Students in the Spotlight!

The Principals’ Podcast

Allendale Public Schools

This screenshot shows where you can find the principals’ podcast.

This past fall, as the play season approached dress rehearsals, middle school teacher and Fall Play Director Shawn McMaster had an idea: why not promote the play with a podcast?

Mr. McMaster approached Mr. Remenap and Mr. Hadden with the idea, offering to help with the technical end of things if they’d be willing to host the podcasts. They agreed, kicking off the inaugural recording by interviewing key thespians.  They soon realized they had begun something special. The podcast is now used to “highlight students who might not otherwise get the recognition they deserve,” said Mr. Remenap.

“…anytime we can recognize our students for their talents and efforts it is a good thing.  This is simply another way to “show off” our great kids,” said Mr. Remenap.

Podcasts are recorded in the office conference room with the continued help of Mr. McMasters, who is credited as the “mastermind” of the project. The team reports that reception to the weekly releases has been overwhelmingly positive by both students and parents.

“Our students shine through in these podcasts as positive, mature, and intelligent young adults. They continue to amaze us!” said Mr. Hadden.


Stay up-to-date on exciting announcements and get to know exemplary students by listening yourself! Simply go to the high school’s website and look for the icon as outlined above, or click here.
Categories: Allendale High School, Students in the Spotlight!, technology | Tags: , , , , | 1 Comment

New Options Elects New Student Council President

Shianne Frantz, Allendale New OptionsLife hasn’t always been easy for New Options High School’s new student council president. While it’s true that she makes leadership look easy and compassion appear second nature, those qualities have taken root after very real personal heartache and hardship. Still, Shianne Frantz is showing the world that each day holds new hope for those willing to risk.

After growing up and attending school in White Cloud, Michigan, Shianne was abandoned by her mother. With nowhere else to turn, she left to find a new home with her aunt in Allendale, who currently has power of attorney, but not legal custody, of Shianne. Caught in a messy legal web, Shianne — a young mother herself — is left to hope for speedy resolution and safekeeping for the longterm in our community.

“Going to school and being a mom isn’t easy,” she said. “But I think it’s easier going here than somewhere else. People here don’t judge you because they know that everyone has a different reason for coming here. It’s not just because they’re bad. We’re just a big family here and the teachers help a lot.”

Undeterred by personal issues, Shianne still hears the voice of those calling out for help. In fact, her desire to help led her to run for student council.

When Shianne saw that her friend was being bullied, she immediately wanted  to do something about it. Knowing that her friend was not interested in taking a leadership position within the school, Shianne acted on her behalf, running for and winning a position on student council.

Shianne has dreams for her school that demonstrate extending compassion and empathy to others.  For example, she would like to:

  • …create a Roar video to the new Katy Perry song, similar to the one that AHS did. She feels that New Options needs their own, with a unique slant on being courageous.
  • …make a presentation to her school emphasizing that bullying is “not okay”
  • …get New Options students involved in a community project to decorate the brown lunch bags in which kids living in homeless shelters receive their meals.

Student council advisor and science teacher Liz Lillibridge said, “I’m really excited for Shianne to be the president this year. She’s already come to me with quite a few ideas of things that we can do for the community. She’s also an excellent student. Her attendance is great, she’s always here, she’s always doing well. I don’t think she hardly ever has missing work or late assignments — she’s always on task.”

Ms. Lillibridge shared a list of ideas that student council is considering for fundraising, increasing school spirit and reaching out to others. She is excited for what this year may bring.

“I feel like sometimes people have a wrong perception of New Options kids, so we’re trying to get out into the community so they can fix that. I want others to see that our kids are good kids.”

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Welcoming Foreign Exchange Students to AHS

AHS guidance counselor Jason Fogel says that Allendale has welcomed foreign exchange students into its hallways and classrooms for at least the past twelve years — and this year is no different. In fact, at the writing of this article there were three exchange students (who we’ll introduce below), but there are now four! In just the past few days, Allendale added Serbia to the list of nations represented by the Falcons flag.

Today we’ll get to know senior Greta Bianco from Italy, sophomore Marcus Saugmann from Denmark and sophomore Vanya Icayenko from Ukraine. Our hope is that you’ll take the time to welcome them if you see them at school or around town, and remind them why ours is a special community to be part of.

Allendale Public Schools, Allendale High School

[L to R] Marcus, Greta, Vanya

Greta Bianco, who loves traveling and meeting new people, will be staying in the States through January, at which time she’ll return home to Italy. She dreams of visiting both the West and East Coasts, and after a trip to Grand Haven, says that it “is more beautiful than Italy.” Despite missing home for the first week, Greta now says that her new friends has made the transition easy.

One difference that Greta has had to adjust to is our style of eating and the rituals surrounding our meals. She explains that at home, Sunday dinners are a big affair, with the entire family gathering over a large meal. Here in the US she has noticed that Sunday dinners are more laid back, often with family members fending for themselves. “It was a little bit weird for me because in Italy we eat as a family.”

Before leaving, Greta hopes to ski (although she’s used to skiing the Alps at home), and encourages others to take the risk of being a foreign exchange student.  She feels lucky, saying the “…USA is a very nice place. I like the culture and the people — everyone is really nice.”

Welcome, Greta!

Vanya Icayenko is thrilled to be on American soil, saying, It’s really awesome and I’m happy I am here.  My host family is really nice, they’re really cool people.  And actually in USA they’re really different people, they’re really lovely, friendly.  Everybody asked thousands of questions, it’s really awesome.”

Vanya is a big fan of hockey and is enjoying the fact that his host family goes to Georgetown Ice Arena each friday night. He even brought his own hockey equipment with him from Ukraine! Already gifted with attending the record-setting University of Michigan vs. Notre Dame game, Vanya said he would also like to visit Lansing, Detroit and New York City, his dream.

Also homesick at first, Vanya now says that keeping busy has helped him focus on his time here and really enjoy the unique opportunity to study abroad. “It’s a really perfect opportunity to exchange culture with my country to know something new about the USA and it’s my first time traveling abroad, my first flight.”

Welcome, Vanya!

Marcus Saugmann came to the U.S. largely on the recommendation of his cousin who spent time in Wisconsin last year. Ready for change and up for an adventure, Marcus decided to seize the day and take his sophomore year to travel abroad.

Marcus notes that although school is quite different in the United States, he doesn’t see dramatic differences between the Danish and American cultures. Interestingly, however, he has noted that the people he’s interacted with seem to stick closer to home. “It seems that people here don’t leave America — they go camping.  When I go on vacation I go to Egypt, Italy or Spain.”

A varsity soccer player, Marcus notes that sporting events are one of the places he really sees the community coming together. “Americans are very social with each other. They say ‘hi’ to each other in the grocery store, and for football games, the whole city comes out.”

Welcome, Marcus!

Allendale High School is proud to open wide its doors to the world. We hope these students will have fantastic experiences and leave with a new lens on life. Be sure to welcome these students to West Michigan!

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Senior Kali Smolen Defies the Odds and Soars to Success

Allendale Public Schools, Allendale High School, Kali Smolen, Valedictorian

2013 Valedictorian Kali Smolen

When senior Kali Smolen first reported to her elementary kindergarten class, she never imagined that she would never miss even a single day of school in her entire educational career.


And she certainly could not have dreamed that her pursuit of excellence would eventually pave the way for a perfect GPA and the title “Valedictorian.”  

But in fact, that is precisely what happened.

Kali is currently taking all three advance-placement (AP) courses offered at Allendale High School: AP Calculus, AP English, and AP Biology. In addition, she is enrolled in Spanish V, Wind Ensemble, and is taking Spanish 202 at Grand Valley State University. She is additionally involved in Science Olympiad and the Equestrian Team.

 “I have been involved with equestrian and MIHA throughout high school.  At the state competition of my senior year, I was the only member on the team.  The team was one horse, one rider.  I rode in all but two events.  I rode in 15 events and placed in the top five overall in division D at state.  The sheer fact that I made it to state was amazing.” 

Kali explained that her work ethic, intrinsic motivation, and the encouragement she’s received from staff members have propelled her through her difficult class load.

“I’ve truly adored all of my teachers — they’ve been willing to help and nice to talk to. Allendale teachers really support their students,” said Kali.

Though her senior year has been the most challenging by far, Kali has no regrets, even stating that she wishes she “…would’ve taken a harder curriculum from the get-go. I’m a pretty good time manager and I think I would’ve loved the challenge!”

Ms. Smolen has plans to attend Grand Valley’s Frederik Meijer Honors College next year to study Bio-Medical Sciences and Spanish. She dreams of interning at the Van Andel Institute and diving into the world of stem cell research to get to the heart of the issues.

“I attended the Sam Rhines genetic conference with my anatomy class during my junior and senior years.  Each time, I became intrigued with genetic sciences.  These conferences interested me in stem cell research.  I proceeded to do my capstone research paper on stem cell research.  I now want to go into medicine, with research as a high possibility. Instead of just treating the disease, I’d like to find the mechanism behind it.”

Kali’s mother, Colleen, points out that while there exists a scholarship for couples going to prom in a clothes made of duct tape, there is not a scholarship for perfect attendance. Still, her pride is obvious and we join her in congratulating Kali for her amazing accomplishments!

“I am proud of Kali’s academic success, but I’m even more proud of her good personal character.” she said.

Congratulations to Kali Smolen for an unbelievable school career!! You make us “Falcon Proud”!

Categories: Allendale High School, Student Award Winners, Students in the Spotlight! | Tags: , , , | 7 Comments

Dress for Success Brings “Class” to Class

Dress for Success, APS, Allendale High SchoolRenowned motivational speaker and urban educator Baruti Kafele first sparked the idea within Principal Dan Remenap at a Lansing School Improvement meeting. Now, his suggestion to “Dress like education did something for you,” has swept through Allendale High school with the induction of Dress for Success days.

On December 3, the first day of the new trimester, Mr. Remenap encouraged kids to dress more business-like. Doing so, he said, would set the tone that when students are at school, they’re here to work. Dressing up has other benefits as well: looking nice on a scheduled day raises morale, instills a sense of unity, and ignites school spirit in kids while making it easier to avoid cliques centered around clothing.

“We want our appearance to reflect confidence and capability. Dressing up has a way of changing your mindset so that you want to perform up to your appearance. It really makes a difference,” said Mr. Remenap.

APS, Dress for Success, Allendale High School

One student, senior Aaron Koetje (pictured above, far left) would love to have Dress for Success days every week!

“Dressing up today gives me a good feeling about myself and about Monday. It makes me think that this will make the week nicer. I’m even thinking about doing this every week! Even if others aren’t going to do it, I’m going to be dressing up!”

APS, Dress for Success, Allendale High SchoolThese young women felt the same way, even noting that many students were kinder to each other! They shared that:

“Getting dressed up helped wake me up in the morning and made me more presentable. If you look better, you feel better,” remarked Meghan Lauritzen

“I’m finding that it’s easier to focus and that it’s actually cool to see people out of their flannel pants and yoga gear,” said Tiffani Eisen and Michelle Austin.

“Dressing up shows that we students have self-respect and that we care,” agreed Macie Visser.

Allendale High School’s first Dress for Success experience garnered a 65-70% participation rate. Mr. Remenap plans to offer more days like this throughout the year with the hopes that numbers will grow steadily and positive feedback will continue.

He also wishes to remind students that his number one goal is to be inclusive in this venture; if you do not have a dressy wardrobe at home, help is available in the office and will be kept confidential.

If you’re an AHS student who participated in Dress for Success day, what were your thoughts on the experience?

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Allendale Middle & High School Science Olympiad Teams Go To State

The students and coaches involved in Science Olympiad are still reveling in the success they found at this year’s Regional and State Science Olympiad Competitions, and for good reason!

With the high school grabbing 21st in the state and the middle school placing 22nd in the state (up from 42nd last year!), Allendale continues to climb into the spotlight by exhibiting excellence in science application, creativity, and quick thinking.

Allendale High School Science Olympiad Team Members with Coach Brethauer

At the regionals meet in early spring, students went head-to-head against participating teams from both Kent and Ottawa counties. With hard-hitting competition from schools like Grand Haven and Grand Rapids Christian High School, Allendale High School pushed through a tough field to finish 6th out of 24 teams!

Once Regionals wrapped up, the high school team progressed to the State Science Olympiad Competition where the forestry and optics groups medaled. We are so proud that our high school team battled with 48 of the best schools in the state and left with a 21st-place overall finish!

Seniors Cody Bekkering & Michael Albachten are neighbors, classmates, and teammates.

Cody Bekkering had only positives to share from his time on the high school team. “I find that Science Olympiad is a nice extension of what I do in my normal everyday life. I appreciate being able to apply what I’ve learned in biology, physics, and chemistry to the projects and events we work on here.” Cody plans to attend MSU in the fall to study math and chemistry; he dreams of pursuing a research position after attaining his degree.

Similarly, Michael Albachten has enjoyed the challenge of Science Olympiad and looks forward to studying both geology and biology at Grand Valley State University next year. His diligence in the classroom has spurred him to pursue several AP classes, so he’ll be leaving APS with 18 college credits to his name! Having won 1st place at Regionals with his protein model, Michael desires to return to the high school as a team mentor even after graduation.

Michael Albachten explains his protein model.

Allendale Middle School Science Olympiad students have much to celebrate, as well! Their 8th place finish in the region is notable especially when considering that over 50 area middle schools competed at the regional level! This score secured a spot at the state competition where they went on to place 22nd out of 48 teams!

Allendale Middle School Science Olympiad Team Members with Coach Erdmans

Erin Sickrey’s “Write It, Do It” placed 5th at the State Competition and was the only event to medal. Her description of the challenge is reminiscent of the now-famous Apollo 13 movie scene where astronauts in space had to build a life-saving device by following the hurried directions of NASA officials on the ground.

In the “Write It, Do It” challenge, Erin had roughly 25 minutes to look at an object and describe in words only (no drawings!) how it looked and how it was constructed. At the buzzer, another team member had to take a bucket of supplies and re-create the item exactly.

That’s right: build the same item simply by reading the instructions written down! Very difficult!

Erin Sickrey earned 5th place at the State Competition for the “Write it, Do it” event.

For diligence, effort, sportsmanship, and for attaining personal and team bests, we applaud the students who so wonderfully represented Allendale this spring! Congratulations!

Categories: Students in the Spotlight!, The Sciences at APS | Tags: | 2 Comments

Three R’s Superstars!

Last year, Allendale social worker Bill Patteuw and school psychologist Erin Werkman had a brainstorm that would send ripples throughout the Evergreen and Springview buildings beyond what they had hoped or imagined.

Their vision? To create a motto of sorts–a mission statement– that all kids could learn and that would help to guide positive behavior at school. It had to be easy to remember yet something that embodied the type of student and citizen APS strives to help grow. What they came up with is now termed the three R’s: Respectful, Responsible, and Ready to Learn.

What they needed next was a student group to model the new “mission statement” and enlisting their help with the rest of the student body.

So last February a group of then-third graders was selected by teachers as the “Three R’s Superstars,” a group of eight kids who made it their mission to lead by example among their peers.

One part of their legacy is a collection of recorded videos that demonstrate appropriate actions in the hallways, on the playground, and on the bus. Those videos are still used as teaching tools for this years’ student body, housed on a hard drive for staff to access at any time.

This year’s set of exemplary young people (pictured here) were again selected by their teachers and have worked hard to make a difference at school. They are Ryan Blackburn, Kiersten Holleman, Lauren Butterfield, Lorraine Martin, Morgan Dyke, Sabastian Wells, Braydon Vissers, and Ben Bakran. 

Aside from encouraging their classmates, these superstars help with morning announcements and meet once a month during their lunch recess with advisors to discuss ways that they can help to improve their school and to share concerns or problem areas that could be smoothed out with positive behavior modeling.

Another role of the group is to discuss ideas for lunch time raffles based on students who have been “ticketed” in the hallways. “Falcon Tickets” recognize kids who are caught being respectful, responsible, and ready to learn. 

Mr. Patteuw noted that instituting the three R’s has helped “…catch those kids who would’ve otherwise fallen through the cracks. Those kids who perhaps once were sitting on the fence with behavior choices now want to be caught doing good.”

This group of students realizes that they have a special role to play and already feel that they have learned a lot in that role. When asked, here are some of their thoughts:

“I like that we get to discuss what we really need to work on.” (Lorraine)

“I like that we get to be leaders at school.” (Ben)

“If somebody gets hurt or needs help, the three R’s remind me to be a good friend; to treat others the way I want to be treated.” (Ryan)

“It’s important to be nice to others. For example, if they fall, help them up!” (Sebastian)

At the end of our time together I asked these small leaders if any of them would consider running for President one day.

The smiles stretched large and white, and the hands began to raise.

Four of them.

Who knows?

Respectful? Responsible? Ready to Learn?

Sounds like a winning combination to me!

Categories: Students in the Spotlight! | Tags: , , | 12 Comments

Oakwood Students present at MACUL

For those of you new to the acronym, MACUL is more than simply five letters: it represents a group dedicated to supporting educators seeking to better use technology in the classroom. Michigan Association for Computer Users in Learning held their 2012 conference right here in Grand Rapids, and among its presenters this year were some of Oakwood’s fifth-grade students!

Sarah Lema in her Oakwood classroom

Oakwood’s Sarah Lema took advantage of a grant opportunity which allowed her to take six students to this year’s conference. Students were selected in January and worked throughout February to prepare their presentations for the March conference. Their focus? How Lema’s class and others at Oakwood use the 1:1 laptop program in class. Working together, students created a tri-fold board with curricular websites they use in their studies, described how they use online tools such as Moodle, Weebly, and Prezi, and brought their laptops along to demonstrate.

All conference photos courtesy of Sarah Lema

Additionally, students had worked together on a bullying movie using Windows “Movie Maker” and flip cams. They performed skits that were recorded and shown to teachers who were attending the conference.

With their station situated in the entryway of DeVos hall, Oakwood students had multiple opportunities to interact with guests and present the many ways that 1:1 laptops have transformed the way they learn and use technology. “I was so impressed with my students and the way they interacted with others and handled the questions,” Mrs. Lema beamed.

Mrs. Lema went on to share that in the three years that APS has had 1:1, she’s seen huge improvements both with the level of student skill and the seamless functioning of their programs.

“With the technology that we have available at Allendale, we’re really able to engage learners and differentiate learning by tapping into various learning styles.  …  Just to see their creativity is awesome!”

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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

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