We Welcome Mrs. Huistra!

maria huistra, allendale public schoolsWe’d like to officially welcome a new staff member to the Allendale Public Schools family: Mrs. Maria Huistra!

With an official start time this fall, Mrs. Huistra joined the athletic department as Allendale Middle School Athletic Coordinator — a position created to help bridge the gap between athletics at the middle school and those at the high school.

With a district goal of creating a more cohesive program from 7th – 12th grades, Maria and high school athletic director Scott Daling work together to deliver a more seamless experience for young athletes and their parents alike. Serving as point person for 7th and 8th grades offers additional support to coaches while streamlining paperwork, meetings and other details for families.

But aside from all this, Mrs. Huistra brings with her new ways to challenge students involved in Falcon sports. In 2013, Maria founded “Giving Back,” a program designed to get AMS athletes involved in their community. Partnering with organizations like LOVE, inc., athletes have the opportunity to “pay it forward” by sorting donations, hanging clothing, pricing items to sell and even shoveling their sidewalk,

“Kids need to be appreciated beyond things they do in school or on the field or court. They need to be known as more than a jock or musician or someone who attains things. Serving their community is one way to earn that appreciation.”

Maria said providing ways for athletes to get involved in middle school is particularly critical, as so many kids (whether they know it or not) could be playing team sports for the last time.

“We don’t like to think about it, but the fact is that we roster two boys basketball teams in 8th grade, but 9th grade has only one. So the reality is that 24 kids leave middle school wanting to play ball, and only 13-14 will make the team as freshmen. Despite making that sad adjustment, if they can bring positive memories with them to high school, that’s an important piece for them as they grow.”

Mrs. Huistra has helped make scores of memories in her time as an involved parent and community member prior to joining the staff. Along with another parent, Maria conceptualized Fitness Frenzy and instituted the middle school athletic boosters (of which she still serves as president). She served as volunteer coordinator for the elementary PTO and worked on PE for Life, which is a program structured to help students at risk.

But of all she’s accomplished and continues to do, Mrs. Huistra says it doesn’t compare to the response she gets in the hallways:

“When someone passes me in the hall and says, “Hey — I got my grade up and I can play!”…I know I’m making a difference.”

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Honoring AHS Football & Academic All-State Honorable Mention Aaron Wickstrom

APS, Aaron Wickstom, Allendale High School footballCoach Ben Burk couldn’t be more proud of his 2012 varsity football team. Their dedication on the field (finishing 8-2 this season), and their dedication to character, integrity, and hard work off the field has gained the attention of an audience much larger than any that could fit into Allendale High School Stadium on a Friday night.

The team has been honored with the top position on the list of  Division 4 teams awarded the MHSFCA Academic All-State Award (Michigan High School Football Coaches Association). This means that their team GPA, averaged from Allendale’s eleven highest academic-achieving players, was 3.9!

As if this one award wasn’t exciting enough, senior Aaron Wickstrom (pictured left) added to the celebration with his Academic All-State Honorable Mention award.

Aaron, who plans to attend Grand Valley State University next fall to study Business & Finance, currently has a whopping 4.02 GPA thanks in part to his pursuit of AP class credits.  He shared that many of his teammates are also taking AP classes, adding that the entire group of young men under Coach Burk have a healthy respect for classroom achievement.

“Coach Burk always tells us to be leaders in the classroom and on the field. He says, ‘Do your work; school comes first because you’re student-athletes.’ I think it’s cool to be mentioned for an award that combines football and work in the classroom.”

Coach Burk returned the kind words when he was asked to describe what makes Aaron a stand out young man:

“His intelligence, personal high standards, work ethic, kind heart, team focus, the quality parenting that he received, intrinsic motivation, desire to do more, willingness to push himself, character, understanding that preparation is important, are just some of the things makes Aaron a stand-out.”

When asked about his 2012 varsity team as a whole, Coach Burk beamed:

“I am extremely impressed with the young men here at Allendale High School.  Our student-athletes are among the top in the state of Michigan for sure.  We make academics important here as a coaching staff, as a teaching staff, and as a district from k – 12th grades, and most all our students and athletes respond.  It is a pleasure to have the opportunity to work in a community like this.  GO FALCONS!!”

Congratulations to Aaron and the entire Falcon football team! We applaud your dedication to excellence!

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Fall Sports Focus: Sideline Cheer

Coach Kyla Stern is having a wonderful fall coaching the largest group of young women that she’s seen in her time at Allendale High School. With dedicated athletes working hard to learn and achieve new techniques together, Coach Stern is seeing growth and teamwork push boundaries and reach new heights as the girls work to have cheer perceived as a sport.

“One of my favorite things about this team is their love for the sport. They are all so dedicated to being great and making the team the best it can be. It makes it so easy to coach when the girls share the same love for the sport as I do,” gushed Coach Stern.

The leadership of the seniors has played and continues to play a big role on the team when it comes to teaching and encouraging their teammates. She notes that Justice Jones is a young women who models kindness and integrity, adding that Justice, “…works great with everyone on the team.”

Sydni Bennett is another senior who leads by example, helping to teach the younger girls and sharing in their successes. These two young women are supported by sophomore Heather LeBrecque who is already rising to the top as an up-and-coming leader. Each member of the team, however, has a special role to play and is valued deeply for her unique contribution.

As all of our coaches would attest, the team could not be the group they are without the committed support of its parents. Tina Jones and Jodi Hankis-Jensen serve as booster reps, with Tina additionally assisting with fundraisers, shirt ordering, and other miscellaneous items. Parents involved with sideline cheer also willingly serve at the concession stands and help to prepare snacks for the girls to enjoy during halftime.

“I have great parent support! I am so fortunate to have so many parents involved. They make my life so much easier and it’s great for the girls when their parents are there to support them! … It’s great knowing that if I ever need help with anything, so many of the parents are right there willing to help!” said Coach Stern.

Kyla feels blessed to have gotten to know each of these girls over the years, and marks this season as her first with a group of young women that have been with her throughout their entire high school career. Working alongside one another for four years has given them a special bond and commitment to the whole.

“We all are on the same page as far as goals and what we want to accomplish. They are always asking me for new challenges and for me to push them harder. I am so lucky to have each and everyone of these girls!”

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Fall Sports Focus: Cross Country

Allendale Cross Country Team pounds out mile after mile during practice.

The Allendale High School Cross Country team knows a thing or two about perseverance and tenacity. After slogging through one of the hottest summers in recent history, the team has emerged dedicated and passionate about running the best race they can. Immersed in a tough conference, OK Blue runners know that every step counts and every mile is a victory.

Coach Grant Lofdahl shepherds his team with great care and a tender heart. “The kids on my team mean the world to me. It is absolutely the highlight of my day to come to practice and be a part of their lives.” He pointed out that while experience levels on his team range from rookie running to experienced long distance runners, each of the students wearing an Allendale uniform brings something valuable that adds to the spirit of the whole.

With no senior boys running this year, Coach Lofdahl is grateful to rely on the natural leadership skills brought to the field by juniors Micah Maness and Brad Hoekstra. Micah has been a CC runner for three years at AHS and is now maturing into a young man who brings leadership to the team by the kind of integrity and character he displays. Brad, also in his third year with the team, has grown to become one of the fastest runners in the Grand Rapids area. Both are serving as captains this year for the boys.

For their part, the girls boast their own leaders who fill the role of captains as well. Senior Katherine Ginn and junior  Layne Corner bring the work ethic, experience, and dedication the younger runners can look up to. Katherine shines as a young woman of integrity and admirable character, while Layne demonstrates success on the course that paves the way for both team and individual recognition.

Coach Lofdahl knows that success in any form would be hard-faught without the help of parents. “We absolutely would not be half the team we are without our amazing Cross Country Parents. From hosting team dinners, to chaperoning at camp, to volunteering their time at home meets and in so many other ways, the parents really make the season fun. Their support at meets has been tremendous over the years — cross is unique in that every parent supports their own athlete AND all the other athletes.”

“…The last finishers on our team get nearly as many cheers and congratulations as the all-conference performers, because parents and teammates alike understand that every one of them is competing to the best of their ability. We’ve also been blessed this season to have three excellent assistant coaches in Alex MacDonald, Nicole Hammer and Steve Fuelling, who have brought a wealth of experience and enthusiasm to the team.”

Group warm ups

The team operates on a priority code that teaches Family First, School Second, Cross Country Third. Working off this mantra keeps goals in focus and priorities in balance. Students study hard and know that their primary “job” during this season of life is to be a student. The team bands together to offer academic support to one another if the opportunity arises, while celebrating those whose classroom efforts garner academic all-state honors, such as last year’s Ali Wiersma.

These student-athletes are intent on achieving their personal best with the help of coaches who think the world of them. “We have a very neat blend of personalities and experiences that make this team fun and entertaining, and it doesn’t hurt that they’re quite talented and are learning to take running seriously. We’ve set some high goals and we’re working hard every day to achieve those.”

Best Wishes to the Allendale Cross Country team as they continue to blaze new paths together. May the road rise up to meet you!

If you would like to cheer on our runners, please join us:

Tuesday, October 16: AHS

OK Blue Individual Conference Championships


Saturday, October 27: AHS

Regional Meet

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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

Allendale Partners With “Wounded Warrior” Project

All photos this week courtesy of Ms. Jennifer Hodges (2011 game)

Listening to the National Anthem slice through a crisp autumn night reminds us that there were thousands who went before us to preserve our freedoms. It’s hard to remain unmoved by the sight of veterans saluting the flag they risked their lives to protect … while many of us sat comfortably in our living rooms watching history unfold on our flat screen televisions.

Have you ever wished there was something you could do? Some small way you could give back? An avenue for your family to get involved to say thank you?

This week, Allendale High School is giving you that chance!

For the past few years APS has partnered with the nationwide WoundedWarriorProject.orga non-profit organization dedicated to the mission of fostering “the most successful, well-adjusted generation of wounded service members in our nation’s history.”

By providing wounded vets with a backpack filled with basic needs, the welcome they receive from Wounded Warrior Project [WWP] is the first some of our servicemen and women receive upon their return home. Providing relief and counsel for those struggling to re-adjust to life, hosting family support and restoration retreats, and helping vets secure jobs via Warriors to Work are just a few of the things this organization spearheads.

Allendale is using this Friday’s Homecoming football game to raise money to support the Wounded Warrior Project. We are welcoming veterans from the Allendale community to join us and be recognized for serving our country (see sign up information below). Community veterans will receive a goodie bag, a Wounded Warrior Project t-shirt, and food at the game.  Last year over forty-five veterans participated and proceeds from the evening totaled $10,000! This year we’ve set our sights on raising $15,000!

Will you help us reach that goal? Here’s how you can get involved:

>>Come to the football game and participate in our silent auction. This year we are auctioning off a custom-painted bike!

>>For just $10 you can purchase a WWP T-shirt. Wearing your shirt = free admission into four athletic contests:

  • This Friday’s Homecoming Football Game (Sept. 21)
  • Sept. 25 Volleyball vs. Belding
  • Jan. 25 Boys & Girls Basketball vs. Coopersville
  • Jan. 30 Wrestling vs. Coopersville

>>For $15 you can sponsor a veteran.

>>Donate money to grow the work that Wounded Warrior is already doing. Consider doing this as a family. Discuss the project with your children over dinner and make this Homecoming about more than a parade or a coronation–make it a teachable moment!

>>Thank our community sponsors: Tolman Auto, Mainstreet Pub, Master’s Financial, Solid Rock Debt Services, Allendale True Value, Allendale Pack and Mail.

We look forward to a special night where we can recognize the athletes on the field and the service people who braved the battlefield. We are honored to participate in the 2012 Wounded Warrior Project on campus. Please come and help us fill our stadium with much-deserved applause!

If you are a veteran interested in participating, please contact Ms. Jennifer Hodges:

Football game tailgating begins at 5 pm; Veterans should plan to arrive at 6:30

Categories: Athletics, Community News, Special Projects at APS | Tags: , , , , | 3 Comments

Fall Sports Focus: Football

Uniforms are ready, shoulder pads are waiting, and as if on cue, temperatures are dropping.

This fall marks Allendale High School football coach Ben Burk’s twelfth year of leading the Falcons on Friday nights, and he says he’s having the time of his life.

“This is a great group of guys who are working to come together as a team. It’s been an awful lot of fun working with guys who enjoy playing together.”

It’s no stretch to say that their practice time is work. The young men filling this year’s roster have been meeting since August 6, committing more than five hours a day to learning the playbook, running routes, defending the ball, and scoring points. With sixty-five students spanning three grades (five sophomores have been called up), Coach Burk said it’s evident that they all get along and love the game.

And while captains have not yet been chosen, natural leaders have begun to emerge. On defense, Dayton Wierenga is an energetic, emotional leader who brings enthusiasm and spark; when the team needs a lift, Dayton is there to encourage. Quarterback Hayden Majewski is stepping up and leading the charge down the field, while senior offensive lineman Keith Rodgers helps motivate groups and provide cohesion.

“One of the things that makes this group stand out,” said Coach Burk, “is their commitment to academics. This year the kids set goals for themselves individually, and then as a football team we set goals for the group. We’ve agreed that one of our top three team goals is for each guy to maintain a C+ or better in all their classes. That their focus remains in the classroom says a lot.” 

In an effort to help his players maintain their focus both on and off the field, Coach Burk is taking a cue from wrestling coach Duane Watson by incorporating nutrition into team time. With the help of an army of moms, all sixty-five players get a peanut butter and jelly sandwich after school and a 16 oz glass of chocolate milk after practice. Newly crowned as one of the best natural recovery drinks available, the team consumes an average of 7 gallons of chocolate milk a day!

“Some of our kids have a very early lunch period,” Coach Burk explained. “If they’re eating lunch at 10:15, by the time school ends they need something to fill their bellies and help them think clearly. The effort of our team moms allows us to provide that, so by the time practice ends at 6:30, at least the boys have had something to tie them over.”

It’s that spirit of teamwork that epitomizes the 2012 Falcon Football Team: moms helping coaches, coaches helping kids, and kids helping one another meet their goals and become the best players and students they can be.

We hope you’ll cheer them on by joining them this Thursday at home for their 7 pm season opener vs. Unity Christian High School. Click here for a complete schedule of games.

Categories: Athletics, Athletics/Fitness, Back to School | Tags: , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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