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‘I’m comfortable with who I am’

Northview — Kieran Yanik is just fine being looked at as the proverbial poster girl for positivity. 

“It takes so much more energy to be negative; why not just be positive?” she asked.

The Northview High senior suspects her proclivity for leadership roles comes from her parents, but really took shape while in middle-school teacher Kathy Vogel’s class — though her list of teachers who have influenced her is long, she said.

“I was in National Junior Honor Society (while in Vogel’s class), and I had a love for helping people even then. Anytime someone needed something done, I was there to do it.”

Kieran paused, but just for a split second; she is a fast talker who is effusive even about the teachers she didn’t have. And like many good leaders, she has high praise for her mentors. “I’ve never had a bad teacher,” said the district student since first grade.

The respect is mutual. Math teacher Sarah Snyder has Kieran in class for the first time this year, “but I already knew who she was due to her amazing presence in the hallways and how involved she is.”

Student Council Adviser Julie Haveman called Kieran “mature beyond her years, and has been that way since I met her as a freshman.”

Kieran’s activities while in high school have been many. She currently is Student Council vice president and captain of the lacrosse team, along with being a member of the National Honor Society, recycling club, varsity golf team and one of the leaders of WAVE: Welcoming, Accepting and Valuing Everyone, a student group that’s intentional about interacting in positive ways with elementary and middle school students.

‘I want to help other people not ever be afraid to be themselves.’

— Kieran Yanik, Northview senior

“I just want to show people how they can get involved: in our school, in the community, what they can do to make it a better place. That just makes me happy, I guess.”

Kieran Yanik, far left, with classmates at the Gerald R. Ford Presidential Museum in Grand Rapids in May for an armed forces appreciation event (courtesy)

Good from Loss

Kieran’s outlook does not exist without having already faced a tremendous challenge. Her father, Matt Yanik, died suddenly in 2016, when she was in fifth grade.

“That was definitely a hard time,” she said. “But I think it has made me more compassionate and empathetic as a person. I think I feel things more deeply now because of it; little things can make me cry. But it also made me realize I don’t want other people to feel lonely. I want to be someone they can come to, a friendly face.”

Perhaps Kieran would be surprised to know just how profound her impact has already been. Vogel said “her smile and warmth helped me get through various losses in my own life.”

The death of Kieran’s father brought her even closer to her mother, Sarah, and brother, Colin, now in eighth grade. She credits her parents, ultimately, with being her first leadership role models.

“My mom is definitely one of those people who always wants to help someone who is in need,” she said. And though she thinks the trauma of her dad’s death has blocked some memories of him, seeing him be a leader at church, his many friendships and “his always being a lot of fun to be around” left its mark on her.

Kieran plans to put her sunny attitude to good use once she graduates. She’s considering going into health sciences, “but I’m not completely sure yet.”

Wherever her path leads, professionally and personally, it’s a good guess her presence will have a positive effect on others.

“I was talking to my counselor when we were going through my college applications, and he told me, ‘You seem like you are just comfortable in your own skin,’” she recalled. “That might be a big part of it. I’m comfortable with who I am; I want to help other people not ever be afraid to be themselves.”

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Morgan Jarema
Morgan Jarema
Morgan Jarema is a reporter and copy editor, covering Northview. She is a Grand Rapids native and a product of Grand Rapids Public Schools, including Brookside and West Leonard elementaries, City Middle/High School and Ottawa Hills. She found her tribe in journalism in 1997 and has never wanted to do anything but write. For 15 years she was a freelance journalist for The Grand Rapids Press, covering local schools and government, religion, business, home & garden and lifestyles. She and her husband, John, think even those without kiddos should be invested in their local schools and made to feel a part of them. Read Morgan's full bio


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