Students in the Spotlight!

New Options Star Student: Katy Key

Star Student Katy Key, senior at New Options High School

When I asked New Options Assistant Principal Tamika Henry the first word that came to mind when thinking of senior Katy Key, she didn’t hesitate in answering.

Perseverance,” she said. “Katy has overcome a lot of difficulties to be able to graduate, but she has absolutely persevered.”

The joy was evident in Katy while we sat talking; her eyes positively sparkled. It’s obvious that she has worked hard and has made the choice to lean into a bright future that she can be proud of — a bright future that she’s built with the help of New Options.

Tamika continued, “Katy has a lot of character — a lot of integrity. She’s very honest and forthright. If she sees something that’s “not right,” she comes and talks to me. She still has fun…she’s still a teenager, but she makes the right choices. Katy really is a model student.”

For students like Katy, New Options is not their first high school home, but for many of them it becomes the one for which they’ve longed. It’s a place of smaller class-sizes, flexible learning atmospheres, and best of all, second chances.

New Options: A place for new stories to begin.

“My favorite thing about being a student at New Options,” Katy explained, “Is that it’s more laid back. There are smaller classes which makes it easier to speak to teachers. I needed that when I came here. This is a great fit for me.”

But of all the staff members who have reached out to Katy, it’s Tamika whose love has left the ripple effects of a changed life.  Katy looked over to Tamika, whose eyes blurred with emotion. Breathing deeply, Tamika shared how so many students over the years have returned to New Options, have sought her out, and have said, “Tamika, if it wasn’t for you guys, I wouldn’t have made it.”

Katy Key dreams of studying social work at Baker College next year.

Katy nodded in agreement. With just ninety kids enrolled, teachers are able to give the special attention that New Options students desperately need, whether that be in the form of new learning strategies or extra emotional support to those struggling through very difficult circumstances.

I asked Katy what she’s learned about herself while at New Options. She gave it some thought and then looked at me with hope glowing.

“I’ve learned that I’m able to achieve any goal as long as I put my mind to it.”

We believe she will!

We applaud Katy Key and wish her success as she presses on toward graduation and life beyond New Options.

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STAR STUDENT: 8th Grader Sam Austin

It’s always a pleasure to call attention to the wonderful young people we’re privileged to teach and interact with in Allendale. With so much news of hardship, the Allendale Outlook wants to make a point of sharing some joy!  That’s why this week and next we’ll be featuring “Star Students” who exemplify the character traits and commitment to personal success we so admire.

This week we bring our focus to Allendale Middle School. When I first asked AMS principal, Mr. Thompson, for a Star Student recommendation, he didn’t hesitate.

“Sam Austin is responsible, humble, and full of integrity,” he shared. “He’s a leader and makes our school a better place.”

Mr. Thompson shared a story of a recent spelling bee mix-up where groups of participants were accidentally given two different word lists, thus placing a section of the kids on uneven footing with their classmates.

Sam finished in 2nd place and would have been fully within his rights to insist that the results of the bee be upheld, however he made another choice. He felt it would be only fair to offer everyone involved the same preparation list and re-do the bee! Sam’s integrity dictated fairness and equal opportunity for all. (Incidentally, Sam went on to win the Regional Spelling Bee and will compete in the State Finals in Grand Rapids on March 13!)

Mr. Thompson recounted another situation in which he was called into a Spanish class dealing with some out-of-line students. Sam stood up and challenged his classmates with this question: “Are you part of the problem? Or part of the solution?”  In middle school, that takes a lot of courage!  (continued below photo)

Sam holding one of his Lego robotics creations.

Aside from his academic achievements, Sam is passionate about Lego robotics and has been an integral part of Allendale’s Lego club for four years. In fact, he shared that if he was given a million legos, he’d build a full-size, fully-functional Lego house! Sam dreams of one day becoming a NASA rocket scientist or an aerospace engineer, and we won’t be surprised if he makes that dream a reality.

My favorite thing about school,” he explains matter-of-factly, “is the opportunity to learn new things. I think continuing to learn new things is an incredibly essential part of life.”

Sam’s work ethic makes him strive for his best in every endeavor. He puts in countless hours on the Lego team until he gets it right. Where does this work ethic come from? At least in part, Sam shared, from Mr. Piccard, his 6th grade teacher.  “He was a hard worker. He inspired me to work hard.”

There are many things that make Sam a “Star Student” in Allendale: he epitomizes the spirit of being a lifelong learner, a caring young person, and a contributing member of society. 

We recognize his efforts and applaud him for the leadership he displays and the integrity he maintains each day in the middle school. Hats off to you, Sam! 


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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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