyday,” Taylor said in supplied material. “It’s about the legacy to reach, teach, love and support all students and be an example and a role everyday for all students.”


Doug Chappel, Rogers Class of 1979, died in 2012 but left a mark on the basketball record books both at his high school and at University of Detroit. He was a multi-sport athlete but starred on the basketball court in high school — including being all-conference three years, all state two years including being one of the top five players in the state his senior year, and scoring 1,300 points while grabbing more than 700 rebounds. He then played four years of college ball at Detroit, scoring nearly 1,200 points and gaining all-league honors.


Laura Readle, Wyoming Park Class of 1981, was a multi-sport athlete, including all-conference honors multiple years in volleyball, basketball and track. She was a rebounding machine on the basketball court, averaging 29 rebounds a game one year, and a record-braking sprinter on the track. She went on to gain her bachelors and masters degrees from Aquinas College, coached AAU basketball for 10 years and is now the track coach at Tri-County High School.


She also still runs, and runs and runs — including finishing marathons, ½ marathons, triathlons and the 25K River Bank run spread out over 30 years, and recently participated in a 5-hour adventure race. And the track for Wyoming Park, at Godwin High School, is still one of her favorite memories.


She remembers “when the only track that was ‘rubberized’ not cinder, in the late ’70s, at Godwin High School … every track meet all 8 schools in our conference would be there,” Readle said in supplied material. “I met many wonderful friends from all the other schools in our conference and I am still friends with many of them today. It is also where I met my husband. Many, many happy memories!”


School News Network: Witnessing Inauguration showed ‘Democracy at its Finest’

Editor’s Note: Hunter Noorman attended the Inauguration of President Donald Trump with his Wyoming High School classmates, and agreed to write about the experience for School News Network. He is in the Wyoming High School wind ensemble as the bass trombonist, captain and driver for the robotics team 858 Demons, and captain of the cross country and track teams. He has worked with the Wyoming City Council to speak on behalf of the younger generation. ” I enjoy helping others and getting new experiences,” he said.


By Hunter Noorman

Wyoming High School Senior for School News Network


The trip was packed with unforgettable events for Hunter Noorman and other Wyoming High School students (photos courtesy of Hunter Noorman)

As I stepped on the bus at approximately 5:45 a.m. last Thursday morning, I knew this trip to Washington D.C. to witness the Presidential Inauguration, with about 20 of my peers and history teacher John Doyle, was going to be crazy awesome. Sure, the ride seemed to drag on, but it built my excitement up for the days ahead, and it was an experience that lived up to my expectations.


Whether it was standing in front of a jumbotron to see the passing of powers from one president to another, to seeing one of our foreign-exchange students going body surfing at an Inaugural Ball hosted by student travel company WorldStrides, the trip overall had a positive impact on my life. I got to see democracy at its finest and create memories that will last a lifetime.


Wyoming High School joined a group of Flushing High School students who were just as excited as I was to see our nation’s Capitol. After the swearing in of the 45th president, we got to go see the Washington Monument and the National World War II Memorial. They were such amazing sights and I could not have been more impressed with D.C. The weather was dreary but that did very little to dull my excitement for this experience. After a long day of walking about 10 miles and seeing monuments and little shops on the sidewalk, we fell asleep at a Marriott that was by far the best hotel I had ever stayed in.


We visited several monuments, but the one that stuck out the most was the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial. It had so many inspirational quotes from a man who wanted to change the world and change the way people thought. I got to visit a couple Smithsonian museums, the National Archives and The United States Marine Corps War Memorial (better known as the Iwo Jima Memorial), as well as the Lincoln Memorial and Ford’s Theatre.


Wyoming High School students stand in front of the Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial.

I went to Arlington National Cemetery, which was a somber place but had a powerful presence. The Changing of the Guard was very powerful, as well as seeing where the Kennedys are buried. I saw my Advanced Placement U.S. History teacher enthused at the sight of a lot of original documents in the National Archives, which changed and shaped the United States into what it is today. The Declaration of Independence, U.S. Constitution, and even the Magna Carta were so moving because these documents had a significant influence on the U.S and the meaning of a democracy to me today.


There is so much more that I could explain in detail, but I was so amazed by my trip. From seeing the transition of power to witnessing our First Amendment rights executed through protesting, the memories from these events are ones I will carry with me for life. I made so many friends and met so many cool people, that the trip provided by WorldStrides was spectacular. This was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity and I can say I was there.


Check out School News Network for more stories about students, schools, and faculty in West Michigan.


Seeing the origins and the background of the United States was an experience I will be able to pass onto my kids one day. I finished the trip exhausted as one can be, but given the chance to go again I would take it. This is America, and this trip helped my love for history grow.

Alpha Wolf 11 Ceremony honors exemplary Wyoming High School students

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By Victoria Mullen



At the end of each semester, Wyoming High School honors six exemplary students with the Alpha Wolf 11 Champion of Character Award. Two sophomores, two juniors and two seniors are chosen by staff and peers. The ceremony takes place in front of the entire student body, special guests from the Wyoming community, Wyoming Public Safety officers, school administration and the Wyoming Board of Education members.


Such was the case on Thursday, Jan. 26. The gymnasium’s stands were filled with students at rapt attention. Wyoming police and fire departments came to show their support and to be honored. Parents and school administrators cheered on and the high school band punctuated the ceremony.


The Alpha Wolf is a rare and special breed — a power unto him or herself. They’re at their strongest when they empower their peers. Proactive in helping others and ever striving to set a high standard for those around them, they lead by example, going the extra mile to help a schoolmate feel welcome, spreading good cheer to all and displaying good character. One need not be an “A” student to attain this goal.


On a scale of 1 to 10, the Alpha Wolf is an 11 in everything they do. Kind, compassionate, gracious, these are 2017’s champions of character and new pillars of our community:

  • Avalon Dexter
  • Issac Sutton
  • Noelle Keen
  • Sinai Salvador
  • Ansleigh Hamilton
  • Pedro Perez Lopez


Wyoming Public School District seeks public input on bond request

Would not raise property taxes, officials say

By Erin Albanese

School News Network


In eyeing the needs of the district and planning for the next 30 years, administrators are considering a November bond request that would not raise property taxes.


But first, they are seeking input from parents, teachers, students and community members concerning what facility improvements they would support –– and which ones they want most.


Parents and staff members were emailed links to fill out by the end of January, and a postcard with information about the online survey is being mailed to residents. The board could vote to approve ballot language in late spring.


Voters will be presented with a millage proposal that won’t result in an increase in taxes because existing debt will be expiring. The new millage request will be for the same number of mills or fewer than the mills saved from the expiring debt. A new levy would generate some dollars in 2018, with the balance to come in 2022, to fund upgrades and improvements at its aging facilities.


Because voters rejected two attempts to pass major bond requests in August and November 2013, the district is taking a long-term approach to the plan. If voters approved a request in November, the sale of bonds in spring 2018 would generate about $20 million. When existing debt expires in 2021 and 2022, the district could sell the remainder of the bonds to generate approximately another $45 million, said Matt Lewis, assistant superintendent of finance and administrative services.


The multi-series arrangement allows flexibility, Lewis said. “We can control the amount of the sale so we don’t raise taxes.”


That’s key, said Superintendent Tom Reeder, because “We said we would not return to the public if it would cost them any more in taxes.”


Reeder noted that a favorable market has made it possible to move ahead with a new request. “We said, ‘If the money is available without raising taxes next year, could we start the projects that much earlier?’ ”


The majority of bond funds generated in 2018 would most likely be invested at Wyoming High School, at 1350 Prairie Parkway. “It is the building with the most needs,” Reeder said. “We want the high school to be the flagship of the community.”


Some district needs have changed since the 2013 bond requests failed. The district moved forward with securing school entrances. A 10-year sinking fund levy passed in May — also with no tax increase — generates about $400,000 a year for maintenance such as roof and parking lot repairs.


The survey questions gauge community opinions on immediate and future needs in the district, which enrolls about 4,300 students. It asks for input concerning the following:

  • enhancing landscaping and elementary playgrounds
  • improving curb appeal of buildings
  • upgrades to the fine arts center located at the junior high
  • adding a new fine arts center on the high school campus
  • upgrades to outdoor athletic facilities
  • adding artificial turf at the high school stadium
  • upgrading indoor athletic facilities
  • updating labs to support science, engineering, technology and math
  • dedicated music and art space at the elementary schools
  • improvements to parking and traffic flow at schools
  • adding windows to allow for more natural light
  • technology
  • grade configuration at schools

In moving forward, the district will form a planning committee involving parents, staff and community members. Community forums will be scheduled.


Give your feedback here.

Turkey Bowl ’16: Prep football on your Thanksgiving plate

Allendale and Kelloggsville high schools square off in a 2016 state playoff opening round game covered by WKTV community television. (WKTV)
Allendale and Kelloggsville high schools square off in a 2016 state playoff opening round game covered by WKTV community television. (WKTV)

By K.D. Norris



What is Thanksgiving Day without football? Just turkey and mashed potatoes.


Again this year, WKTV will offer a day full of high school football coverage focused on teams from the Wyoming and Kentwood communities.


WKTV’s Channel 25 will run its 16th Annual Turkey Bowl, a 15-hour special starting at 9 a.m. that highlights high school football games from this past season.


Our schedule includes two East Kentwood high games during the team’s 4-5 season and two Wyoming high games, exciting October contests against Rockford and South Christian during the team’s 5-4 season, and the always exciting clash between Wyoming’s Lee and Godwin high schools. The day is capped off with Kelloggsville high capping off an outstanding 8-2 season (5-0 and a conference title in the OK Silver Conference) with its opening round playoff game against Allendale.


Times and teams:

9 a.m. Hudsonville vs. East Kentwood

11:30 a.m. East Grand Rapids vs. Wyoming

1:55 p.m. Wyoming vs. South Christian

4:30 p.m. East Kentwood vs. Rockford

7 p.m. Lee vs. Godwin

9:15p.m. Allendale vs. Kelloggsville


Ya, we know the Lions will be playing on Thursday, but why not blend a little high school action into your football day?


‘Fantastic Beasts’ set to cast its spell this weekend


So today is the day that many Potter fans have been waiting for — the release of the newest movie in the wizarding world created by J.K. Rowling, “Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them.”


It’s been five years since the last Harry Potter film was released and coupled with the fact that “Harry Potter and the Cursed Child Part 1” is not expected to be released until 2018, excitement over “Fantastic Beasts” has been building. For proof of that, we offer up this fact: you can’t even get a ticket to the Kent District Library’s upcoming “Harry Potter Party” set for next week at Celebration! Cinema North.


“I’m excited to see everything in it and if they’ll be any cameos from the original cast members,”  said Wyoming High School 10 grader Maria Martinez.


The story actually takes place about 70 years — 1926 to be exact — before Harry and crew were even born. Infact, the new movie does not feature a single character from the original Harry Potter movies, although there are a few name drops such as Albert Dumbledore and that other dark wizard and Dumbledore’s former friend Gellert Grindelwald, who at this point is terrorizing the wizarding world.


“I am so excited to see a new installation of the Harry Potter fandom come to life in an entirely new and magical way,” said Abby D’Addario, who is a youth paraprofessional at the KDL Wyoming branch and will be seeing the movie at the KDL Nov. 21 event. “I always imagined what witchcraft and wizardry looked like outside the walls of Hogwarts – we barely caught a glimpse of that in the ‘Goblet of Fire.’ In this film we get the privileged of seeing the magic underworld of America. It is hard to imagine a magical world without Harry and Voldemort, but I can forgive Ms. Rowling because Eddie Redmayne is magical enough for all of us.”


The film is directed by Potter alum David Yates who reportedly brought with him several former Potter crew members. Also J.K. Rowling did write the screenplay — her first — and adapted it from her 2001 book of the same title.


Of course, “Fantastic Beasts” is set to be a series of movies — recently announced to be five — so there are already predictions that Dumbledore will be making an appearance. Probably not too far off since Johnny Depp recently was tapped to play Grindelwald.


Eddie Redmaye as Newt Scamander.
Eddie Redmayne as Newt Scamander.

“I’m excited to just see Eddie Redmayne!” said Wyoming High School 10th grader Alondra Soto. Well who would not be excited to see Redmayne? He won an Oscar for Best Actor for the 2014 film “The Theory of Everything” and was nominated for the 2015 film “The Danish Girl.”


“I can’t wait to see the attitudes of the new characters and how Eddie Redmayne will be!” said Wyoming Middle School seventh grader Harlei Schovey.


Redmayne plays Newt Scamander, who has just completed a global excursion to find and document an extraordinary array of magical creatures. He intends to make a brief stopover in New York, but as we all know, nothing is ever brief when dealing with magical creatures.


As an aside, Scamander is a graduate of Hogwarts, from Hufflepuff House. Redmayne recently did a PSA about being a “proud Hufflepuff.”


Scamander meets up with No-Maj — American for Muggle — Jacob (Dan Fogler). There are lots of other new characters such as Tina Goldstein who is a former Auror and who works for the Magical Congress of the United States of America (MACUSA); Percival Graves (Colin Farrell), an Auror with a mean streak; Queenie (Alison Sudol), Tina’s sister and a mindreader: and Credence (Ezra Miller), an introverted orphan whose adopted mother is leading a group of non-magical people in a witch hunt.


“The intense CGI and the new story line,” said Wyoming High School 12th grader Matt Bulthuis. “The old with the new really gets me excited!”


From early reviews its sounds like few will be disappointed with the new film. “The Chicago Tribune” said “Eddie Redmayne and company make magic in Potter  prequel” and from “The Guardian,” “The entertainment enchanter J.K. Rowling has come storming back to the world of magic in a shower of supernatural sparks — and created a glorious fantasy — romance adventure, all about the wizards of prohibition-era America and the diffident wizarding Brit who causes chaos in their midst with a bagful of exotic creatures.”


If you want to learn more about world of Harry Potter or “Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them,” to prepare for your movie adventure, visit Rowling’s site Pottermore.com or the Harry Potter Lexicon at hp-lexicon.org.

DRCWM wins $50,000 Steelcase grant for Wyoming schools Restorative Circles project

By Victoria Mullen



adam bird photo of Chris Gilman
DRCWM’s executive director, Christine Gilman (Photo by Adam Bird)

Thanks to a $50,000 grant from the Steelcase Foundation, the Dispute Resolution Center of West Michigan (DRCWM) will further develop its Restorative Justice Program for Lee Middle School in Wyoming, Kelloggsville Middle School and Wyoming High School over the next two years.


Spearheaded by its executive director, Christine Gilman, DRCWM began its restorative justice program at Lee Middle School in the fall of 2013. The services target students, staff and the community.


The Steelcase grant will also provide funding to have the three current facilitators become licensed by the International Institute of Restorative Practices (IIRP). Once licensed, the facilitators will be available to train “Introduction to Restorative Practices” and “Using Circles Effectively” to school administrators, teachers and others who wish to invest in the training so that they can join the paradigm shift away from punitive methods of discipline and towards restorative solutions to problematic behavior.


Chris and kids courtesy of Godfrey Lee Public Schools
Christine Gilman leads a restorative circle. (Photo courtesy of Godfrey Lee Public Schools)

Why restorative justice?

Bullying and out-of-control conflict at home or school have far-reaching consequences, with negative effects on communities and society. Without intervention and support, such negative exposure can inhibit youths’ emotional and cognitive development, prohibit healing, lead to serious health issues later in life and may perpetuate the cycle of violence.


“If you just get suspended, the fight is still going to be going on in your head,” said Gilman. “When you come back to school, you’ll probably be 10 times angrier than when you left.


In addition to quelling disputes and developing proactive plans to address misbehavior, restorative practices positively influence the school environment by teaching effective, non-violent ways to handle anger, frustration, and conflict. Restorative practices foster the development of empathy, which creates a more caring and safe environment.


According to the Council of State Governments, during 2012-2013, Michigan students with disabilities lost 190,036 days of instruction due to suspensions and expulsions. Students who are removed from the classroom as punishment are more likely to repeat a grade, drop out or enter the juvenile justice system. In monetary terms, every student who drops out is estimated to lose $250,000 in lifetime earnings, according to the Michigan Student Advocacy Center.


adam bird photo of circles
Photo by Adam Bird

What restorative justice does


A school-based restorative justice program provides an early intervention for youth who are beginning to demonstrate problematic or delinquent behavior. When students are suspended, they are not learning, and they are not resolving the issues that led to suspension.


Often the issues that led to suspension are exacerbated during the student’s absence from school. Further, students who are harmed by others are not typically addressed in school disciplinary measures; whereas in circles they can express their feelings, make suggestions for reparations, and learn more about why the incident occurred. Additionally, circles allow students to take responsibility for their actions, face up to what they have done, apologize and make amends—actions which are likewise not part of traditional discipline.


Restorative practices (including facilitative conferences and circles) offer a holistic approach to school discipline and problem solving. These practices been proven to decrease the number of suspension/expulsion days and disproportionately higher suspension days for non-white students and special education.


Circles are used in a wide variety of instances, including threats of fights; social media issues; bullying; vandalism; and to help restore relationships after suspensions. Circles can be used instead of suspension, to complement a shorter suspension, or to help reintegrate students into the school community following suspension.


better DRCWM logoRather than look at which rule was broken and then doling out traditionally prescribed punishment, at-risk students may be sent to a circle for resolution. During a discussion led by the circle facilitator, the students come up with solutions to the issues raised. Circles help students look at what happened, determine the harm done, talk about how the harm can be repaired, and discuss how future harm can be prevented.


The facilitator draws up the restorative agreement in the students’ own words. When the students are satisfied with the content of the restorative agreement, they sign the document.


“Accepting an apology is almost as good as giving an apology,” Gilman said. “When you see that empathy, it’s really cool. I have seen the light go on. The best thing is while I’m typing up the agreement, they’re giggling, laughing and talking,” she said.


For more information on Restorative Practices, visit DRCWM’s website here.


Additional reporting from School News Network.

More than 1,500 local students take their graduation walk

2016 graduation ceremonies kick off tomorrow and run through next week.
2016 graduation ceremonies kick off tomorrow and run through next week.

It’s May. The weather is finally warm. The flowers are blooming and it’s time for more than 1,500 students to take their final walk down the aisle to receive their high school diplomas.


In the Kentwood and Wyoming areas, there are 11 schools hosting graduation ceremonies within the next two weeks. Here is a rundown of dates and the top students for each school.


Starting out of the graduation ceremonies will be South Christian High, which will graduate 154 students Thursday, May 25. Graduation is set for 7 p.m. at Kentwood Community Church, 2950 Clyde Park Ave. SW. The school has three valedictorians: Joshua Boers, Colin Hartgerink and Nicolas Kuperus.  The remaining students in the top ten are: Peyton DeRuiter, Lucy Dykhouse, Cassidy Huizinga, Hannah Koning, A.J. Samdal, Bradley Scholten and Alex VanKooten.


On Friday, May 26, both East Kentwood High School and Godfrey’s Lee High School will be hosting their 2016 graduation ceremonies. Lee High School has around 90 students walking down the aisle at 7 p.m. at Resurrection Life Church, 5100 Ivanrest Ave. SW, Grandville. Making up the 2016 Lee High School top ten are Leonardo Vallejo, Emily Fishman, Selena Knutson, Dino Rodas, Allison Fisher, Giselle Perez, Ivan Diaz, Alonso Lopez-Carrera, Alejandro Vargas and Oliver Lorenzo.


East Kentwood High School’s graduation is at 7 p.m. May 26 at the school’s stadium, 6230 Kalamazoo Ave. SE. The rain date is May 27.  Making up the top ten are Andy Ly, Megan Callaghan, Makaela Dalley, Nolan Meister, Sara Anstey, Marilyn Padua, Tran Vo, Hao Nguyen, Venesa Haska, and Matthew Richer.


Tri-Unity High School and Wyoming High School will have graduation ceremonies on Tuesday, May 31.


Wyoming High School will have 265 students graduate at 7 p.m. May 31 at Grand Rapids First Church, 2100 44th St. SW. The top ten are Montana Earegood, Kayla Kornoelje, Stella Achiyan, Naomi Nguyen, Nhu Quynh, Christopher Hanson, Jada Haines, Rachel Bolt, Lazaro Cruz, and Kelly Gonzalez Diaz.


Tri-Unity Christian School will be graduating 17 students at 7 p.m. May 31 at Resurrection Life Church, 5100 Ivanrest Ave. SW, Grandville. The top two students for the class are Lisa McKelvey and Alissa VanderVeen.


Godwin High School has 126 students graduating on Wednesday, June 1. Graduation ceremonies are at 7 p.m. in the school’s auditorium, 50 35th St. SW. The valedictorian is Esteban Romero Herrera. The salutatorian is Taylor Jarrett. The rest of the top top are Ashley Soto, Sandra Rivera, Chloe Fritz, Amel Causevic, China Nguyen, Karen Barrose, Hector Zoleta and Alex Mosley.


Several area schools will be hosting graduation ceremonies on Thursday, June 2.


Kelloggsville High School’s 2016 graduation ceremonies are at 7 p.m. June 2 at Kentwood Community Church, 2950 Clyde Park Ave. SW. The class has 140 students this year. The top ten are: Lan-Phuong Ton, Lucynda Pham, Kim-Ngan Nguyen, April M. Savickas, Shayla Huong Huynh, Ashley Duong, Chantal Lopez, Loc Tran, Michael Truong, and Sang Tran.


The Potters House will be graduating 44 students at 7 p.m. June 2 at Plymouth Heights Christian Reformed Church, 1800 Plymouth Ave. SE., Grand Rapids. The valedictorian is Ashley VerBeek and the salutatorian is Emily Stout.


West Michigan Aviation Academy has 94 students in its 2016 graduating class. Graduation is at 7 p.m. June 2 at the school, 5363 44th St. SE. Making up the top ten are Abigail Kathleen Austin, Cindy Ngoc Ha, Connor Hendrik Hogan, Jonathan David Ketcham, Jason Thomas Kilgore, Hayley Elizabeth Latham, Jaxyn Bennett Ryks, Emily Ann Seykora, Samantha Rae Stuart, and Joshua Zane Vogeli.


West Michigan Lutheran High School is proud that its eight graduates will graduate with over a 3.0 GPA. The graduation baccalaureate service begins at 7 p.m. at the school, 601 36th St. SW, Wyoming. Valedictorian is Allison Klooster and salutatorian is Joshua Andree.


On Friday, June 3, Grand River Prep High School has 113 graduates for 2016. This year’s graduation is at 6:30 p.m. Calvin College’s Van Noord Arena, 3195 Knight Way SE. Class valedictorian is Christa Fernando. Salutatorians are Ajilan Potter and Megan Lawrence. The rest of the top ten include Victor Rojas Garcia, Samrawit Kahsay, Taitum Male, Julia Lammy, Antony Nguyen, Giselle Uwera, Mckenzie Male, Hai Truong and Kendall Garland.


Seniors to Sophomores: ‘Don’t Repeat Our Mistakes’

Seniors Luis Rodriguez, Tan Le and Joey Timm tell students to stop procrastinating
Seniors Luis Rodriguez, Tan Le and Joey Timm tell students to stop procrastinating

By: Erin Albanese — School News Network


Don’t procrastinate. Learn to manage your time. Do your homework. Work on getting and keeping your grades up.


Those were words of advice from high school seniors who visited sophomore classes recently to help steer their younger peers onto the right path to graduation and beyond. They explained what they would have done differently during their early days of high school, and shared what they wish people would have told them as sophomores. Wyoming High School is a 10th- through 12th-grade school, so the sophomore class is the youngest in the building.


About 50 seniors volunteered to intervene with sophomores because they noticed too many students not focused on their schoolwork, said Cheryl Small, accounting and personal finance teacher.


“My students get frustrated when they see them acting differently than they should be acting,” Small said. “They came to me and said, ‘We want to talk to the sophomores.'”
Seniors came up with ideas for connecting with their younger peers by talking about their own regrets and mistakes and the consequences of their actions.


Senior Luis Rodriguez gives advice to sophomores
Senior Luis Rodriguez gives advice to sophomores

“We are telling you guys to try hard in school,” said senior Luis Rodriguez. “When I was in your position I had Cs and Ds, and now I am like busting my butt trying to get all As. I have a 3.0 exactly, but I could have a 4.0 if I was trying in school like I do now.”


Senior Joey Timm added this: “Don’t tell yourself you’ll wait until next year to get better grades. Do as well as you can from the beginning, because it’s really hard to bring your GPA up than to keep it up.”


Destroy procrastination as a habit, said senior Tan Le.


“Students are the ones in control of what they do, how they do it and how they should do it,” Tan said. “What I wish my parents or my teachers thought to tell me was, ‘Put away your electronics for one hour and just do your homework.'”


Small said her students can be role models for the whole building and inspire younger students to be examples as well. They also shared information on applying for college, volunteering and extracurriculars.


Sophomore Lauren Kramer said she enjoyed hearing from the upperclassmen. “I thought it was nice to hear that point of view to get a perspective on what they felt they need to hear as sophomores,” Lauren said. “I feel like it’s going to help a little bit.”


Be sure to check out School News Network for more stories about our great students, schools, and faculty in West Michigan!

Wyoming High School Artist Leaves Mark with Mural

Kibsy works on a painting during the recent Wyoming High School Festival of Arts.
Kibsaim Kibsy works on a painting during the recent Wyoming High School Festival of Arts.

by Erin Albanese

School News Network


When senior Kibsaim “Kibsy” Ruiz Salva paints, she relaxes. That’s an important outlet for someone who is already working toward becoming a doctor.


Kibsy is beginning her studies to become a neurosurgeon by attending the Kent Career Tech Center’s Health Early College Academy, but the talented student is leaving her mark at school through art.


Kibsy painted a mural titled “Time and History” in the school hallway — which showcases how literature can help people step back in time — by depicting a woman reading to a child on a park bench on one side and a gathering of people in dress from bygone eras on the other.


Kibsaim “Kibsy” Ruiz Salva’s painting won second place in the Hope Restored Empowerment Center 2016 Soul Food Eat and Greet Excellent Art Award contest.
Kibsaim “Kibsy” Ruiz Salva’s painting won second place in the Hope Restored Empowerment Center 2016 Soul Food Eat and Greet Excellent Art Award contest.

She also created a painting of a boy and his mother reading about civil rights activist, the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., which received second place in the Hope Restored Empowerment Center 2016 Soul Food Eat and Greet Excellent Art contest. The center is a non-profit located in Wyoming.


“Martin Luther King is an icon. He had a dream and he wanted to see people together,” she said of the inspiration for her piece.


Kibsy began studying art as a 9-year-old at a specialty school in Durango, Mexico, after her parents, Daniel Ruiz and Juanita Salva, realized she had the ability to draw what she saw. She said her artistic ability is a gift from God that gives her peace.


“My inspirations come from my past and family, as they define my culture, my daily life, and my passion for art,” she said.


After immigrating to the United States at age 11, Kibsy continued her art, impressing those like Wyoming High School art teacher Robyn Gransow Higley.


“Kibsy’s artwork is powerful, from inception to product,” Higley said. “Full of emotion, her artwork invites viewers to engage and reflect upon meaningful figures, eras and experiences. Kibsy’s passion for learning is inspirational and exciting.”


Kibsy had to choose between art and attending the Tech Center this year, but Higley encouraged her to continue art outside of class to continue creating.


While painting is a stress reliever and outlet, Kibsy finds it an important means of expression too.


“I want to influence people and make an impact in their lives,” she said. “Art is the most convenient form of message. In an image, people can think of many things.”


Kibsy plans attend Grand Rapids Community College and then a four-year university to major in biomedical engineering before attending medical school.


Restorative Circles in Schools Help Resolve Escalating Conflict Between Students

Mediator Tina Murua meets with a sixth-grader about problems the girl is having with friends
Mediator Tina Murua meets with a sixth-grader about problems the girl is having with friends

By Erin Albanese — School News Network


Tina Murua sat down recently with Kelloggsville Middle School seventh-graders Genesis Figuero and Kiara McBride. The girls were ready to talk face-to-face about problems with their friendship, prompted by hurt feelings and misunderstandings.


Taking turns holding a bag of marbles to designate who could speak in the Restorative Circle, the girls, through guided conversation with Murua, told each other what was on their minds. Turns out, they really never wanted to stop being best friends but got caught up in a game of she said/she said.


At the end of the discussion, the girls signed an agreement to talk directly to each other about any concerns.


Without Murua to talk to, the girls might have wound up in the principal’s office for gossiping or arguing. Instead, they used a new tool available to them: restorative justice. Murua began working last fall at Kelloggsville Middle School on three afternoons a week as facilitator for the program that aims to teach students how to peacefully resolve conflicts.


Kiara and Genesis said they felt positive about the agreement. Restorative justice was a better way to solve their problem than continuing to argue. “I like this better because if you are going to the principal or dean you are getting in trouble. I like to go somewhere where I’m not getting in trouble and can sort out my problems,” Kiara said. “It’s good because if you don’t want to talk to the teacher or principal, you have (Murua) to help.”

Genesis Figuero listens to her friend Kiara McBride
Genesis Figuero listens to her friend Kiara McBride


A new outreach of the Grand Rapids-based nonprofit Dispute Resolution Center of West Michigan (DRCWM), restorative justice helps students solve differences using trained mediators. Many students’ conflicts center around friendships, gossiping or social media arguments, though they see Murua for bigger offenses–like stealing or fighting–sometimes after suspension, as well.


Students often just need the skills to respond appropriately to conflict. Sometimes that hasn’t been modeled well at home, Murua said. “I think these kids are so interesting, and they are just trying to find their way. There are a lot of them who struggle,” she said. “I don’t think a single one of them is a bad kid. Some of them are in rough situations, and they don’t have the internal resources to deal with it.”


A Non-Punitive Approach
As a third-party, Murua provides a place where students feel comfortable talking things out without facing punishment.


“It is a different way to approach conflict or difficult behavior. When we are talking about student discipline traditionally, we ask, ‘What was the rule? Who broke it? What is the punishment?’ Instead we’re asking, ‘What happened? Who was affected or harmed, and what needs to be done to repair the harm and keep it from happening again?'”


While restorative justice isn’t a new philosophy or curriculum, it flips the traditionally punitive school-discipline model. It is also being used at Lee Middle School in Godfrey-Lee Public Schools and at Wyoming High School in Wyoming Public Schools. In Grand Rapids Public Schools, more than two dozen schools have implemented restorative practices and more than 1,500 students have participated, Superintendent Teresa Weatherall Neal reported this fall.


Kelloggsville students may still be suspended as part of the discipline program there, but they often meet with Murua after they return. Christine Gilman, executive director for the DRCWM, said they first approached Godfrey-Lee to start the program last year because of a disproportionate rate of suspensions and expulsions for minority and special-education students. Wyoming High School and Kelloggsville administrators expressed interest when the center wanted to expand the program. “It is such a powerful way to help improve the school community and culture, to make communication really valued and where students use their communication skills to solve problems,” Gilman said.

Kiara McBride and Genesis Figuero discuss a rift in their friendship
Kiara McBride and Genesis Figuero discuss a rift in their friendship


A Way to Build Community
Oftentimes, including in the case of suspension, students are cut off, at least temporarily, from the school community. Restorative justice instead makes students accountable for their behavior. They have to own up to the situation and become part of the solution. “I like to focus on the word ‘restorative’ as opposed to ‘retributive,'” said Murua, a self-described “recovering lawyer.” “Retribution traditionally focuses on ‘You do something bad to us, we do something bad to you.'” The long-term goal is to interrupt the school-to-prison pipeline by creating stronger schools and students who have a sense of belonging.


Students who are suspended have a much higher percent chance of repeating a grade or dropping out of school. They are significantly more likely to go into juvenile detention programs and then to jail, according to a Texas study, Breaking Schools’ Rules: A Statewide Study of How School Discipline Relates to Students’ Success and Juvenile Justice Involvement, prepared by the Council of State Governments Justice Center in partnership with the Public Policy Research Institute at Texas A&M University. “Removing students from the community creates alienation,” Gilman said. “A strong community is the best defense against all sorts of anti-social behavior.”


The outcome of a successful restorative justice program is fewer suspensions. Students are also less likely to repeat bad behaviors and the need for classroom discipline decreases, Murua said. Principal Jim Alston said restorative justice is another level in helping students resolve conflict before they end up in his office. “They are more apt to open up and face each other. It forces them to learn the skills of being able to talk to each other.” Wyoming High School Assistant Principal Josh Baumbach said they’ve already seen a reduction in suspensions since starting the program this fall. “It has allowed students a safe process to work out their differences and it helps ensure the issue does not come back as soon as students return to the hallways and classrooms,” he said.


Be sure to check out School News Network for more stories about our great students, schools, and faculty in West Michigan!


Check out Kent School Service Network for further information.

Wyoming police continues investigation into 16-year-old’s death, community works to recover

An image of Lions Park, where Michael White's body was found.
An image of Lions Park, where Michael White’s body was found.

Joanne Bailey-Boorsma



The Wyoming Department of Public Safety continues its investigation into the homicide of a 16-year-old Wyoming student as the community works on recovering from its second teen homicide in 2016.


Two 15-year-old suspects were arrested in the connection to the homicide of Michael White. White’s body was found on the west side of Wyoming’s Lions Park Saturday, March 19, by a resident walking his dog. According to reports, White had suffered head trauma. An autopsy was conducted on Monday to determine the exact cause of White’s death, but police are not releasing the results.


Today, Carlos Delgado, 15, of Kentwood, was arraigned in Wyoming District Court and was waived over as an adult to 17th Circuit Court Family Division. Delgado is scheduled to be back in court on April 13.


The other suspect, a 15-year-old from Wyoming is being held on an open murder charge as the Kent County Prosecutor’s Office determines if he will be charged as an adult or as a juvenile. Prosecutors have until Monday to make that decision. Both suspects have criminal records.


In a statement released yesterday, Wyoming Public Safety officials said “…detectives continue with their investigation into this homicide.” Anyone with information is being asked to contact the department at 616-530-7300 or Silent Observer at 616-774-2345.


Wyoming Public Schools Superintendent Dr. Thomas Reeder said the district does have a plan in place to help students and staff deal with tragic situations such as the sudden loss of a student or staff member.


“White was not attending Wyoming High School, so we had small groups available and social workers were on hand to talk to students at anytime,” Reeder said. “On Monday morning, we made students aware of this and we have had students come down and talk and they have had a lot to talk about.”


Reeder said he didn’t know the names of the suspects and they were not attending the Wyoming High School. “If they were with us, they weren’t with us now,” he said, adding that there have been no reports of students missing from the school’s roster.


There has been an outpouring on Facebook for White, with most comments talking about the Wyoming teenager’s big heart. A vigil was held Monday evening at a skateboard park at Wyoming’s Prairie Park where White used to skateboard. Nearly 100 friends and family members attended. A memorial service for White is scheduled at Abundant Life Church, 4041 Byron Center Ave. SW, Friday, March 25.


The incident at Lions Park happened two months after 17-year-old Kelloggsville High School student Isaiah Blue was fatally shot Jan. 27 in a robbery attempt in the area of S. Division Avenue and 44th Street in Wyoming. Sixteen-year-old Daniel Benavides and 18-year-old Mitchell Savickas are both facing murder and armed robbery charges as adults. A preliminary hearing for both was earlier in March and a status conference between the judge and attorneys is set for April.


A vigil was held for Blue in February with more than 600 people coming to the Kelloggsville High School.


It has been about a year and half since the city of Wyoming has had to deal with a teen homicide. In August 2014, 17-year-old Godwin Heights student Ta’Carhri Richardson was killed after Marquis Kilgore was handling a gun in the back seat of a car that Richardson was driving when the gun went off. Kilgore was sentenced in February 2015 to two years for a felony firearm charge and two and half to 15 years for manslaughter.

When Kindness, Compassion Trumps Grades, Touchdowns

Lexi Pearson learns shes an Alpha Wolf 11
Lexi Pearson learns shes an Alpha Wolf 11

By: Erin Albanese – School News Network


About Wyoming High School sophomore Bryan Rosello Lizardo: “His peers describe him as someone who helps other students when the teachers are busy… dedicated, kind and a helper… He gives the greatest gift one can give. The gift of time.


About sophomore Gabriel Pulaski: “Genuinely empathetic, this person is always a listening ear, and not just for his friends, but for anyone who might need someone just to be there.


About junior Ryan Huizinga: “He approaches life putting others before himself, which has not gone unnoticed by his classmates.


About junior Lexi Pearson: “One teacher said it is hard to put into words how much she has contributed to Wyoming Public Schools. Her volunteer hours have to be in the thousands.


About senior Brendan Berg: “He exerts a quiet authority in his leadership, yet at the same time, shows great humility and respect for others.


About senior Cindy Ochoa: “Attention must be paid to this 12th-grade recipient who exemplifies the actions of kindness by offering advice. She serves as a reminder that positivity and compassion are traits of a leader.

Junior Ryan Huizinga celebrates with his family
Junior Ryan Huizinga celebrates with his family


An Alpha Wolf 11 has nothing to do with grades, sports or test scores, but everything to do with being kind, compassionate and gracious to each other, said Principal Nate Robrahn. These descriptions explain why six Wyoming High School students are Alpha Wolf 11 Champions of Character. Awarded at the inaugural ceremony for the new program, students wept as they were named supreme pack leaders of the Wyoming Wolves in front of an audience of staff, administrators, Board of Education members and City of Wyoming officials. U.S. History teacher John Doyle read lengthy narratives about each student before revealing them as winners.


“On a scale of 1 to 10, they’re an 11,” he told students. “It has everything to do with what you do here at Wyoming High School. This has to do with what people you are on the inside, and making us a better community inside the walls and outside this place as you spread what this is. You all here, all 1,000 of you in this gym right now, are great young people and you have the chance to make a difference.”


Putting Character First


Doyle approached Wyoming staff with the idea for Alpha Wolf 11 after his son, Ian, received a similar award through Grandville High School’s “Ryan Fischer Be an 11” program. The Grandville program is named after student and hockey player Ryan Fischer, who died of a heart condition 2014.


Doyle was so moved he wanted to bring a similar program to Wyoming. “I was just like, ‘We’ve got to do this. It is so impactful. We are going to pull this off bigger and better. We wanted to give it back to the kids and community.”

Sophomore Gabriel Pulaski reacts to being an Alpha Wolf 11
Sophomore Gabriel Pulaski reacts to being an Alpha Wolf 11


Doyle said he wants students to realize character is the most important thing in life. “We’ve got all these awards for athletics, scholarships, band, this and that. How about just the regular kids. How about kids getting an award for simply being good?”


Doyle told students that he sees great things happening. “This school, when facing adversity, just continues to impress me. I love it here. A lot of people love it here. Continue to be kind, compassionate and gracious… It will all work out.”


His voice boomed. “That’s why this school rocks. That’s why this school is a good school!”


Robrahn, who began as principal in 2013, said he’s constantly impressed with his students. In nominating each other, students wrote incredibly powerful things.

The first six Alpha Wolf 11s are honored on the gymnasium wall
The first six Alpha Wolf 11s are honored on the gymnasium wall


“These are the nicest kids, the kindest kids I’ve had in my career,” he said. “That’s the piece we want for kids. All the academic content is important, but if we can help kids take care of each other, it’s a better world we live in.”


Six students, two from each grade at the 10th through 12th-grade building, will be named Alpha Wolf 11s each semester.


Be sure to check out School News Network for more stories about our great students, schools, and faculty in West Michigan!

Local Soccer Star Lands a ‘Homegrown’ Dream Tryout

Life can have this fascinating way of coming full circle. A way of bringing us back to our roots on pathways that don’t become clear until a glance is taken in the rear-view mirror – which only happens once we’re at a place to truly call home. It is that sense of settlement that makes us feel secure enough to take a look back, and while the vision isn’t completely clear, it’s no longer a muddled mess; it’s an exciting and enthralling chance to see the events of the past lead to an optimistic future.

It’s a journey towards a new position in life to call home.

For Jesse Flores, 18, life is shaping a path to venture back to a home he’s never visited, it’s a dream scenario with love and passion at the core, and soccer as the catalyst.

Jesse Flores“I started playing soccer when I was 4, but I didn’t start to take it seriously until freshman year of high school,” describes Jesse with the tone and tenor of someone fondly remembering the moment they first fell in love.

For Jesse, soccer has always had that relationship. Sports are a bond that can bring generations, especially a father and son, together in ways that transcend the playing field.

“I remember growing up and watching Atlas games on TV with my dad. They’ve always been my favorite team.”

While Jesse is from Wyoming, MI, his parents Jose and Icela both hail from Guadalajara, Mexico, where Jose played soccer for the youth team Atlas Fútbol Club. That bond to Atlas, and Mexican soccer, was passed down to Jesse.

With a new focus on the game as a freshman at Wyoming High School, Jesse’s game started to flourish. As a three-year varsity goalie, Jesse became a leader on the team and utilized his 6’3″ frame and long wingspan to defend the cage. His size and leadership allowed Jesse to lead the state in saves his senior season and earned him post-season honors.

Even with all the success, it was hard to imagine playing soccer at the next level.

“I didn’t consider it a real possibility until my high school coach, Romer Carrasco, told me that he thought I could play at the next level. Once I realized an opportunity after high school was possible, more doors opened up.”

Jesse and high school coach Romer Carrasco
Jesse and high school coach Romer Carrasco

Jesse wound up earning a scholarship to play soccer at the University of Saint Francis in Indiana. While the team struggled this past season, Jesse played well and compiled a highlight film to send out to professional teams in Mexico.

A professional opportunity was still nothing more than a dream.

“I connected with an agent in California who works with young players. He gets your info and film in front of Mexican teams,” recounts Jesse as he racks his brain, still marveling at the details of his incredible journey and opportunities awaiting on the path before him. “I’ve always dreamed of playing professionally, but I didn’t know if I’d have a chance.”

Since that time, two teams have reached out to Jesse to schedule tryouts: Chiapas Fútbol Club and hometown favorite Atlas Fútbol Club of Guadalajara. The tryout with Chiapas is already in the books, and the Atlas tryout will happen this summer. Chiapas didn’t offer a contract, but Jesse took some positives from the experience to build on before the tryout with Atlas.

“I didn’t end up getting the contract with Chiapas, but I was able to get a feel for how a professional tryout works. I was nervous and didn’t play loose. That won’t happen next time.” The club also gave Jesse some feedback on his play. “They told me to work on my conditioning, but also that they saw my potential. That was great to hear because it gives me more confidence knowing that I have the tools and the skill. I can always work on my conditioning!”

In the meantime, before the tryout with Atlas, Jesse will continue his education and playing career at Davenport University after transferring from Saint Francis to be closer to home. The newfound possibilities of becoming a professional soccer player mean more to Jesse than just personal achievement; he sees it as an opportunity to inspire.

Jesse Flores“I want to inspire others as I go along. I was once that young kid who wanted to be professional, and now I have that opportunity. I want to do my best and achieve what I can so I can give back to the community of Wyoming and my high school. They’ve been so supportive of me up until this point. I want to give it back.”

This summer, Jesse will travel down to Guadalajara for an opportunity of a lifetime. Not only will he be trying out for his childhood team, but Jesse will visit his parents’ birthplace and meet family for the first time. He will see the city that his favorite soccer team calls home and immerse himself with the Club he hopes to call his own.

Jesse’s story is more than just an inspirational tale; it is a journey of family and sport coming full circle because of the bond created by a father, a son, their team, and a ball.

Vote Now: Wyoming Student Section Nominated for Best in Michigan

Wyoming's student section is up for best in the State.
Wyoming’s student section is up for best in the State.

mike_dewittWyoming High School is up for a prestigious award. Not one based on classroom merit or athletic achievement, but one where students come together for a common cause. This award takes place in a gymnasium, but instead of happening on the court, it takes place in the bleachers.


MLive released their 64 nominees for Michigan’s Best High School Student Section and Wyoming is garnering some votes! As of Tuesday morning, Wyoming High School ranked second in the State.


The first poll is open until 6 p.m. on Thursday and fans can vote once per hour. On Friday, the list will be narrowed down to 10 and another poll will decide the best student section in Michigan!


To vote, visit MLive.com.


The winner will be crowned Thursday, February 5th.

High School Students Publish Book Documenting Personal Journeys

Narratives Inspired by Pulitzer Prize-winning Writer

by Erin Albanese, KISD School News Network


Wyoming Public Schools, MI —  “My parents left me right after I was born, so I grew up in orphanages before I was adopted and moved to the United States.”


“It was November 9, 2011 when I had called the Kent County Jail to schedule an appointment with (my father), they said Immigration had already took him to jail in Detroit.”


“Minutes turned into hours, hours turned into days, days turned into weeks. I would come home and complain about how cold it was, but I was too young to understand that my mom didn’t have money to pay the bill.”


“I couldn’t read or write I could only speak a little English and I could never get my school work done on time I had no idea how to do it and I often got frustrated and angry that I couldn’t complete a single assignment.”


“Then (my father) got deported and everything changed. My mom was struggling, trying to find a way to pay for the bills and the house payments at the same time.”


— from “Always a New Chapter, Wyoming HS 2014”

Student Maria Pablo shares a moment with author Sonia Nazario during her visit to Wyoming
Student Maria Pablo shares a moment with author Sonia Nazario during her visit to Wyoming


Wyoming High School students’ life stories unfold with startling detail, touching on hard realities they have faced. They are chronicled in the book “Always a New Chapter,” a self-published compilation of essays and stories written by 214 students.


Inspired by Sonia Nazario, Pulitzer Prize-winning author of the immigration story “Enrique’s Journey,” students wrote about their own values and beliefs in relation to themes Nazario touched on during a recent visit to Wyoming High School.


Through a partnership with the Wyoming Branch Kent District Library’s “Wyoming Reads” program, students each got a copy of “Enrique’s Journey” to study. Nazario’s book recounts the quest of a Honduran boy looking for his mother, 11 years after she is forced to leave her starving family to find work in the United States.


Students then drew from their own life experiences to write short narratives and essays for publication. They had the chance to meet and speak with Nazario.


“The kids were able to get their (copies) signed by her and listen to her speak about immigration and her struggle — about being a minority, working hard and grit,” said media specialist Melissa Schneider, who coordinated the project.


Nazario talked to students about their experiences. “It was very personal for some of the kids,” Schneider said, noting that even non-immigrant students could relate.

Junior Leslie Enriquez wrote about immigration
Junior Leslie Enriquez wrote about immigration


Writing a Book


The assignment morphed into tales of survival that bring human faces to universal themes, such as personal journeys, perseverance, grit, determination, the value of education and family relations. Students’ voices come off the pages in blunt, honest phrases that now are forever documented in the book.


“It was an opportunity for them to see, ‘Wow, I’m a published writer,’ which some of them would have never aspired to, and to show them that they have a voice,” Schneider said.


Almost all juniors, except Advanced Placement students who are focusing on the end-of-year exam, were assigned to complete an entry, and nearly all submitted their work by deadline.


Eleventh-grade English teacher Joslyn Rodgers said many entries were eye-opening. “You get a good glimpse into their pasts and their backgrounds, and you get a better understanding of why they act the way they do,” she said.


Not Giving Up


Junior Juan Hernandez wrote the entry, “A Time I Didn’t Give Up,” about leaving his country and culture in Puerto Rico for “a better life and a better education.” He tells of how difficult it was to attend school where he didn’t speak the language. He found his way.

Junior Juan Hernandez wrote about moving from Puerto Rico for the book “Always a New Chapter”
Junior Juan Hernandez wrote about moving from Puerto Rico for the book “Always a New Chapter”


“I like people to know what I write because not everybody’s life is as easy as it seems and as good as it seems,” said Juan, who now has a 3.4 grade point average and plays football. “What I’m going through I can get through. It pushes me to do better and motivates me to try hard in everything.”


Leslie Enriquez wrote “Mi Papa Y La Migra: My Dad and the Immigration Police.” It’s a story about a girl whose father is deported and the animosity she feels from people about immigrants.


“That’s one of the biggest issues in America and the world today and one of the hardest things to find a solution to,” Leslie said.  “I feel like people can actually read my stuff and hopefully it will inspire them too.”

Junior Taylor Scheidel wrote about how immigrants have enriched U.S. culture
Junior Taylor Scheidel wrote about how immigrants have enriched U.S. culture


Looking Forward


While many students tell of sad, difficult circumstances, glimmers of optimism and hope also shine through “Always a New Chapter”:


“Today after 20 years both of (my parents) have acquired their citizenship and are here now legally. For most immigrants that is part of their goal to be legal in the United States otherwise referred to as the American Dream. I am proud of my parents for taking that journey to help their family back in Mexico.”


“I hope one day to finish high school and go back to my countries, Thailand and Burma, to help my Karen refugee people.”


“I’ve realized that sometimes it’s better to think about other people’s happiness before thinking about my own.”


“I want to show my future kids that education and hard work is the key to life — just like my father showed me. My dad, to this day, makes sacrifices for me every day and I love him for that.”


“I learned to be thankful for what I have. I saw the struggle my mother went through to get me where I am. I am blessed.”


The book is available in the Wyoming High School Media Center, the Wyoming Branch Kent District Library and for purchase online, here at TheBookPatch.com