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Capturing students’ special moments

Mary Wilson spends her free time snapping photos for Kent City schools

All photos courtesy Mary Wilson

Kent City — Mary Wilson has been helping out with everything from chaperoning field trips to taking photographs to, most recently, administering COVID tests at Kent City schools since 1993, when her husband, Jeff, was hired at Kent City High School.

The first of the Wilson’s four children started at Kent City Elementary in 1998. Their youngest graduated from Kent City High School in 2018. 

When her children were attending school, Wilson helped out in their classrooms and was heavily involved with the Parent Teacher Community Organization. 

In 2000, she was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis, a chronic disease that affects the brain and spinal cord. With all four of their children under 8, Wilson “chose an early retirement … for the sake of my health and our family.” Neither the disease nor retirement have stopped Wilson from becoming a ubiquitous presence in Kent City.

Kent City Middle School Cross Country team participating in the Portage Invitational

Every Picture Tells a Story  

Wilson and her husband, both Sparta High School graduates who attended their prom together, chaperoned Kent City High School’s prom for many years prior to COVID. They also hosted countless team dinners for the track teams Jeff Wilson coached.

“I’ve always just wanted to be able to capture moments for them, and their families, because I know a lot of parents can’t be at every meet or every game, or don’t maybe have a camera that can take those pictures.”

– Mary Wilson, Kent City Schools parent

Before her early retirement, Wilson worked in public health as a nurse, a skill set which unexpectedly came in handy when COVID regulations required all Kent City athletes to be tested weekly. Wilson helped out with administering tests throughout the pandemic.

But all of these activities are secondary; photography is Wilson’s favorite way to show support for Kent City students.

In 2006, she purchased her first camera. At first the photos were mostly of her own children. Quickly, though, “it just kind of morphed into what I’m doing now,” Wilson said.

Today, she takes tens of thousands of pictures every year. She takes so many pictures that one of her cameras recently died. Camera shop staff told her they were shocked by its short life span — something they said they usually only see happen to professional photographers. 

“It was never something I got into when I was younger,” Wilson said. She has never taken classes or had any professional training, but she’s known in Kent City for her crystal-clear sports photography.

Mary Wilson took Kent City High School’s senior class photo in 2018

There for the Parents Who Can’t Be 

Wilson photographs events for all three Kent City schools, with special attention to the track and cross country teams her husband continues to coach. She keeps Facebook pages for both teams supplied with photos.

“I’ve always just wanted to be able to capture moments for them, and their families, because I know a lot of parents can’t be at every meet or every game, or don’t maybe have a camera that can take those pictures,” Wilson said. 

She also goes out of her way to direct attention to programs that get overlooked: “I try to always give some attention to the extracurricular activities or the sports who don’t get as much attention, you know, to make sure that they get their pictures taken a lot, too,” Wilson said.

Despite being “transplants into Kent City,” Wilson said she and her family “consider ourselves part of the Kent City family. … The community in general is a great community to be part of and we’ve been blessed to be part of it since 1993.”

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Abigail Ham, SNN intern
Abigail Ham is an intern reporter covering Kent City and Sparta. She is a junior at Calvin University. She is the managing editor of Calvin’s student newspaper Chimes and editorial assistant for the academic journal Pedagogy. She also enjoys creative writing of all sorts.

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