Student Award Winners

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!

Categories: contests, Student Award Winners, Student Writers | Tags: , , , | Leave a comment

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.

Categories: contests, Student Award Winners, Student Writers | Tags: , , , | 3 Comments

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.

Categories: Allendale Grads/Graduation, contests, Student Award Winners, Student Writers | Tags: , , | 8 Comments

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


Today we celebrate with four young women whose art has been heralded by the Holland Area Arts Council Juried High School Exhibit, “Debut!”

Rebekah Newman and Savannah Wells were selected for their art entitled Still Life with Doily and Sea Woman, respectively. Additionally, Kali LaHaie’s black and white film photography piece Captured will be showing along with Morgan Dodde’s digital art.  Morgan’s piece is also currently competing for a National award at Scholastic!

If you’re interested in supporting these Allendale High School students, please consider viewing their work at the Holland Area Arts Council March 15th -April 28th, with a reception Thursday, March 15th from 6:30pm to 8pm.


Categories: Student Award Winners, Students in the Spotlight! | Tags: , , , , | 2 Comments

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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