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Elementary Students Leave City for The Slopes

Nearly 90 inner-city students are experiencing the rush of skiing on the slopes at Cannonsburg Ski Area, many for the first time. Listen closely, and you have no doubt how much fun they’re having.

“If you fall, you know what the good thing is? You get right back up.”


“What if we hit the tree?”

“You made it!”

“Remember back in the old days, like two hours ago, when you didn’t know how?”Jacen Rambo concentrates on learning to ski

“This is the greatest day of my life.”

This is the second year for the event organized by Ed Wierenga, the Godwin Heights elementary physical education teacher. Students get a cost break from Cannonsburg, paying only $10 for skis, helmet and lesson. Money from school fund-raisers helps those unable to pay, and warm clothes are found for those who need them.

“I love that we get to provide it for our kids,” said fourth-grade teacher Bobby-Jo Gonzalez.

The day starts with nearly an hour of figuring out how to get the darn skis on. Next it’s on to lessons, where students learn to walk sideways, snowplow and “pizza” on skis. A little apprehension is in the air, and a few students can’t stop thinking about the nearby swamp. But at lunch boys are bragging about going down the hill 25 times already and begging their teacher to let them try a bigger hill.

“We’re really going fast already,” said student Joey Riebel, who picked up on the sport quickly.

“They’re daredevils,” Bobby-Jo Gonzalez said. “They’re getting it done.”

Up the hill they goYoung Skiers Learn Fast

Wierenga said he is amazed by the level of skills students start out with and how much they’ve learned by the end of the day. When school ends excitement still lingers, said  Principal Mary Lang.

“I was talking to one boy after school, and he asked me for the information on the ski hill so he could take it home to his parents,” Lang said. “He said ‘I know I can’t go with school again, but I want to see if my mom will take me. I think skiing is really my thing.’  It was so precious.”

About 1 p.m. the students take their last run — or tumble — down the slope. Bundled up in bright-colored puffy jackets, few of the students complain about the 21-degree weather. Go up and ski down the hill a few times and you don’t even notice it, said one student.

Wierenga said the day introduces kids “to something they don’t have a chance to be introduced to, and it may become a lifelong sport.”Da'Zire Mayhue goes down the slope her way

He feels just like many of his students do about their trip to the slopes. “It’s one of my favorite days of the year.”


Godwin Heights


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Linda Odette
Linda Odette
Linda Odette is a freelance writer and editor with more than 30 years of experience in journalism. She’s worked primarily as an editor in feature departments at newspapers in West Michigan, including the Grand Rapids Press, the Muskegon Chronicle and the Holland Sentinel. She lives in East Grand Rapids near the Eastown edge, has a teenage son and a daughter in college. Read Linda's full bio or email Linda.


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