Posts Tagged With: Allendale Public School

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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Thank you Allendale, From the Riemersma Family

Allendale Public SchoolsIt is difficult to comment merely on a particular teacher or a specific event that has impacted our student at Allendale Public Schools. Instead we would like to celebrate the imagination and teamwork of the teachers, administrators and assistants who have implemented the creative projects and fieldtrips that have enlivened learning for our son, Dakota Riemersma and the other students here.

Though we are big advocates of reading, we realize that there are additional ways to learn. The numerous projects, fieldtrips, student-led groups and independent research that you provide are vital for showcasing students’ different didactic abilities and interests.

Riemersma, Allendale Public School, Summer SeriesDakota was absorbed in research when building his Newton Scooter balloon car or diagnosing his “patient” for the problem-based learning medical panel project. He became animated when discussing his book for book club or his class newspaper journalism stories. And, of course, he was ecstatic about all aspects of the Specials field trip and the recent Camp Pinewood trip.  This excitement and engagement opens the curious mind so the learning can sneak right in.

Thank you, Allendale Public Schools, for believing that education is more than memorizing and regurgitating strings of meaningless facts and formulas. Thank you for thinking outside the box!

Lena, Peter, Dakota Riemersma

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Thank you Allendale, From Annie DeSmith

Allendale Public SchoolsDear Allendale Public Schools,

Although I have only been attending a school in the Allendale Public system for four years now (I attended Allendale Christian School from kindergarten to eighth grade), I have truly been blessed by my experience at Allendale High School.

Words cannot hope to express the full extent of my thanks and gratitude toward all who have influenced me and encouraged me at Allendale High, both in my studies and in my personal life. Those on staff at the high school are so talented and have taught me so much; I am forever in debt to the countless teachers who have shown me who I am and what I stand for. There are some teachers in particular who I would love to give special thanks to.

I have had a strong passion for writing since I was a child, and writing has been a hobby and a solace for me, especially in my high school years. However, I never would have continued to write past middle school if I had not been encouraged and complimented by Mr. Mike Sispera, my freshman English teacher. Up until my first year of high school, I had never been told that I was a talented writer, or that I could go far in the writing world. Writing wasn’t something I really thought about. But Mr. Sispera raved about the pieces that I wrote and told me that I was phenomenal, that I had a natural gift that was worth something. I have been writing ever since and will continue to do so for the rest of my life; I could never imagine stopping. Thank you, Mr. Sispera, for fueling the creativity within me.

Because of my love for English, it could be said that I have a natural tendency to grow attached to my English teachers. But even apart from their professions, Mrs. Jenna Chisholm and Mrs. Rebecca Karnes are two of the most genuine, caring, and truly talented people I have ever met. Mrs. Chisholm helped to encourage me when my perfectionism and homework-obsessed habits kept me up all night, and Mrs. Karnes was always there to address life’s deepest matters with me: God, faith, and the sheer beauty of life. Thanks so much to both of you; I may not have made it through high school without you.

Being a part of the music department during my high school years was perhaps one of the most positive decisions that I made because I was constantly able to expose myself to one of the activities that I adore – singing. While singing in the high school choir, I learned many valuable lessons about music, self-expression, and the performing arts. However, the grueling hours of drilling notes, phrasing, and pronunciation would have been torture without Mr. Tony Bush. Mr. Bush always made me laugh and showed me how fun and enjoyable creating music could be. I easily grew attached to Mr. Bush because of how much he cared for all of his students, and I dreaded my last concert with him. The final Collage performance of my senior year was a particularly emotional night because it meant leaving him behind; seeing tears in his eyes and giving him one last hug reminded me of all of the love he had shown me and the rest of the music department. Mr. Bush, thanks for making all of the hard work and practice worth it.

If ever I came to school without a smile on my face, I was sure to acquire one by the time I arrived to Mrs. Denise Heyblom’s French class. Mrs. Heyblom is one of the happiest people I have ever met, and she was almost like a mother to me. When something went wrong or when I was upset, she was always there; I could walk into her room at any time and feel better, no matter the situation. Thank you, Mrs. Heyblom, for being a rayon de soleil on my darkest days.

In all four years of high school at Allendale, I never learned, thought, or applied myself more than when I took two trimesters of required Biology taught by Mr. Duane Watson. Because of Mr. Watson, I became endlessly facinated with how body systems function, with how perfectly all living things work together, and with how intricately God created the universe. To this day, I believe Mr. Watson to be one of the smartest people I have ever met, and his wisdom has never failed me. Even in my senior year, I sometimes found myself stopping outside the door to his classroom and sitting down just to listen to his lectures. Mr. Watson, thank you for stirring a passion inside me for the world and all of its wonders, from the tiniest cell to the infinite boundaries of the cosmos.

My favorite place inside the high school has always been and will always be the library. The smell of books, the full shelves, and the endless reading possibilities were enough to draw me in for hours. But I loved the person who kept the library in check just as much as the paper inhabitants of the shelves. Mrs. Arva Sommers became the school librarian during my senior year, and in that short amount of time, she showed me nothing but kindness. Whether it was helping me find what I needed or informing me about all of the best reads, Mrs. Sommers never ceased to be friendly, devoted to her job, and full of bright smiles. It is clear to me that she had and still has a passion for students and their intellectual hunger; she was very fond of the library’s “regulars” and was always willing to help and to serve. I plan on pursuing the field of library science, and Mrs. Sommers has encouraged me to carry on the librarian’s legacy and to always be helpful and affectionate towards those who have taken it upon themselves to become readers and dreamers. Thank you, Mrs. Sommers, for showing me what being a librarian is all about.

In general, I want to thank Allendale High School and the Allendale Public School system as a whole for molding me into the person I’ve become. All of the staff and teachers are quality people and genius educators; I believe Allendale High School to be full of the wisest and most gifted teachers in the area and the hardest working staff around. Because of Allendale High School, I will never forget the comfort of true friendship, the encouragement of caring teachers, and the value of a solid education. Thank you so much for all that you’ve done for me.


Annie DeSmith

Categories: Allendale Public Schools, Summer Series | Tags: , , , | Leave a comment

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