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When Kindness, Compassion Trumps Grades, Touchdowns


About Wyoming High School sophomore Bryan Rosello Lizardo: “His peers describe him as someone who helps other students when the teachers are busy… dedicated, kind and a helper… He gives the greatest gift one can give. The gift of time.”

About sophomore Gabriel Pulaski: “Genuinely empathetic, this person is always a listening ear, and not just for his friends, but for anyone who might need someone just to be there.”

About junior Ryan Huizinga:“He approaches life putting others before himself, which has not gone unnoticed by his classmates.”

Junior Ryan Huizinga celebrates with his family
Junior Ryan Huizinga celebrates with his family

About junior Lexi Pearson: “One teacher said it is hard to put into words how much she has contributed to Wyoming Public Schools. Her volunteer hours have to be in the thousands.”

About senior Brendan Berg: “He exerts a quiet authority in his leadership, yet at the same time, shows great humility and respect for others.”

About senior Cindy Ochoa: “Attention must be paid to this 12th-grade recipient who exemplifies the actions of kindness by offering advice. She serves as a reminder that positivity and compassion are traits of a leader.”

An Alpha Wolf 11 has nothing to do with grades, sports or test scores, but everything to do with being kind, compassionate and gracious to each other, said Principal Nate Robrahn. These descriptions explain why six Wyoming High School students are Alpha Wolf 11 Champions of Character. Awarded at the inaugural ceremony for the new program, students wept as they were named supreme pack leaders of the Wyoming Wolves in front of an audience of staff, administrators, Board of Education members and City of Wyoming officials. U.S. History teacher John Doyle read lengthy narratives about each student before revealing them as winners.

“On a scale of 1 to 10, they’re an 11,” he told students. “It has everything to do with what you do here at Wyoming High School. This has to do with what people you are on the inside, and making us a better community inside the walls and outside this place as you spread what this is. You all here, all 1,000 of you in this gym right now, are great young people and you have the chance to make a difference.”

Putting Character First

Doyle approached Wyoming staff with the idea for Alpha Wolf 11 after his son, Ian, received a similar award through Grandville High School’s “Ryan Fischer Be an 11” program. The Grandville program is named after student and hockey player Ryan Fischer, who died of a heart condition 2014.

Doyle was so moved he wanted to bring a similar program to Wyoming. “I was just like, ‘We’ve got to do this. It is so impactful. We are going to pull this off bigger and better. We wanted to give it back to the kids and community.”

Doyle said he wants students to realize character is the most important thing in life. “We’ve got all these awards for athletics, scholarships, band, this and that. How about just the regular kids. How about kids getting an award for simply being good?”

Sophomore Bryan Rosello Lizardo is named a supreme pack leader
Sophomore Bryan Rosello Lizardo is named a supreme pack leader

Doyle told students that he sees great things happening. “This school, when facing adversity, just continues to impress me. I love it here. A lot of people love it here. Continue to be kind, compassionate and gracious… It will all work out.”

His voice boomed. “That’s why this school rocks. That’s why this school is a good school!”

Robrahn, who began as principal in 2013, said he’s constantly impressed with his students. In nominating each other, students wrote incredibly powerful things.

“These are the nicest kids, the kindest kids I’ve had in my career,” he said. “That’s the piece we want for kids. All the academic content is important, but if we can help kids take care of each other, it’s a better world we live in.”

Six students, two from each grade at the 10th through 12th-grade building, will be named Alpha Wolf 11s each semester.

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Erin Albanese
Erin Albanese
Erin Albanese is associate managing editor and reporter, covering Byron Center, Kentwood, Wyoming and Grand Rapids Community College. She was one of the original SNN staff writers, helping launch the site in 2013 and enjoys fulfilling the mission of sharing the stories of public education. She has worked as a journalist in the Grand Rapids area since 2000. A graduate of Central Michigan University, she has written for The Grand Rapids Press, Advance Newspapers, On-the-Town Magazine and Group Tour Media. Read Erin's full bio or email Erin.

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