Posts Tagged With: GVSU

Allendale LINKS Program Connects Kids, Makes Friends

For students with disabilities, particularly those on the Autism Spectrum, making friends isn’t always easy.  Social norms and cultural cues can be lost or misinterpreted, leaving both sides confused and discouraged. Thankfully, now there is a program to help build friendships and offer the guidance of a mentor, too.


Thanks in large part to the efforts of Grand Valley State University, the LINKS program has been successfully integrated into several schools in Michigan, “linking” general education “mentor” students with special education “mentees.” Currently, Allendale Middle School has 20 mentor students working with four mentees. The goal is two-pronged: to give special education students a buddy to eat lunch with, as well as provide those students with an academic coach. General education students who participate in LINKS attend class with their mentee and offer assistance as needed.

Program director Kathy Kohl pairs students and monitors schedules to provide a comfortable fit. She explains, “We try to offer assistance during electives just because when [mentors] are in a science or social studies class, we don’t want them to miss the instruction that they need. But everybody here has stepped up and they recognize what they can do to assist another student or help get them back on track.”

Ms. Kohl points out that student mentors are particularly helpful in calming their mentees during class and helping them to not feel overwhelmed. They provide a second set of eyes, ears and hands to help ensure that due dates and other critical information is recorded accurately and remains organized.


LINKS teacher Molly Carpenter adds, “The hallways are a big thing. When they are walking through the crowded hallways it’s reasurring for them to know they’ve got that familiar face. It’s a nice place to have those connections; they know that every-so-often there’s going to be someone that’s going to be passing them to help get them where they need to go.”

General education students are beginning to see the value in offering help and friendship, too. 8th grader Hannah DeMott got involved because she wanted to be able to give other students a friend. Since the program began, Hannah has seen a change in the way that autistic students are treated, saying, “People are nicer to them and a lot more people have joined LINKS this year.” Ms. Kohl points out that her core group of mentors have led by example and have set the bar high among the student body.

Fellow 8th grade mentor George Berridge wanted to “help other kids if they were having trouble,” and Evelyn Plaggemeyer, another 8th grader, explained that she would like to work in special education or become a social worker someday, so she is thankful that she has had this hands-on experience.

But arguably the most valuable take-away is a shift in thinking and an expanding sense of compassion at Allendale Middle School. Hannah reminds us all, “Don’t judge these students before you get to know them.”

Making friends, offering academic assistance and reducing stereotypes and biases? Sounds like this program LINKS a multitude of wonderful things together for the kids at Allendale Middle.


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Allendale Middle School Band Heads to State Competition

When asked for his reflections on his 7th and 8th grade band classes, teacher Kevin Langejans glowed, saying, “It’s been a really special year.” That’s because this group has pleasantly surprised their teacher and even themselves, landing a spot at the upcoming Michigan State Band and Orchestra Association (MSBOA) competition.

allendale middle school band

With competition slated for April 24, students have been practicing all year long, giving special focus to their songs since the end of the holiday season. GVSU student teacher Richard Grooters explained that band directors must choose to perform at least one song from a list provided by the MSBOA. While a cursory glance may deem this an easy task, Mr. Grooters outlined the delicate balance demanded of Mr. Langejans in choosing just the right song.

“You really have to understand the ability level of the kids and choose something that’s going to challenge them.  If the teacher chooses a song that’s too easy, students get bored. Yet, if it’s too hard, you go into Festival and you don’t score very well.”


At the state competition, students will perform a total of three songs and face stiff competition from other West Michigan schools in their band district. But Mr. Grooters has high hopes based on a successful year with an extraordinary group of young musicians.

“These two groups have exceeded my expectations coming in. I did not expect to hear this level of musicality or to work on the kind of music that these middle school students are playing. I didn’t expect it at all. The 8th graders are preparing right now for their Spring Concert and are performing a piece that [Mr. Langejans] did previously with high school students. They really are a notch or two above what you’d expect from a middle school band.”

allendale middle school band

Mr. Langejans says the growth he’s seeing in the Allendale music program may have many factors, but the fact that students have to choose either choir or band as a 6th grader has helped give them a strong musical foundation and aid in retention. “Every year there is momentum and the excitement factor goes up,” he said.

allendale middle school band

7th grade students Celeste Lopez-Keranen and Claire Emmert are enthusiastic and optimistic about their prospects:

“I think it’s really cool that we get to go to this competition.  I think Allendale’s music program is really growing and the talent is getting better and better and I think Mr Langejans will lead us in the right direction to become successful,” said Celeste.

Claire added, “We have some difficult music but I think we can definitely accomplish it.”

Mr. Langejans smiled, keeping everything in perspective. “No matter what they’re going to be great. The fact that they’re going to state is what I’m happy about, no matter what happens.  I know they’re going to do well. If they don’t get perfect scores, that’s ok too. The work that they do throughout the year is WHY they’re going to State, it’s not just their preparation on those specific pieces of music, it’s half of the year–all the boring stuff–the scales, all the work that they’ve done the first half of the year that’s why they’re having success. That’s more important to me than getting good scores at state.”

allendale middle school band

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START Program Equips Students for Success

Have you ever considered where you would turn if your young child, not yet ready for school, exhibited signs of delayed development? If questions mounted and answers seemed missing?

Allendale Public Schools wants you to know, we’re here.

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START stands for Statewide Autism Resource and Training, and is available to children whose testing reveals they may lie on the Autism Spectrum (ASD). While this post is not intended to provide medical information, early indicators of concern may include:

  • failing to hit key social, cognitive and emotional developmental milestones
  • learning to babble, gesture, speak and/or interact, but then regressing and losing those abilities
  • struggling to relate to others and/or the world around them

Bill Patteuw, an APS social social worker, notes that teachers working with the START program commit to on-going training, meeting 1-2 times per month from October to April. These individuals work to learn research-based techniques and teaching strategies that, while certainly beneficial to all students, are specifically aimed at helping children with autism clear the path to reach their individual potentials.

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Funded by the State of Michigan through grant monies, the program draws on the expertise of a multi-disciplinary team comprised of the school social worker, special education teachers, a general education teacher, speech pathologist, occupational therapist, autism consultant and parents. Mr. Patteuw commented that although ” parent involvement is critical and … strongly suggested by the facilitators of this series, parent involvement seems to be unique to our district.  The parents involved on our team have been present and have been active participants.”

Some of the cognitive and behavior teaching strategies this team is currently employing (or will be learning) include:

  • Foundations of Effective Practice for Young Students with ASD
  • Stucturing the Environment to Promote Learning Opportunities and Engagement
  • Intensive Teaching for Young Children with ASD
  • Structuring Play
  • Behavior Support
  • Transition Planning/Implementation

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Of the program, Mr. Patteuw says:

“Having this START training opportunity for our students, parents, and staff is amazing!  We are extremely blessed to have GVSU in our backyard, which is where the statewide START program originated!  These local resources are invaluable in assisting, teaching and developing staff that are working with students on the Autism Spectrum to promote successful learning opportunities.  Our staff will be working hard to implement these strategies and continue to serve all students to the best of our ability.”

Thanks to Mr. Patteuw and the team of dedicated APS staff who work tirelessly to provide excellence in education to all our students!

If you have a question or concern about your child, please contact Bill Patteuw at:

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Allendale Robotics Team Members Reflect on a Winning Year

Robotics Competition, Trisonic, Allendale High School, Zach Holmes, Zach Jones

(L to R): Zach Jones and Zach Holmes are sad to see their season end.

For Allendale High School Robotics Team members, success in their spring competition was gravy on top of a season of friendship and intense bonding. Senior Zach Jones and Junior Zach Holmes were teammates who say that working closely together for hundreds of hours did more than create a winning robot: it created family.

This was Zach Holmes’ first year of robotics, getting involved only because he convinced his best friend to join him. He soon realized that there were new friends to be made over a table of math problems and engineering dilemmas.

“We worked in small groups during the season — we had a “design” group, a “build” group, and a “programming” group. But even though we were clustered with specific classmates, by the end of the season we were locking arms because we had gotten so close,” said Mr. Holmes who plans to join the Marines after his 2014 graduation. He intends to study mechanical engineering.

Unique to this team is the fact that it operates in partnership with other local high schools. This year students from Jenison High School joined, forming a team of fourteen young men: 9 from APS and 5 from Jenison.

Their goal, aside from crafting a winning robot, was to branch out into the community to garner support. By including local businesses, these students were able to make solid real-world connections to their work. For instance, this year’s robot frame was built by Laser Dynamics in Allendale. They also received sponsorships from numerous others.

In no less than six weeks, the team had their robot designed, assembled, and programmed to win. They spent over seventy hours of their mid-winter break perfecting the device, and said those long days solidified their personal connections.

“We really are one big family,” said Zach Jones, who also intends to study engineering after graduation. “We try to include everyone. At all times when we were working on something, we had at least five sets of hands inside the robot … it can be chaotic, but we all held it together.”

After an initial competition in Traverse City, the 2013 Allendale Jenison TriSonics team played “Ultimate Ascent” at the fieldhouse on Grand Valley State University’s campus in late March. In “Ultimate Ascent,” robots were challenged with collecting discs resembling frisbees, and then scoring goals with them. During the first 15 seconds of the game robots functioned in autonomous mode, relying on the students’ expert programming completed over weeks of preparation time.

Allendale Public Schools, TriSonics, Allendale Robotics Team

The next 15 seconds allowed for the robot to be driven by teleoperators. Finally, in the final 30 seconds of the game, robots actually had to climb a pyramid! Points were allotted based on how high the robot climbed.

We are proud of this group for being named a Finalist and receiving the Team Spirit Award at the West Michigan District Event. But more than anything, we celebrate with them that academics and extra-curricular passions have led to wonderful friendships and a determination to pursue excellence far beyond the TriSonics competitions of high school.

Categories: Allendale High School, Allendale Public Schools, APS Celebrations, Student Award Winners | Tags: , , , , | Leave a comment

Honoring AHS Football & Academic All-State Honorable Mention Aaron Wickstrom

APS, Aaron Wickstom, Allendale High School footballCoach Ben Burk couldn’t be more proud of his 2012 varsity football team. Their dedication on the field (finishing 8-2 this season), and their dedication to character, integrity, and hard work off the field has gained the attention of an audience much larger than any that could fit into Allendale High School Stadium on a Friday night.

The team has been honored with the top position on the list of  Division 4 teams awarded the MHSFCA Academic All-State Award (Michigan High School Football Coaches Association). This means that their team GPA, averaged from Allendale’s eleven highest academic-achieving players, was 3.9!

As if this one award wasn’t exciting enough, senior Aaron Wickstrom (pictured left) added to the celebration with his Academic All-State Honorable Mention award.

Aaron, who plans to attend Grand Valley State University next fall to study Business & Finance, currently has a whopping 4.02 GPA thanks in part to his pursuit of AP class credits.  He shared that many of his teammates are also taking AP classes, adding that the entire group of young men under Coach Burk have a healthy respect for classroom achievement.

“Coach Burk always tells us to be leaders in the classroom and on the field. He says, ‘Do your work; school comes first because you’re student-athletes.’ I think it’s cool to be mentioned for an award that combines football and work in the classroom.”

Coach Burk returned the kind words when he was asked to describe what makes Aaron a stand out young man:

“His intelligence, personal high standards, work ethic, kind heart, team focus, the quality parenting that he received, intrinsic motivation, desire to do more, willingness to push himself, character, understanding that preparation is important, are just some of the things makes Aaron a stand-out.”

When asked about his 2012 varsity team as a whole, Coach Burk beamed:

“I am extremely impressed with the young men here at Allendale High School.  Our student-athletes are among the top in the state of Michigan for sure.  We make academics important here as a coaching staff, as a teaching staff, and as a district from k – 12th grades, and most all our students and athletes respond.  It is a pleasure to have the opportunity to work in a community like this.  GO FALCONS!!”

Congratulations to Aaron and the entire Falcon football team! We applaud your dedication to excellence!

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Allendale High School Students Excel in TESA

TESA, Grand Valley State University, GVSU, entrepreneurship, Hanna Ebeling, George Ebeling, Allendale Public Schools, Allendale High SchoolWhen Hanna and George Ebeling submitted their applications to TESA, they never anticipated the experience that awaited them.

The Grand Rapids Teen Entrepreneur Summer Academy invites students to learn about business models and create a viable one of their own as they compete for award money and recognition from members of the local business community.

“During the five day academy, teams of three to four students from different schools will manufacture an original business pitch from the idea stage to a developed concept. They will participate in lectures and hands-on learning sessions along with creative problem solving tasks. On the final day, each team will present their idea to a panel of local business professionals for a chance to win cash prizes totaling $1,000!”  (source)

Held this past July in conjunction with Grand Valley State University’s Center for Entrepreneurship and Innovation, Hanna (AHS Senior) and George (AHS Freshman) were challenged with creating a business that would spur urban development and encourage people to make purchases locally.

After being placed in groups of 4-5 students from all over Michigan, Hanna’s team settled on creating a “green” coffee shop for GVSU that would feature a multicultural menu, organic food, and an internet café. Working together, her group created a powerpoint that earned them a spot in the competition finals.

George was placed in a team that decided to showcase produce from local farmers. Named “Urban Organics,” his group came up with a business model that would allow people to buy crops from area farms and have them delivered to to their home or place of employment. This idea won their team a spot in the finals, and in the end, the $1,000 cash prize to be shared among group members!

George shared that his biggest takeaway from the competition was learning about something completely new that had such practical real-world applications. He enjoyed pitching the team’s idea to the judges, working with mentors, meeting other students, and using tools like Prezzi to create a winning presentation.

For Hanna, the joy and the learning came not as much from the program itself, but from meeting so many other interesting people.

“It was actually a challenge to get to know people who were quite different from me–especially being in a very diverse setting that is unlike anything I’m used to. Getting the courage to approach someone who you do not know and may not clearly understand was hard for me, but it was definitely a good thing!”

We congratulate both Hanna and George for stretching themselves, for taking new risks, and for their success in TESA this summer!

Categories: Student Award Winners, Student Presentations | Tags: , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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