Pedals to the metal for learning’s sake

Students' hard work at home rewarded with bikes

Fifth grader Malia Brooks pauses for a picture with Principal Mike Birely (courtesy photo)

Fifth grader Malia Brooks looked with delight at her new bicycle, delivered to her by Appleview Elementary Principal Mike Birely.

“I am so excited,” she said. “I never won anything before in my whole life.”

The giveaway, which included students in grades K-5 at Appleview and Ridgeview schools, was initiated as a way to reward and encourage them to work hard after face-to-face learning was halted in March when buildings were shuttered to help curb the spread of the coronavirus. 

The third grade bike winner was Jorge Zuniga-Palomino (courtesy photo)

“We felt like we needed to come up with something to show them that we acknowledge this is different, and there are much more exciting things they would like to be doing as the weather gets nicer,” said Ridgeview Principal Heather Guerra.

Added Birely: “We are going to be battling beautiful Michigan weather in trying to keep our students engaged in learning remotely as summer approaches, so we needed to step up our game to keep our kids learning.”

Teachers submitted names of students they thought made extraordinary efforts to keep up on schoolwork while at home. In mid-May, one lucky student in each grade was drawn from the submissions.

Other winners were Cameron Karasiewicz, fourth grade; Jorge Zuniga-Palomino, third grade; Ashton Ridge, second grade; Connor Stock, first grade; and Aurora Occhipinti, DK/kindergarten.

“This came at the right time in Malia’s life,” said mom Jenifer Wahlfield. “It really lifted her spirits. 

“Generally, she is very organized and she has always done all of her work. When this happened, she went right at it and I didn’t even really need to follow to see if she was getting it done.”

In addition to the bike giveaway, students also were recognized with virtual PRIDE cards that they could swap for prizes at the end of the school year.

Videos of a few giveaways the school posted on social media:

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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 or email Janice.

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