Determined grad finds her way from life-altering earthquake to success

It took a lot of study time for Roodflore Winkels to catch up and graduate

The first thing you may notice about Roodflore Winkels is her smile. Get to know her a bit, and her determination and accomplishments could very well make you smile.

“She inspires me,” said literature and writing teacher Donna Dolbee. “She is hard-working, smart, strong, kind and, yes, a little quiet and shy, but overall such a beautiful young lady.”

This story is part of Grads with Grit, a series about students who have had to overcome unusual challenges and hardships to graduate this spring.

Set to graduate with the class of 2018, Roodflore, who goes by Flore at school, came to the U.S. from Haiti after she and her siblings were displaced by a 2010 earthquake. She and Abraham, who is a sophomore, and eighth-grader Emeli were adopted by Don and Shelly Winkels. The family has two older children: Jessica and Ty Winkels, both in college.

Despite having to catch up at school in order to meet graduation requirements while working a job at Meijer, Flore has pitched in at home, and volunteered at church activities including working at a thrift store and at summer Bible School. She also watches the neighbor’s cat while the owner is away.

Roodflore Winkels poses by the Cedar Springs Red Hawk mascot located at the front of her high school

Making the Grade

Flore said she knew how to speak English when she arrived, but that she “didn’t have a very good command of it.” Dolbee said Flore’s language barriers were handily overcome.

“Many ESL (English as a second language) students miss syntax, especially when it comes to literature, but Flore has such incredible work ethic and doesn’t give up,” she said. In another class, taught by Annie Kim, one of Flore’s writing assignments earned top prize: a free senior picture package.

Schools were much smaller in Haiti, according to Flore. “We came here (Cedar Springs) instead of Rockford because it was a bit smaller,” she said.

This term, Flore has taken seven credits instead of the required six to graduate. She said that there isn’t a subject she doesn’t love, but that math is her favorite.

“I don’t know why and I don’t think I am always that good at it, but I just love numbers,” she said.

Graduation Only a First Step

Her love for numbers helped her shape her next step.

She plans to attend Grand Rapids Community College in the fall and pursue a career in accounting. She has secured an internship with a local accounting firm for part of the summer.

Flore credits school staff for her success in high school. “The principal and counselors have been very helpful and so nice,” Flore said. “All of the teachers too have been helpful and willing to work with me.”

But ultimately, it was her own determination.

“In this life you need a diploma, and if you can get it you should,” she said. “I knew if I could graduate from high school, I would find something to do that I love, find a job and be able to have a better life.”

Flore admits that she could make time for her other interests, make more friends and even try playing more sports, like tennis, but she has chosen to stay focused. “I need to stay on top of my work at school, get to my job and help out at home. And sometimes I want to do stuff with my friends, and I have to sleep sometime.”

Shelly Winkels praised Flore’s persistence and focus.

“She has proven more than once that she is willing to do whatever it takes to accomplish her vision to go to college,” said Winkels. “In the face of great adversity, she found a way to overcome and build a new life to move forward to a bright future.”

Flore checks a few details about a writing assignment with teacher Donna Dolbee
Janice Holst
Janice Holst has been both a teacher and a journalist. A former MLive reporter, she wrote features and covered local government and schools for Advance Newspapers for nearly two decades. She also was a recipe columnist and wrote features for Mature Life Style and occasional entertainment pieces for On The Town magazines. She lives in Sparta Township and is thrilled to spend some of her retirement hours writing the stories of the northern Kent County school districts. Read Janice's full bio

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