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 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!

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Summer Essay Series: Patrick Adams, 2nd Grade

The Greatest School Ever!

I love my school because I have the best teacher ever.  Evergreen Elementary school is awesome!  We learn many new things. I learned how to regroup in Math and work with big numbers. We do lots of reading.  We have a sweet library! There are many books to choose from.  I like the Michigan Chiller books.

Outside there are lots of playgrounds and spaces to run and play.  There is a huge soccer field and basketball courts.  We even have a baseball field.  There is also lots of playground equipment like swings and slides.

In my classroom there are many things to do.  We have Alpha Smarts, two computers and a smart board.  I like the Alpha Smart because we can write stories.  My teacher prints our stories on the computer and we get to draw illustrations for them.

We work in different groups in the classroom.  We have the window group, the middle, the computers and the back group.  When we work in our groups, one person gets to be the teacher for the day. I like to be the teacher.

We do lots of crafts and fun things.  We read a book about how different birds make their nests.  Then we colored birds and glued them on a nest that was on colored paper.  I made a cardinal.

These are the things I like about my school.

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Summer Essay Series: TJ Meyer, 3rd Grade

Our school is the best, smartest, and the most outstanding school on the planet Earth. The reasons why are:

Our school has fantastic teachers. Next, our school has a cool lunch program. And then, our school has an awesome gym. Last, our school has an awesome library!

The first reason why our school is awesome is that it has fantastic teachers. Mrs. Elliott is very kind, nice, and awesome. Mrs. Burkhour likes science and has wacky science experiments. Mrs. Suhy likes to paint and likes helping kids.

The second reason why our school is fantastic is that it has an awesome lunch. We get to have a choice between “a” and “b” lunch. “A” is soup, pizza, chicken alfredo, and stuff that is cooked. “B” has ham subs and yogurt with string cheese. No matter what, this school has an awesome lunch choice.

Our school has an outstanding gym. First, we get to play fun games like spider in the web, freeze tag, blob tag, and many more. Next, we get to play prisoners base where you have to get both flags — but watch out! You’ll be tagged! I also like that we get to ride scooters in gym and climb on the rock wall!

The last reason why we have an awesome school is our library!!!! We get to have historical fiction books like Anne Frank. Next, we get Magic Tree House books and Harry Potter and magic books. They teach you to love reading!

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Summer Essay Series: Kaylyn Whitten, 4th Grade

My teachers and school make learning fun by doing different things every week and challenge us to do the best we can do.

One reason is the enrichment classes. I think it is a good thing we have enrichment because then you can go at your own level and learn what’s right for you. In 5th grade math you get to meet new friends and you get to learn new ways to do normal math while having fun. One of my teachers, Mrs. Luban, was teaching us a decimal problem and to help us to remember it, she taught us a song. One other enrichment class is the Explorers. They teach you techniques on how to make a good paper, and they do fun research projects like the bird report, and they read plays. I think the enrichment programs are good for anyone that is at a level higher than their grade.

Another reason is the after-school clubs. One of them is called OSTP. I am in this club and it teaches you about the earth and how to save our planet and gives new techniques on how to recycle and be green. Another club we have at our school is Singing Falcons. In this club you get to perform at different events, sing some songs, be with friends, and warm up your voices in the morning. I think the after-school clubs help you learn, be with friends, and have fun.

In addition, there are extra rewards. You have the chance to win prizes in other contests like the wallpaper contest. If you won the contest, then your wallpaper was displayed on all of the laptops in the whole school. We also do class stores where we can buy things with our Oakwood bucks like passes and toys, or we can do something else. Oakwood bucks is the class bank where if you do a certain job you get paid for it in Oakwood bucks. I think extra rewards push you to be respectful, responsible, and ready to learn.

Also, we have incentives at our school. If you clean, you can win a prize or get a pizza party for your class. We also do punch cards so that if you hit your goal, you get a punch in your card. When you fill your card, it gets put into a drawing and you have the chance to win a free lunch. We also do writing contests like this essay contest. If you win, you get interviewed, get a free pizza, and a Walgreen’s gift card. I hope they keep doing the extra rewards into next year so that the younger kids get to do it, too.

In conclusion, I think that my school is awesome in so many ways like the enrichment and after-school classes, because they help you learn while having fun. I also think that if we didn’t have the extra rewards and the incentives, the kids would not try as hard as they do now.

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Summer Essay Series: Matt Terpstra, 5th Grade

Oakwood is the best school I’ve ever been to! It has great teachers that are always exciting to work with and that adjust to understand each and every student. Here are some reasons why I love Oakwood:

First, I’ll explain the teachers. There are many teachers, a great principal, and every class is a blast! Each teacher helps us in the way we need. Everyone is different, so some students might need to be taught a certain way. Some kids might need a less strict discussion, some might need a more understandable explanation, and some kids might just need help. The teachers all give them these things.

Next, let’s find out about the lessons. The lessons they teach here at Oakwood Intermediate are understandable and make sense. The teachers make sure that what they teach stays with the kids. At some schools people forget what they learned after a month or two. But here at Oakwood, that’s not how it goes.

Finally, I’ll tell you about the supplies. Here at Oakwood Intermediate, we have tons of supplies. We have pencils, laptops, SmartBoards, scissors, glue, crayons, colored pencils, markers, white board markers, folders, and more!

Oakwood is great!



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Summer Essay Series: Taylor Kulikamp, 6th Grade

Giving Back

I was in 5th grade at Oakwood Intermediate School.  Mrs. Luban was my teacher; she was my favorite teacher at Oakwood.  Mrs. Luban was funny, nice, and caring.  But most of all she was the best at teaching us how to give back to our school and our community.

Mrs. Luban said, “Who wants to be in a club one Friday a month?”  She said we would be doing things to help our community.  We wanted to do something to help other people, so Mrs. Luban helped us think of some ideas.  We did a lot of fun things in her class.  One of my favorite things that we did was to make Christmas shoe boxes.  We also got to help out at L.O.V.E., Inc. and help organize stuff in their store.  The one trip that made me the most sad was going to the Humane Society.  It was sad to see all the animals without homes, but I felt happy to know that I helped them out by cleaning their cages.  We washed windows so when people came in to adopt the animals they could see them behind windows that were nice and clean.

In Mrs. Luban’s class we also did something called, “Coffee Friday.”  We did it the third Friday of every month.  We would come to school early and make coffee and other refreshments.  Once the coffee was made we would go around the school and give the coffee to the teachers and staff members at the school.  It was fun!

Mrs. Luban inspired me because by giving teachers coffee and by helping out in my community. It made me want to give back to others more often.  Mrs. Luban made me feel good about myself because I was doing something great for Allendale and for the Oakwood teachers.

I am so thankful to have had Mrs. Luban in 5th grade!

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Summer Essay Series: Savannah Bont, 8th Grade

As a little girl, I dreamed of having that best friend–the one who knows you so well she can tell how you are really feeling behind your smile. I never truly had that–that one person who understands you–that you call “friend.”

But coming into middle school there was one very inspiring woman I’ve gotten to know very well over these past three years. She’s that friend that everyone wishes they had, the kind you can share your secrets with, the one who listens to you talk and talk for hours and cares about what you’re saying.

Most people know her as the guidance counselor, but she’s more than that to me. She’s a friend. On the outside it may have looked like I had many friends, but on the inside it was a whole other story. My confidence was low, but Mrs. Wilson taught me self worth. She helped me realize that I shouldn’t change myself for anyone. If someone doesn’t like who I am, then at least I was myself, not someone I’m not.

Mrs. Wilson is also an inspiration because she is such an amazing listener. Even when I speak for hours, she listens and understands me. I can tell her secret after secret and know that they will be safe. Her helpful, strengthening words made me stronger. But most of all, Mrs. Wilson inspires me to be a friend to everyone and to share the kindness and compassion that was shared with me.

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Summer Essay Series: Mitchell Visser, 2012 APS Graduate

photo provided by Mitchell Visser

The greatest thing that Allendale Public Schools has taught me is to just be myself. I have learned to accept who I am, to embrace my passions and interests, and to just go out there and pursue my dreams. Allendale has given me the work ethic and the drive I need to go far in life, and I feel that because of it, I am destined to do something big.

Over the years, I have learned to simply stop caring about what others think. If I’m interested in something that others aren’t, that is okay. If I want to do something, I am going to go and do it, and I am confident that I have the ability to do it successfully.

My ultimate goal is to go into Film and Video Production. My passion is for movies; editing, filming, directing, acting, screenwriting, any position I can get in the field will make me happy. Allendale Public Schools has actually helped me a lot in improving film-making skills. Our annual Allendale Regional Film Festival has allowed me to submit many short films over the years, and with each movie I make, I can tell that I am improving.

I have also had the privilege of completing many videography projects for our school concerts and other school events. Like any craft, practice makes perfect, and through my constant exposure to film, I believe that Allendale is helping me on my way to perfection.

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An Essay Contest and An Opportunity to Contribute

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If your child has aspirations of becoming a published writer or seeing their name in a headline, this April they may find their dreams coming true!

This spring we’re excited to announce an in-class essay contest for APS students that will encourage them to thoughtfully answer prompts about their school, the ways that learning in Allendale is fun, and influential teachers that have impacted their lives for the better.

Each of the winners will be photographed and featured here on Allendale Outlook throughout the summer months. Not only will their essays be published, but they will be highlighted on the APS Facebook page and receive a prize!  Winning students will be contacted personally by Superintendent Jonker and awarded a certificate for a free Jet’s Pizza and a Walgreen’s gift card.

Additionally, we’d like to hear from you! Please leave us a comment telling us what stories you’d like to see featured here! Who knows, maybe your name will end up in a headline, too?

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