When Don Williamson graduated from Thornapple Kellogg High School in 1957, he was one of 49 graduates in his class.
“Thornapple Kellogg was almost like a second home,” said Williamson, who still resides in the Middleville and is president of the Thornapple Kellogg Alumni Association. “The school had great faculty and administrators and students.”
Now, with the the most recent high school graduating class of nearly 250 students, Williamson and other members of the Thornapple Kellogg Alumni Association hope to serve as a resource for the needs of a close-knit and growing community.
First of many
The Alumni Association’s 13 board members include graduates from the 1950s to 1980s, and, this year will award its first $500 student scholarship, thanks to an endowment that has grown to more than $17,000. (To give out a scholarship, a fund of at least $10,000 must back it, according to the Barry Community Foundation.)
TKAA has been working on raising funds and awareness since its creation in 2016.
“When we started, we had $2,000, so we’ve come a long way from where we started,” Williamson said.
Students can apply for the scholarship near the end of the school year. A committee of alumni – both association members and non-members– will review applications and set criteria.
“The fund just continues to grow,” Williamson said. “Once we grow the enthusiasm and trust of the alumni, we expect to be able to offer more scholarships or bigger scholarships.”
Connecting with the community
Because the Middleville community has many graduates still living locally, the association is continually bringing in new people, with hopes to attract more young, member, Williamson said.
The group’s main goal is to be accessible for current and future alumni, he said. “We’re at every football and basketball game, every Homecoming parade, every Christmas parade,” he said. “One of our main points is to be visual in the community.”
Currently, the association utilizes its website through the Thornapple Kellogg school page and updates its Facebook page frequently. They also plan to start an alumni newsletter.
“We’re trying to do everything we can to invite and let the alumni know that we are here,” Williamson said. “We are a resource for the alumni first and foremost.”
Recently, the association was awarded the Community Partner Award by the Barry Community Foundation.
“This was a great honor for us and it’s really great to see our efforts to involve the community recognized,” Williamson said.
The Thornapple Kellogg administration and communication team worked with the Alumni Association during the beginning stages to ensure success.
“It’s wonderful to see the association honor distinguished alumni, create scholarships for graduates and continue to show their pride for TK Schools,” said Superintendent Rob Blitchok. “We have graduates doing amazing things all over the country and this is a great way for all of them to stay connected and give back to their hometown school no matter where they are now. It’s wonderful to see so many alumni involved and I’m so appreciative of the dedicated and determined members who organized this group less than two years ago.”
Right now, main fundraisers for the association are a golf outing and an alumni dinner. Last year, the golf outing, the biggest fundraiser, made $5,100. “We’re overwhelmed with support,” Williamson said. “We have people asking to host a Christmas dinner and other fundraisers throughout the year. We’re really excited to see what we will do in the future.”