Monthly Archives: May 2014

Allendale High School Commencement Marks New Beginning

Allendale Graduation-21With the crowd on their feet and 175 seniors filing in to officially bookend their high school education, the 2014 Commencement Services of Allendale High School began with the first notes of Pomp and Circumstance last Thursday, May 22.

The fifteen-minute processional featured young men and female walking partners carrying a long-stemmed class flower, the Black Gerbera Daisy. After finding their seats, students were welcomed by senior Dayton Wierenga who recited Jeremiah 29:11 after taking a “selfie” that Mr. Remenap jokingly declared “the first official cell phone violation at a graduation ceremony.” After an opening prayer by Wierenga and remarks from Mr. Remenap, Superintendent Jonker took the stage.

With heartfelt recollection, Dr. Jonker reminded students of their personal grit and character, and gave an affirming nod to the families that journeyed with each of them:

“When you started school in Kindergarten, America was shocked by the attack on the twin towers of the World Trade Center, now you are graduating and a new skyscraper, museum, and memorial stand where those buildings once stood.  This is just one example of the resiliency of our nation and the fortitude of people to move forward, but never forget.  We all can learn from our experiences.  Some of those experiences may not have been pleasant, but we can take that knowledge and turn it into the foundation of a strong and persevering character.

Your parents are to be congratulated for helping you get to this point.  They have sacrificed much out of their love for you and hope for your future.  I hope you take the time to thank them for their dedication to your success.  Their service to you above self should be a lesson you embody for the rest of your life.”

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Mr. Remenap injected some humor when he reminded the graduating class that their very first day of freshman orientation included a power outage. He recalled the progress they’d made during their four years at Allendale High and stopped to remember David Aguilar, the then-7th grader who died on a 2009 family trip to Mexico to visit family over the Christmas holiday. David’s parents, David and Claudia were in attendance in his memory.

After the band and choirs performed and the Salutatorian and Valedictorian offered their own speeches, graduates took to the stage, finally laying hold of their coveted diplomas.

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Dr. Jonker’s remarked included a quote from the poet Robert Frost. “Two roads diverged in a wood, and I, I took the one less traveled by, and that has made all the difference.”

This spring—and for these graduates—we hope they find the courage to take the road less traveled; to be the unique individuals they were made to be, and to charter new paths without looking back. This spring, may these graduates find their wings to soar as Falcons set free. Best of luck, Class of 2014!

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Mark Your Calendars: Community Field Day is May 31

undefinedAllendale’s Third Annual Allendale Community Field Day offers both community beautification and learning experiences for a fun, action-packed family day on May 31.

Spearheaded by Allendale Middle School science teacher Keith Piccard and GVSU Professor Peter Riemersma, the day seeks to harness the “power of many volunteers” to build an outdoor learning space that can be utilized by APS teachers, the community and young scientists everywhere.

Believing that valuable educational opportunities await outside the traditional classroom, especially in the sciences, both Piccard and Riemersma excitedly await a morning of community interaction that will pave the way for that completed outdoor space. Once gardens are tended and water tested, their hope is that these outdoor learning spaces will be continually improved and promoted for more frequent use throughout the school year.

As for the day’s agenda, participating families will be invited to join in these events prior to gobbling up a free lunch:

  • Stream Flow Measurement Wiers and Duck Race: weirs will be constructed and installed in the Sevey Drain running through campus so that participants can measure water velocity. Using this information, along with the distance to the finish line, families will make duck race predictions before racing their own yellow duck.
  • Minnow Traps: Local boy scouts will be on hand to help participants create minnow traps and learn how to use them. Minnow traps play an important role in estimating local fish populations.
  • Project Budburst Garden maintenance: volunteers are invited to play a critical role in maintaining the garden work that was completed in the previous two Community Days. A key part of this venture will be simplifying and streamlining the tasks needed to maintain those areas.
  • Many other fun, educational activitieslike a nature scavenger hunt, walking tours of school gardens and previous projects, water evaluation under digital microscopes, looking at aquatic macroinvertebrates, and water conductivity and turbidity.

For information about how you can get involved, please contact Peter Riemersma ( or Keith Piccard (

Hope to see you Saturday morning, May 31!


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AHS Juniors Visit Colleges, Plan for Bright Futures

Allendale High School guidance officer Liz Pellegrom had an idea: she knew the best way to prepare students for the future…was to show it to them. That’s why this spring, the guidance office organized a college visitation day for all juniors desiring to visit Muskegon Community College and Baker, Western or Central Michigan.

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Students Shelbi Dyke, Nate Couturier and Olivia McClure reflect on their college visits with AHS.

Buses traveled to each of these three locations with roughly 150 kids—nearly the entire junior class. Students interested in other schools had the freedom to plan visits with their parents to those colleges, while those not wanting to miss class were able to stay behind to study.

This was AHS’ first year of doing a trip like this, but Ms. Pellegrom is certain it will become a junior year right of passage. In fact, staff is considering what college visits could mean for freshmen and sophomores, too. If it would help Allendale students start to consider college from an earlier age and then plan accordingly, it could be a “win” for everyone.

“We feel it’s important for students to see what’s out there and have the chance to see a college dorm room, hear what certain colleges have to offer, learn a little bit about financial aid and scholarships, and just be on the campus for something other than just a sports game,” said Ms. Pellegrom. She continued, “It’s really important to get on campus and not apply to schools you’ve never been to.  You have to know if it’s the right fit for you.”

This is something that junior Shelbi Dyke confirmed after visiting MCC and Baker College. “I thought I wanted to go to MCC before the trip and then I was just going to transfer to Grand Valley. However, after visiting there, I actually decided against MCC because I didn’t like it. I didn’t see anyone smiling, and for some reason, this bothered me. On the other hand, I knew nothing about Baker. I was actually dreading it, but then we went there and I’m considering Baker now! I love their dorms and I think I’m going to schedule a visit.”

Olivia McClure also took note of the “happiness factor” when she visited Western Michigan. “That was my #1 thing. At Western, everyone was happy, everyone we passed said “hi”, everyone was really happy.”

She reported that the tour guide called Western a “Heads-Up” School, meaning that students aren’t walking around with the heads buried in their phones or other devices, they are interacting and engaging with each other.  Also, everyone keeps their dorm room doors open as a way to meet other people which Olivia really liked.

Several students also shared how valuable it was to talk with admissions counselors about things like overnight guests, sports opportunities, family visits, roommates and other on-campus opportunities. They realized that tapping social media for information about colleges, a common practice for some, is not all that reliable when held up against conversations had with actual students in real dorms.

Nate Couturier enjoyed getting to see what Central Michigan had to offer. “I thought CMU was pretty cool. There are a lot of different activities to do, and there’s a big student rec. center, basketball courts and swimming pool—everything you’d need to keep yourself occupied on campus.” Nate still has plans to visit U of M and Indiana University.

Juniors appreciated the effort made by the school to visit the colleges, thanking guidance counselors and Mr. Rememap for the opportunity to make  informed choices for the future.

“Mr. Remenap really cares about our education, more than the average principal, I would say. And I think I’m pretty prepared to go to college.”


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Allendale Vocational Tech Classes Opens Doors for All

For many students, planning for a future beyond Allendale High School includes college brochures, military considerations or trade schools. There are grade point averages to consider and volunteer opportunities to take advantage of. But for others, exiting high school means something different, but something equally as important: finding meaningful work.

For years, Allendale High School has offered the vocational technology program as a way to support students receiving special education services through IEP’s (Individualized Education Plans). Students can elect this course along with the rest of his or her class loads to help with skills like compiling a resumé and applying for a job.

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Class instructor Stephanie Torp explained, “Basically, our program is community-based instruction. We try to get as many community events on the calendar for our kids to participate in so they learn social, life and workplace skills. The goal is that, eventually, once they’re older, will be working full time somewhere.”

The inclusion of community events has brought the group to places like

  • On Tuesday’s from 12 – 2pm they volunteer at LOVE Inc. by sorting and tagging clothes. They help out as much as they can, saving Thursdays for a fun activity day.
  • GVSU Art Gallery
  • They went to Peppino’s Pizza, where they’ve shown them how everything works in the kitchen and students each made a pizza. They learned to toss the dough and do all the things that they may be doing someday.
  • Art Prize: they took the city bus to get downtown so the students could experience how to use public transportation before enjoying downtown Grand Rapids.
  • They talk about tipping and paying in a restaurant.
  • They’ve gone to Meijer with the goal of finding the best deals for their grocery shopping (lists were given as part of a scavenger hunt).
  • They visited Goodwill Industries, who has offered on-site work to kids when they are ready. Juniors and seniors have the opportunity to get placed in jobs through the program when and if they are ready, though they do not have any students placed at the moment.
  • They traveled to Ottawa County Fillmore Complex to talk to a police officer to talk about what skills are required to work in the system. Additionally, they talked about the different jobs they could do at the Complex, such as working in the cafeteria or custodial work in the jails. If they went to school for two years after high school they might be able to work in the corrections department.
  • Some of the vocational tech students work in the Red Zone (school store), selling cookies and slushies to the student body. This helps them with their social skills as well as reading, making change and any other skill that may be helpful in a retail situation.

Allendale High School

With nine students enrolled in the program, teacher Mrs. Torp says, “We’re grateful to the organizations and businesses that have allowed us to come in and have donated so much of their time to give us these experiences. We appreciate it! If organizations are willing to work with us, we’re able to provide students with the best experiences possible to be independently successful once they’re out of school.”

For students, the personal and social transformations have been life-changing. One student, who will remain annonymous, has gained the confidence and direction to become an independent young woman. Mrs. Torp shared that when she first joined vocational tech, “ …we couldn’t get her to say two words to us! She had to be walked everywhere, and when we went on our first outing she held my hand because she was nervous about it. Now we can’t keep her next to us and she is one of the most vocal kids we have.”

Another student said, “When I started the program, I would barely even talk to anyone. Now I am more open to everyone thanks to Mrs.Torp and Mrs.Val (another teacher). The first few field trips that they took I skipped out, because I felt like I was sick. Now I don’t feel sick because I don’t have as much stress in me. I like this program because we go on lots of field trips like art prize and Peppino’s Pizza to see how they do their job. We also have a teacher lunch on the last day of the month. That’s how the vocational tech program helped me and why I like it.”

Thanks to the teachers and community members who pave the way for new opportunities for students with disabilities! Especially with graduation approaching, we’re grateful that bright futures are available to all.

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