- Sponsorship -

Dad mixes cooking, anti-bullying message

One morning early this school year, when Justin Stermin was dropping his kindergartner daughter, Waverly, off to Mulick Park Elementary, he noticed some students picking on each other and rough-housing as they stood in line waiting to go inside. He admonished the kids to treat each other better, and promptly told Principal Thomas Standifer his concern about what he’d seen.

Standifer stationed a staff member outside the following day, which Stermin appreciated. But he wanted to do more. He approached be nice., an anti-bullying and suicide-prevention program of the Mental Health Foundation of West Michigan, about getting the program into Mulick Park. They were receptive but said the curriculum cost $2,500.

Powered by Parents is a series highlighting the parents, grandparents and other family members who give their time in schools to help students and teachers do their best.

Stermin didn’t have that much change to spare, but he did have something else to offer: his skills as a chef. He donated catering to a be nice.-sponsored poetry slam at the Grand Rapids Ballet. In exchange, the program donated its curriculum to the school.

Impressed with his new parent’s initiative, Standifer invited Stermin to join Mulick’s parent-teacher council. He did, along with his wife, Heather. Since then they have been active in the school, Standifer says, “helping us plan family events, programs, and discussions on the direction of Mulick Park for our students.”

“You make your community by putting into your community,” says Stermin, 28. “We just see the value of volunteering, and giving these resources to the school that maybe they can’t afford or don’t know of.”

Justin Stermin is co-director of Kitchen Sage, which teaches culinary skills to young adults and prepares meals for preschoolers

Teaching Healthy Eating and Job Skills

He also sees value in helping children overcome barriers at a young age. He is cofounder and co-director of Kitchen Sage, a workforce development program serving students ages 18 to 24.

It offers an eight-week course on food safety, first aid and marketable skills, and sets up 90-day paid internships with community partners to help get young adults jobs in the food and restaurant industry. Based on Grand Rapids’ West Side, it also prepares lunches for about 1,500 students at seven preschools of the Early Learning Neighborhood Collaborative.

Stermin is well-qualified for the role, having been a chef at several local restaurants, as a board member of the American Culinary Federation and advisory board member of the Culinary Institute of Michigan. He has taught classes for low-income parents through Steepletown Neighborhood Services, helping them prepare nutritious, economical meals with crockpots.

He sees firsthand what barriers many young people have had to overcome to be successful adults. He wants to help the children of Mulick Park – and GRPS more broadly — get on the right path, whether through donating a kindness program or teaching them good diet.

“Nutrition is so huge in not only a child’s development, but their attitude,” Stermin says. “I would love to be part of a team, getting them more education on healthy eating,”

For now, he and Heather are doing what they can to help Waverly and her classmates do well, and treat each other nicely.

- Sponsorship -
Charles Honey
Charles Honey
Charles Honey is editor-in-chief of SNN, and covers Rockford and Grand Rapids. As a reporter for The Grand Rapids Press/mLive from 1985 to 2009, his beats included Grand Rapids Public Schools, local colleges and education issues. Honey served as editor of The Press’ award-winning Religion section for 15 years and its columnist for 20. His freelance articles have appeared in Christianity Today, Religion News Service and Faith & Leadership magazine. Read Charles' full bio or email Charles.


Longtime volunteer does whatever’s needed for school: ‘I love being here’

A 24-year parent and grandparent volunteer tends to student and family needs at Martin Luther King Jr. Leadership Academy...

Lessons from a pandemic: ‘agile learners’ need ‘agile adults’

Reflecting on the end of fall semester and 2020, Superintendent Dedrick Martin sat down with School News Network to discuss how Caledonia adapted to school closures, virtual learning and social distancing during the COVID-19 pandemic...

It’s all about getting students back to classrooms, Supt. Shibler says of the vaccine

Superintendent Michael Shibler hopes the more people get vaccinated, the closer we are to the end of the pandemic...

Young constitutional scholars view current events, politics through historical lens

East Grand Rapids and East Kentwood high school We the People team members have qualified for the national competition, becoming well versed in civics and critical thinking along the way...


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here

Related Articles

Longtime volunteer does whatever’s needed for school: ‘I love being here’

A 24-year parent and grandparent volunteer tends to student and family needs at Martin Luther King Jr. Leadership Academy...

Back to classrooms for GRPS students — finally

After 44 weeks and 4 days, GRPS students were back in their classrooms Tuesday...

Online poetry, multimedia course encourages mental well-being for middle schoolers

A Grand Rapids nonprofit has made online writing and mental health materials available free of charge. At least one local middle-school teacher says the series is powerful and helps build community among classmates...
- Sponsorship -


Engagement: The Most Important Measure of Student Success

Polls find that students’ engagement in their school work declines as they ascend the grades. Tests that don’t relate to their real-life experiences exacerbate the problem...


Food ‘angels’ support hungry kids through pandemic

They work all across Kent County, guardian angels with peanut butter on their hands and crumbs on their shirtsleeves...
- Sponsorship -


Maranda Where You LiveWGVU