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‘Everything we can do matters’

Simple gestures go far during difficult times

Kiara King said she “genuinely appreciated” how her school honored all seniors one recent early morning.

Seventeen teachers and staff members delivered nearly 125 graduation yard signs on April 16 to the homes of Lee High School and East Lee Campus students. As in other districts across the Kent ISD coverage area, the district-funded yard signs signify those who have quietly reached the K-12 milestone during the coronavirus pandemic.

Senior Michael Beasley was surprised by teachers with a graduation sign (courtesy photo)

“Yeah, it was simple, but it was the thought that counts,” said Kiara, who plans to attend Ferris State University or GRCC. “They know what us seniors are going through and wanted to do anything they could to make us feel better and give us hope about the situation as a whole.”  

“The seniors didn’t get to experience a senior year like the rest of the classes,” said Kiara, who plans to be a dental hygienist and eventually move to Atlanta, Georgia. “We missed out on so many fun activities such as prom and capstone. Many seniors like myself have never been to prom. I will never get to experience that, which is unfortunate.”

Senior Michael Beasley said he “was glad to see that our teachers were thinking about us seniors and that they cared.” In the fall he plans to study sports marketing at Muskegon Community College.

Jody Hankis Snyder was one teacher who delivered the signs, spearheaded by Candy Van Buskirk, principal at Lee Middle and High. 

“Some of our seniors are the first to graduate in their family, and there is nothing we can say or do to ease the pain of (missing) that deserved celebration,” said Hankis Snyder, a Lee High senior capstone lead teacher, senior English teacher, Footsteps for Freshman adviser and sideline/competitive cheer coach. 

“What we can do is find small ways to celebrate them: senior year signs, social media recognition – trying to find a way to provide a graduation in the future. Everything we can do matters.

Faculty and staff gear up early morning on April 16 to honor nearly 125 seniors with graduation yard signs (courtesy photo)

“The class of 2020 has been robbed of so much and there is nothing we can truly do to replace what they have lost. Prom is gone, graduation, as they thought it would be, is gone, and everything that makes the end of their K-12 experience is gone. They are missing their friends, laughing at lunch, the baseball/softball fields, the track, the soccer field. They are missing their favorite teachers, their clubs and events, and the excitement of ending a year and looking forward to the next.”

Hankis Snyder said that since COVID-19 is the dark and scary unknown, it’s up to adults to provide that safe place for them to land.

“They truly deserve hope, and we all have to find ways to give them that. We owe it to them,” she said. “In over 20 years of teaching, I have never seen administration, teachers, staff, students and parents work so hard together to come up with a plan to teach and connect.”

“I hope they know how much they are missed by all of us.”

Other teachers/staffers from Lee and East Lee Campus who delivered the senior signs were: Molly Kennert, Kevin Gabrielse, Dean of Students Brett Lambert, Julie Warmels, Brian McKanna, Maria Baker, Jason Cochran, Karen Gallardo, Sydney Hunt, Rachel Turner, Jesse VanderBand, Katherine Merriott, Brett Addis, Matthew Walker, Brian Cahoon, Sarah Byrne, Kelly Cornell, Maria Haan and Misty Bower.

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Cris Greer
Cris Greer
For more than three decades, Cris Greer has been a wordsmith, working in the fields of journalism, advertising and marketing. Much of the past decade, he helped grow the MLive Statewide High School Sports desk as a supervisor, editor and reporter, which included eight newspapers in Michigan and mlive.com. Cris also was a freelancer for The Grand Rapids Press, The Advance and On the Town magazine for many years. A good portion of his early career was spent building and managing the copywriting team in the advertising department at Meijer, Inc., where he oversaw copywriting for print ads, mailers, brochures, signage, several dozen in-house magazines per year and much more.

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