APS Celebrations

Allendale Alumni Hall of Fame Adds to its Ranks

With the lower level of Main Street Pub buzzing with anticipation, Saturday evening’s Allendale Alumni Hall of Fame dinner kicked off with drinks, hors d’oeuvres and an estimated one hundred people dressed in their Sunday best.

Allendale Public Schools

Allendale Public Schools

Designed primarily to honor the contributions of Allendale Public School Alumni, Dr. Jonker explained that the awards have been extended to include the service of APS-associated individuals, such as parents and staff. Having learned from other nearby school systems like Rockford and Ypsilanti, he explained that some of the magic of this recognition comes “…when students see what’s out there. They better understand what they can achieve when they have role models that came from Allendale who can inspire them.”

Allendale Public Schools

This year, five people were inducted into the Allendale Alumni Hall of Fame, three of whom were alumni and two of whom were honored for their service. Dr. Jonker noted that, “Our Allendale Public Schools Foundation committee really wanted to have a way to honor alumni who have made contributions, not only to the community but beyond.”

Today we extend our congratulations to Robert “Gene” Elkins, Betty LaBrecque, Robert Jackson, Nicholas Ceglarek and George Suchecki.

Allendale Public Schools

Robert “Gene” Elkins, who was honored posthumously, was a WWII vet instrumental in the establishment of Allendale High School. After serving as a principal from 1961-1964, Gene went on to serve as APS Superintendent from 1965-1985. His widow, Dorothy, expressed gratitude for the honor, saying that without the efforts of her husband, “there would be no Allendale High School.”

Betty LaBrecque, a 1988 grad, has worked tirelessly on dozens of parent-led committees, coordinating the work and donations of other parents, most recently as AHS Music Booster treasurer, vice president and president. She shared that she had a great high school experience herself, so her goal was to make high school a positive experience for her kids, too. Over time, Betty got more and more involved, doing things for her own children and the kids she “adopted.”

“The thing I like most is walking through the hallways and hearing the kids yell, “Hi Mrs. LeBrecque” and run up and give you a hug. It makes it all worthwhile — it is an honor.”

Robert Jackson, a 1977 grad, is perhaps better known as the 1987 “Cincinatti Man of the Year” after nine years of playing professional football for the Cincinatti Bengals. Now a motivational speaker, Robert said it felt nice “coming home,” though he wished his team members could have joined him.

“I didn’t make the holes or make all the passes myself — it was always a team. That’s the way we grew up, it wasn’t just one person”. Robert is also a 2009 inductee into the Grand Rapids Sports Hall of Fame.

Nicholas Ceglarek, a 1991 grad, began teaching and working as an administrator in Rockford in 2002-2003. In 2003, Nick was awarded the GVSU Outstanding Administrator Award, after which time he worked as a superintendent in Baldwin, Fruitport and then Hudsonville, where he serves presently.

“It’s  hard to describe what this means to me. It’s an honor and it’s humbling to be recognized when you realize that there are so many worthy, unbelievable people that graduated from Allendale Schools who have gone on to do great things. Allendale has been such a treasure for me and has really shaped who I am. I’ll always have a heart here.”

George Sucheki was appointed as the first principal of then-newly-formed Allendale High School in 1969. He went on to continue in that role until 1990! Following his time as principal, George worked as the Computer and Tech Director from 1994-2001. During his career, he has also served as middle school basketball coach, golf coach (after being instrumental in starting the program) and State Champion softball coach.

When asked about the honor, George became emotional, saying, “It means a lot. My heart was always in Allendale. It never really left.”

Congrats to all of these 2013 inductees!

Allendale Public Schools

Categories: Allendale Public Schools, APS Celebrations, Community News | Tags: , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Homecoming in Review

Last Friday, with warm temps and brilliant sunshine spilling across our Allendale campuses, students and staff eagerly prepared for another Homecoming celebration. After gathering in the high school parking lot and assembling the parade line-up, the group was led by Batman and Robin (Mr. Remenap and Mr. Hadden) through nearby neighborhoods and down Learning Lane to visit the elementary, intermediate and middle school students. Local families also came out and lined the street to enjoy the fun.

High school student groups represented in the parade included the cheerleaders, football players, Speak Up! Stand Out! students, the marching band, general members of the student body, and of course, the Homecoming Court. The young spectators cheered excitedly, waving signs with the numbers of their favorite players, and yelling and chanting for their team.

The lovable Falcon mascot gave high-fives while Mr. Remenap encouraged everyone to cheer loudly enough “so they hear us in Sparta!” Whether his instruction worked or it was Homecoming magic is unknown, but Allendale High School went on to beat Sparta that night, 38-7.

We want to thank everyone who helped make the day a success! Check out the school spirit on display below in our gallery of Homecoming Parade photos!

Allendale Public Schools, Allendale High School, APS, Homecoming

Allendale Public Schools, Allendale High School, APS, Homecoming

Allendale Public Schools, Allendale High School, APS, Homecoming

falcon, Allendale Public Schools, Allendale High School, APS, Homecoming

Allendale Public Schools, Allendale High School, APS, Homecoming

Allendale Public Schools, Allendale High School, APS, Homecoming

Allendale Public Schools, Allendale High School, APS, Homecoming

batman, Allendale Public Schools, Allendale High School, APS, Homecoming

Allendale Public Schools, Allendale High School, APS, Homecoming

cheer, Allendale Public Schools, Allendale High School, APS, Homecoming

tuba, Allendale Public Schools, Allendale High School, APS, Homecoming

Allendale Public Schools, Allendale High School, APS, Homecoming

Allendale Public Schools, Allendale High School, APS, Homecoming

Categories: Allendale High School, Allendale Public Schools, APS Celebrations | Tags: , | Leave a comment

Allendale Robotics Team Members Reflect on a Winning Year

Robotics Competition, Trisonic, Allendale High School, Zach Holmes, Zach Jones

(L to R): Zach Jones and Zach Holmes are sad to see their season end.

For Allendale High School Robotics Team members, success in their spring competition was gravy on top of a season of friendship and intense bonding. Senior Zach Jones and Junior Zach Holmes were teammates who say that working closely together for hundreds of hours did more than create a winning robot: it created family.

This was Zach Holmes’ first year of robotics, getting involved only because he convinced his best friend to join him. He soon realized that there were new friends to be made over a table of math problems and engineering dilemmas.

“We worked in small groups during the season — we had a “design” group, a “build” group, and a “programming” group. But even though we were clustered with specific classmates, by the end of the season we were locking arms because we had gotten so close,” said Mr. Holmes who plans to join the Marines after his 2014 graduation. He intends to study mechanical engineering.

Unique to this team is the fact that it operates in partnership with other local high schools. This year students from Jenison High School joined, forming a team of fourteen young men: 9 from APS and 5 from Jenison.

Their goal, aside from crafting a winning robot, was to branch out into the community to garner support. By including local businesses, these students were able to make solid real-world connections to their work. For instance, this year’s robot frame was built by Laser Dynamics in Allendale. They also received sponsorships from numerous others.

In no less than six weeks, the team had their robot designed, assembled, and programmed to win. They spent over seventy hours of their mid-winter break perfecting the device, and said those long days solidified their personal connections.

“We really are one big family,” said Zach Jones, who also intends to study engineering after graduation. “We try to include everyone. At all times when we were working on something, we had at least five sets of hands inside the robot … it can be chaotic, but we all held it together.”

After an initial competition in Traverse City, the 2013 Allendale Jenison TriSonics team played “Ultimate Ascent” at the fieldhouse on Grand Valley State University’s campus in late March. In “Ultimate Ascent,” robots were challenged with collecting discs resembling frisbees, and then scoring goals with them. During the first 15 seconds of the game robots functioned in autonomous mode, relying on the students’ expert programming completed over weeks of preparation time.

Allendale Public Schools, TriSonics, Allendale Robotics Team

The next 15 seconds allowed for the robot to be driven by teleoperators. Finally, in the final 30 seconds of the game, robots actually had to climb a pyramid! Points were allotted based on how high the robot climbed.

We are proud of this group for being named a Finalist and receiving the Team Spirit Award at the West Michigan District Event. But more than anything, we celebrate with them that academics and extra-curricular passions have led to wonderful friendships and a determination to pursue excellence far beyond the TriSonics competitions of high school.

Categories: Allendale High School, Allendale Public Schools, APS Celebrations, Student Award Winners | Tags: , , , , | Leave a comment

Allendale Students Win Big at “I Challenge U”

Over the summer, forty-five students from fourteen schools in the Ottawa County area were invited to participate in the Ottawa Area Intermediate School District’s (OAISD) first ever “I Challenge U” competition.

“I Challenge U” partnered area businesses with student groups and mentor teachers, inviting them to tackle real-life problems faced by business owners and suggest creative solutions that could actually be implemented.

After weeks of hard work, Justice Jones’ and Chance Storm’s work for the Ottawa County United Way garnered them (and their team) first place in the competition! Each team member was awarded $750 in scholarship money as well as $250 for their high school!Justice Jones, Chance Storm, Allendale Public Schools, Allendale High School, I Challenge U, OAISD

Justice Jones and Chance Storm discuss their winning idea.

Justice and Chance’s group began by examining the challenge of getting food to those in need in Ottawa County. Justice noted that working in a group with new voices had its hurdles. “It was definitely challenging to learn how to work with others on a team. Many people had very strong opinions.”

The group visited food pantries, soup kitchens, and the Holland Rescue Mission to gather ideas and information about what was already being done to help those in need of food. Interacting with community members opened their eyes to the realities many face. Yet despite hardships, Justice commented, “It’s amazing to see how people with very little still found a way to stay happy.” 

The team decided that perhaps it was time for a new approach, but …“Finding data that could be helpful was difficult. It’s hard for people to open up about their needs. They don’t want to ask for help or admit that they need help feeding their families,” Chance explained.

Their creative thinking produced an award-winning idea for centralized “depots” or “superstores” like Meijer that would sell discounted food. Bridge card holders would receive a monetary allotment to shop at the depots based on income. The notion of shopping for food and making choices rather than merely accepting what was put before them, they reasoned, would create ownership and renew pride in the shopper. Their suggestion to the United Way included first opening a depot in Holland, where needs are greatest, and then following with a second store in Muskegon.

Passata explained the benefits of I Challenge U this way: “Project-based learning like I Challenge U gives kids exposure to real world, real business problems. Working this way helps students develop 21st century skills and spurs them to think critically about problem solving.”

This year six local businesses were involved in I Challenge U, but OAISD project coordinator Jason Pasatta is hoping to expand to twelve businesses and 100 students next year to give more incoming juniors and seniors a glimpse into real-world problems.

If you are a local business owner open to the idea of inviting students to participate in real-world problem solving with your business, please contact Mr. Pasatta at jpasatta@oaisd.org for details of how you might get involved next year.

Congratulations again to Justice and Chance for your success in I Challenge U! We are Falcon proud!

Categories: APS Celebrations, contests, Special Projects at APS, Student Award Winners | Tags: , , , , , | Leave a comment

2012 Homecoming Parade in Pictures

One of the things so many people love about Allendale Public Schools is the way we work to connect students across the district around one common focus. This past March we came together to get healthy at our annual Fitness Frenzy. In the spring our community supported the middle school science department’s work on Project BudburstLast Friday our focus was Homecoming, and despite the cool temperatures, our students were ready to celebrate!

Members of the 2012 Homecoming Court prepare for the parade.

Sophomore reps brave the wind together.

Beginning at 1:30 in the afternoon, the  Homecoming Court, Allendale Marching Band, cheer squad, sports teams, and all members of each class from the high school assembled and prepared to make the trek from the senior high to the K-8 campus. Learning Lane ballooned with the grinning faces of elementary and middle school students as the parade wrapped its way around buildings and through the heart of our campus.

Under the shelter of changing leaves, our elementary students clapped and thumped out cheers as the Homecoming Court neared. Members of the football team high-fived young fans while proudly sporting their Wounded Warrior jerseys in anticipation for the evening’s fundraising game.

This Homecoming was filled with connections: upperclassmen connecting with underclassmen, football players connecting with veterans, community members connecting with our school, and graduates coming home. We are proud of our young people, our teachers, and each of the schools that make up our district.

What were some of your Homecoming memories? We’d love to hear about them! Please leave a comment below to share.

Categories: APS Celebrations, Athletics | Tags: , , , | 6 Comments

Celebrating a Summer of Reading

For the past fourteen years, the Amazing Reading Bus has lumbered through the streets of Allendale loaning books and borrowing smiles from students who might not otherwise visit a library during the summer months. Monday’s celebration at Allendale Township Park was a colorful reminder of just what this program means to our community members and how much our youngest readers value the opportunity to search for new stories.
Over the past six weeks, the Amazing Reading Bus (whose interior is pictured above) has shared fiction and phonics with over 600 students! With the goal of simply keeping kids reading throughout the summer, Allendale Elementary Assistant Principal Ryan Coghill noted that getting books in the hands of kids is paramount. By creating bus stops and disseminating a schedule, students are given the chance to get new books each week!

The Amazing Reading Bus Party was a culmination of more than a month of the mobile library encouraging reading and boosting reading comprehension. The twelfth of its kind designed to by Title 1 Coordinator Richelle Rybinski, yesterday’s celebration was a carefree family outing filled with fun. Jill Wilson, Principal of Allendale Elementary School, summed it up by saying, “It’s a nice time of year to reconnect with families and get them excited about the transition back to school.”
The success of the Amazing Reading Bus hinges not only on the kids who eagerly await its weekly arrival, but also on the wonderful women behind the wheel.

Connie Merrill and Deb Oros devote their summers to helping students find books at their reading level, study new sight words, and create flash cards to help students practice. They say that there’s nothing better than hearing kids get excited about reading and recommend books to each other. It makes their day when two friends choose the same book so they can read it together.

Amazing Reading Bus drivers Connie Merrill & Deb Oros pictured with Title 1 Program Coordinator Richelle Rybinski (L to R)

The ladies of the Amazing Reading Bus also wish to thank the parents who so often have brought them something to drink, a snack to enjoy, or let them in their homes to use the restroom. “We even got root beer floats this summer!” they commented.  

All agreed: it’s the kindness of Allendale families that make their jobs a joy. Thank you to all of the families who joined us at the Township Park and for all the hours you spent reading with their children this summer! See you next year!

Categories: APS Celebrations, Community News, Reading Initiatives | Tags: , , , , | 1 Comment

Allendale High School Top Ten Students

This time of year has our hopes bursting at the seams: trees and flowers are blooming, the weather’s warming, and summer vacation is just around the corner. Our hopes run especially high when we turn our attention to the young people graduating from Allendale High School to begin a new chapter of life. 

It’s amazing to consider that the Class of 2012 has collectively earned $1.8 million dollars in scholarships!  This group of kids have plans that range from entering the work force to serving in foreign countries. Today we applaud them for their efforts both in the classroom and outside of it. We cheer them on as they begin a new kind of race: one of their own choosing and one that points to their own kind of finish line.

Though each of our students deserve a moment in the spotlight, we offer special congratulations to those students who landed on the esteemed “Top Ten” list. They have consistently gone above and beyond, have pursued excellence, and have demonstrated tenacity over their four-years at Allendale High.

Camryn DeLooff

Ms. Camryn DeLooff is our 2012 Valedictorian. Camryn was an all-conference varsity volleyball player, an all-conference honorable mention varsity bowler, a regional champion and state qualifier on the AHS track team, and a basketball player.

Camryn additionally served on Student Congress, was a member of National Honor Society, and worked as a volunteer at Gilda’s Club Grand Rapids to name just a few. Aside from all of these things, Camryn found time to maintain a 4.184 GPA! We wish her the best as she pursues medicine at either U of M or Oakland University this fall!

Kali LaHaie

Kali LaHaie is this year’s Co-Salutatorian with a 4.148 GPA. Kali was involved in National Honor Society and Rotary Interact Club during her time at Allendale High School.  She also impacted AHS athletics by participating in 3 different sports: basketball and volleyball and running track.

Kali plans to pursue a future in graphic design at Grand Valley State University Honor’s College. Congratulations, Kali! You’re designed to shine!

Victoria Westrick

Victoria Westrick joins the Top Ten as Co-Salutatorian with a 4.143 GPA. She played JV soccer and was a member of the National Honor Society beginning her sophomore year.

Victoria dreams of working for an international company or Christian ministry in a third-world country. To prepare for those roles, she plans to study business anthropology and Spanish, with a minor in French at GVSU’s Honor’s College. Best of luck, Victoria, with these wonderful aspirations!

Emily Gottschalk

Emily Gottschalk has secured our #4 spot with an impressive 4.124 GPA. 

Emily played soccer for 3 years and was active on the ski and snowboard club as well. She additionally worked on the yearbook for 3 years, acting as Editor-In-Chief her senior year. She was a National Honor Society Member, was active with Student Congress, and runs her own  book blog!

Emily plans to attend the University of Michigan to study English and economics, and hopes to one day be involved in the publishing industry as a book editor. Best wishes, Emily!

Alexis Wiersma

Alexis Wiersma takes our #5 spot with her solid 4.020 GPA.  She was a 3-time All-State and 2010 D3 State Champion in Cross Country, and holds multiple records in Track and Indoor Track, as well.

Alexis also served on Student Congress as class representative her sophomore and junior years, and plans to attend MSU on a cross-country and track scholarship in the fall. Congratulations, Alexis!

Rebekah Newman

Rebekah Newman occupies the #6 ranking this year with a 4.004 GPA. Rebekah played in the marching band for 4 years, filling the role of color guard captain for 2. She additionally played flute in the concert band for 4 years. In her spare time, Rebekah enjoys horseback riding and volunteers to help kids learn to ride during the summer.

Rebekah plans to attend Grand Valley State University to study biology. Best wishes, Rebekah!

Brandon Oswald

Brandon Oswald is a three-sport varsity athlete who comes in at #7 with a 3.997 GPA. Brandon ran cross-country, participated in track, and played basketball during his time at Allendale, and was also active in his church youth group, “Life Stream.”

Brandon plans to go to Michigan State University next year as a pre-med/ROTC student. We applaud his decision to serve our country!

John Betts

John Betts grabbed our #8 position this year with a 3.987 GPA. John participated in cross country and track during his freshmen year before making the move to soccer for his final 3 years of high school.

John also found time to contribute to Student Congress, National Honor Society, and the Awareness Committee. He additionally competed with the AHS Science Olympiad team and even earned his Eagle Scout award!

John plans to serve a 2-year mission for his church before attending Brigham young University where he intends to major in biology and pre-med. All the best, John!

Dustan Luban

Dustan Luban comes in at #9 this year with an incredible 3.977 GPA. Dustin played both basketball and golf all 4 years at APS, and football for 2 years. He was involved in the Hope College P.A.T.H. program his freshmen year and continued to challenge himself with several AP classes and dual enrollment at GVSU.

Dustan also enjoyed serving on two mission trips sponsored by his church for hurricane relief, and did so while maintaining numerous jobs on top of his schooling! He plans to attend GVSU in the fall, but is open to transferring once he firms up his career plans. At the moment Dustan sees a future in investing. Good luck, Dustan!

Mitchell Visser

Mitchell Visser rounds out our top ten with a fantastic 3.96 GPA. Mitchell was involved in numerous clubs and activities: soccer, drama club, Film Festival Coordinator, National Honor Society, school plays, and jazz band, to name just a few.

Additionally, Mitchell is nearing the end of his pursuit of an Eagle Scout Award and is also active in his church youth group. He would like to go into the film business and learn how to make movies; to that end, Mitchell plans to attend GVSU’s film program this fall. Break a leg, Mitchell!

Please join me in applauding the extraordinary efforts of these seniors!

Categories: Allendale Grads/Graduation, APS Celebrations, Student Award Winners | Tags: , | 3 Comments

GR Ford Top 3 Have Work Published!

Thank you to all of you who have diligently asked to read the winning essays in the Gerald R. Ford Foundation 2012 Student Essay Challenge! The Foundation has published the top 3 essays HERE for you to read. Congrats again to both Samantha and Melissa for representing Allendale High School well, and to Samantha for her second place finish!

Categories: APS Celebrations, Student Award Winners, Students in the Spotlight! | Tags: , , , | 1 Comment

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

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

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