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Toughing it out through troubled times, she sets her sights on college

Senior finds stability -- and success -- in school

High school counselor Michelle Harper said Ivy Hackney “is not one to let obstacles stand in her way.”

We’ll say.

The soon-to-be East Grand Rapids graduate has certainly faced more than her share. And she’s come through it an “intelligent, independent and resilient” young woman, Harper wrote in a college recommendation letter. “Her high school years have proven she is capable of success (and) … I am positive she has a bright future.”

Before coming to the district, Ivy and her two brothers — one older, one younger — had lived in 16 different homes and been in and out of a half-dozen schools as a result. They were homeless three times, she recalled, crashing with friends or relatives.

Suffice it to say, Ivy’s family life was anything but stable. Before she was out of middle school, she had grown up thinking alcohol and drug abuse, and the mayhem that results, were typical.

“I thought it was normal.” But deep down, she said, she knew it was not a healthy way for a child to grow up.

One stable force was school. “My older brother always made sure I did my homework, the same with my grandpa,” she said. “I loved going to school to get away from home and be with my friends.”

Eventually, the courts got involved and Ivy spent a short time in foster care before she was able to move in with an aunt who lives in the district in 2014. Ivy spends time as often as she can with her youngest brother, who still lives with her mom; she never knew her biological father.

“My aunt really motivates me,” Ivy said. “She’s like the top influence for everything I do.”

In high school, she has challenged herself with a handful of honors and AP courses — thriving in tough math, which she said she really enjoys. She also joined the softball team her sophomore year, and has held the same job, at Yesterdog, since 2015.

Ivy admits that adjusting to the culture at EGR — where so many students have attended since kindergarten — was challenging.

“I remember being too scared to make any friends, or when I did go to someone’s house how hard it was to see (family life), or hear about them being with their siblings or with their parents, and how close they were. It just hit me hard.”

It wasn’t until last year, Ivy said, “that I started being more happy, knowing that I am in control of my life.”

Thanks to a “very cool tour guide who made me love it the way he spoke about it,” she will be a freshman at Oakland University starting in the fall, where she is considering majoring in psychology.

“I always knew I would push myself to graduate and go to college,” Ivy said. “And I’ve always felt like I was the one who could show my little brother how he could be, like (by serving as his) a role model.”

“I had to figure out that the best thing I can do for him is to better myself.”

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Morgan Jarema
Morgan Jarema
Morgan Jarema is a Grand Rapids native and a product of Grand Rapids Public Schools, including Brookside and West Leonard elementaries, City Middle/High School and Ottawa Hills. She found her tribe in journalism in 1997 and has never wanted to do anything but write. For 15 years she was a freelance journalist for The Grand Rapids Press, covering local schools and government, religion, business, home & garden and lifestyles. She and her husband, John, think even those without kiddos should be invested in their local schools and made to feel a part of them. Read Morgan's full bio or email Morgan.


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  1. Our daughter, Amelia, is on the softball team with Ivy, so we have had the pleasure to get to know Ivy. Ivy is smart, super hard working, and an all around wonderful lady. We wish her the very best.

  2. Your full of tenacity and strength! Great things await you. Keep using all resources available to you.
    Gail Hollen

  3. You truly have shown us what it means to excel despite personal circumstances. Onward and upward – I’m sure you will do well in your pursuit of a successful and fulfilling life! Love you, sweetie!

  4. Way to go Ivy! Proud of you. I always thought you were a great kid and now a great young lady. The best of luck in college.

  5. You go ivy! You did great girl, I’m glad I get to call you my cousin and I love you very much. I’m proud of you 🙂

  6. Great job Ivy gramps and I knew that you would would make, So happy for you we know that you loved your Mom but so happy that you Aunt stepped up and wanted you. Remember we are her for you anytime you need us 🙂

  7. IVY!!!!!! We have loved getting to know you through EGR Softball!!! You always had a positive attitude and were a huge asset to the team! We wish you the best at OU, and know that great adventures are in your future! Go chase those dreams!!!!!!! Mrs. Woodhouse and little Woody!!!!!

  8. Ivy, I have personally been there for some of your roughest times and I can say that it was a true pleasure to have you in my home. I’m so proud of you and always remember that Nick and I are always here for you. Way to go Kidd.


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