Monthly Archives: February 2012

Gerald R. Ford Essay Winners

Since the blog post last week, many of you have shown your support by asking to read copies of the winning essays in the GR Ford essay contest. Thank you! We wanted to offer an update that those essays have not yet been posted on the Ford website, but we will provide necessary links as soon as they become available. Please check back often!

Categories: APS Celebrations, Student Award Winners | Tags: | 1 Comment

STAR STUDENT: 8th Grader Sam Austin

It’s always a pleasure to call attention to the wonderful young people we’re privileged to teach and interact with in Allendale. With so much news of hardship, the Allendale Outlook wants to make a point of sharing some joy!  That’s why this week and next we’ll be featuring “Star Students” who exemplify the character traits and commitment to personal success we so admire.

This week we bring our focus to Allendale Middle School. When I first asked AMS principal, Mr. Thompson, for a Star Student recommendation, he didn’t hesitate.

“Sam Austin is responsible, humble, and full of integrity,” he shared. “He’s a leader and makes our school a better place.”

Mr. Thompson shared a story of a recent spelling bee mix-up where groups of participants were accidentally given two different word lists, thus placing a section of the kids on uneven footing with their classmates.

Sam finished in 2nd place and would have been fully within his rights to insist that the results of the bee be upheld, however he made another choice. He felt it would be only fair to offer everyone involved the same preparation list and re-do the bee! Sam’s integrity dictated fairness and equal opportunity for all. (Incidentally, Sam went on to win the Regional Spelling Bee and will compete in the State Finals in Grand Rapids on March 13!)

Mr. Thompson recounted another situation in which he was called into a Spanish class dealing with some out-of-line students. Sam stood up and challenged his classmates with this question: “Are you part of the problem? Or part of the solution?”  In middle school, that takes a lot of courage!  (continued below photo)

Sam holding one of his Lego robotics creations.

Aside from his academic achievements, Sam is passionate about Lego robotics and has been an integral part of Allendale’s Lego club for four years. In fact, he shared that if he was given a million legos, he’d build a full-size, fully-functional Lego house! Sam dreams of one day becoming a NASA rocket scientist or an aerospace engineer, and we won’t be surprised if he makes that dream a reality.

My favorite thing about school,” he explains matter-of-factly, “is the opportunity to learn new things. I think continuing to learn new things is an incredibly essential part of life.”

Sam’s work ethic makes him strive for his best in every endeavor. He puts in countless hours on the Lego team until he gets it right. Where does this work ethic come from? At least in part, Sam shared, from Mr. Piccard, his 6th grade teacher.  “He was a hard worker. He inspired me to work hard.”

There are many things that make Sam a “Star Student” in Allendale: he epitomizes the spirit of being a lifelong learner, a caring young person, and a contributing member of society. 

We recognize his efforts and applaud him for the leadership he displays and the integrity he maintains each day in the middle school. Hats off to you, Sam! 

Categories: Students in the Spotlight! | Tags: , , | 3 Comments

Allendale Boasts TWO Award Finalists!

Finalists Samantha Dickson & Melissa DeWitt

Each year the Gerald R. Ford Museum, in partnership with the Grand Rapids Press, offers a high school essay challenge around a specific topic such as patriotism or integrity. This year’s topic, The Meaning of Leadership Today, drew nearly 400 submissions from West Michigan high schoolers, each vying for one of three prize-winning spots.

Once essays were submitted, judges whittled the pile down to eighteen finalists from across the area. You can imagine our thrill when we received word that two of the eighteen finalists were Allendale High School students!

Today we applaud these two finalists: Samantha Dickson and Melissa DeWitt. Samantha’s touching essay focused on the sacrifices and leadership demonstrated by her stepdad. She shares that he is a hero to her because he entered her life when she was very young and was present. No grand gestures, no wild expressions of love, just time; just being there.

Melissa used the essay contest to herald the leadership demonstrated by her great-grandmother. She shared stories of how this special woman responded to unkind parents and a grim family situation. Melissa counts her great-grandmother as a hero because she rose above difficult circumstances and stood by her convictions in the face of trials.

Last night, February 20, Melissa and Samantha were invited to attend a special awards banquet at the Gerald R. Ford Presidential Library and Museum where Gloria Lara, Chief Executive Officer of Girl Scouts of Michigan Shore to Shore, gave the keynote address. It was at the banquet that Samantha Dickson learned that her essay won 2nd prize…making her the lucky recipient of $1,500!!

These young ladies have emerged as leaders in this esteemed competition and deserve our applause! Congratulations to them both!

Categories: APS Celebrations, Student Award Winners, Students in the Spotlight! | Tags: , , , , , | 16 Comments

Allendale 5th Graders Pay Tribute To Cancer Survivors

Mrs. Gravelyn in class with her students.

Something special happens each month at Oakwood Elementary School: 5th grade classes led by Mrs. Schroeder and Mrs. Marsman celebrate a theme day together. Together, they take time to plan activities and run stations that encourage the group to dive deeper into the theme.

This month’s theme day was all about Cancer Awareness, something that strikes close to home at Oakwood. Aside from the many personal family connections that our students have, they also have a classroom connection to cancer in Mrs. Vicki Gravelyn, a 4th grade teacher who is also a seven year breast cancer survivor.

Mrs. Gravelyn was in just her third year of teaching at Oakwood when she received the diagnosis that would change her life–at only 37 years of age.

Drawing from her experience, Mrs. Gravelyn shared her personal cancer journey with APS  fifth-graders, ending with a challenge to live life purposefully.

As she tells it, despite a difficult year of chemotherapy, a double mastectomy, and a full year of weekly Herseptin treatments, Vicki drew strength from the Allendale community who offered a level of support and camaraderie unlike any she had known before. 

“I was embraced like I had been here forever,” she shared with emotion. “This is an awesome community.” 

The fifth graders at Oakwood proved her right this month when they decided to sell pink cancer awareness bracelets for $1 each as part of their project. When everything was totaled, our students raised over $300 for the American Cancer Society!

Students also moved between stations that gave them opportunities to continue to ponder the effects of cancer:

  • A bracelet-making station where a bead was added to represent a life that has been touched by cancer.
  • A card-making station where students made cards for oncology patients at Helen DeVos Children’s Hospital.
  • A luminary-making station where luminaries were decorated in honor of a life touched by cancer.

Thanks to Mrs. Schroeder for this photo.

In addition to these activities and the wonderful demonstration of financial support, students took a slip of paper and wrote the name of someone they knew who has cancer, who is a survivor, or who has lost their battle with the disease. At the end of the theme day, students returned to a gymnasium that was illumined only by student-made luminaries while the submitted names were compiled into a slide show that played for all to see.

The day was a wonderful reminder of the caring community we’re all fortunate to be a part of. Kudos to our fifth grade teachers, students, and Mrs. Gravelyn for contributing to a terrific day!

Categories: Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , | 6 Comments

Happy 50th Anniversary, Carol!

Ms. Carol Coffey, Secretary at Allendale High School

When Carol Coffey first walked through the doors of Allendale Public School (yes, that’s school singular), it was 1962. John F. Kennedy occupied the Oval Office and Coopersville’s Del Shannon crooned over the airwaves about his Little Runaway.

At the same time on Lake Michigan Drive, in the building we remember as the former senior high, Carol was beginning her career in the office. Over time she witnessed a small country school with a few elementary grades swell to accommodate an equally booming city of Allendale.

Eventually, Carol settled into her sweet spot interacting with high schoolers, saying she loves the age. “…I just love being with the kids and interacting with them every day.”

So when the new senior high building was constructed, Carol decided to move with it. And the rest, as they say, is history.

A lot has changed in the fifty years since Carol first sat behind the front office desk. Rotary-dial phones have morphed into cordless ones with headsets. Handwritten notes have given way, in large part, to email. Typewriters have been replaced with computers.

And while we’ve seen nine different men rise to the office of President of the United States in that same span of time, Allendale has been blessed to have enjoyed the dedication given by one outstanding secretary who continues to greet students with a smile every day.

On behalf of our community and Allendale Public Schools, we offer our deep gratitude and our sincere congratulations to Ms. Carol Coffey for five decades of committed service! We appreciate you!

Celebrating together!

Categories: APS Celebrations | Tags: , , , | 5 Comments

Allendale Preschool Registration Next Week!

Have you been searching for a preschool experience for your child that fits your budget and your child’s needs? We’re proud of the programs we offer here at Allendale Public Schools and would love to have you consider Wee Ones Preschool for your own “wee one”!

Aside from daily crafts, time outside on our playground, group rug time, and center activities, your child will begin down the path to literacy by learning Zoophonics, a system of teaching letter and sound recognition that uses animals in addition to the written letter symbol. Teaching phonics is an incredibly important skill for beginning and emerging readers, and Allendale is excited to help lay a strong foundation for our youngest students.

Additionally, Wee Ones offers parents the option to choose how many days a week best suits their child.  Four & five year olds preparing for kindergarten may elect a schedule of either two or three days a week, depending on their level of school readiness. Three year olds attend our preschool two days a week.

With tuition starting at just $325 per semester, Allendale Public Schools makes it affordable to give your child the first steps so critical to success. For more details: Wee Ones 2012-2013 Information

Registration for WEE ONES:

NEXT TUESDAY, February 7, 2012

5:30 – 7 pm

At the Allendale District Office: 10505 Learning Lane

(South end of Oakwood Intermediate: Door ‘A’)

If you would like to pick up registration forms to fill out prior to Tuesday’s event, you may do so at the district office. However, completed enrollment forms will not be accepted prior to 5:30 pm on February 7, 2012.

Categories: Allendale Public Schools Preschool | Tags: , , | 1 Comment


This winter we were surprised, as were many of you, to learn that the Advance Newspapers would no longer be making its way into your homes each Tuesday. Our Falcon Flier, it seemed, would need a new pair of wings.

While it is still our intention to share news with the Allendale community in print, we feel that you deserve something regular, timely, and available around the clock in addition to those paper mailings. And most of all, we feel that our kids deserve a place to shine. 

The Allendale Outlook is just that place. With weekly updates on current happenings and spotlight stories on exceptional students, this blog is meant to be a showcase of our best stories and our brightest moments.

Click on the “subscribe” button to receive email updates, and help us spread the word by using the SHARE button below to post us on your own Facebook page! Let’s bring the community together, one click at a time.

Categories: blogging, Community News | Tags: , , , | 9 Comments

Create a free website or blog at

%d bloggers like this: