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His most enduring style: a diploma

Grads with Grit: Michael Bowlson

Godwin Heights — Senior Michael Bowlson never wavered on his determination to graduate with his class, even when he was told he needed to make up a lot of ground his senior year. 

It was January 2022 when Michael, then a junior, stopped in at the counseling office to meet with school counselor Kristi Bonilla. 

“I just had to get to work, and she just told me everything I was supposed to do.”

Michael said a combination of “freshmanitis” — a lack of motivation and interest in school — and the COVID pandemic impacted his grades. 

Bonilla said Michael had quite a challenge: he needed to complete 13 credits — almost half the required credits to graduate — but he pushed through to make it happen.

“His diligence in his studies, positive attitude and belief in his plan for success are a testament to his resilience and hard work,” said Assistant Principal Michael Proco. 

Senior Michael Bowlson graduated with his class on May 17

The Latest Fashion: A Diploma

Michael is not afraid of hard work. He launched his own clothing brand, Hidden Emotions, in 2022. 

“There was a lot of stuff that I wanted to buy, but I couldn’t,” he said, adding his interest in clothing started around age 9, but being young, never seriously considered starting his own business. As he got older, Michael discovered he had the connections, a designer to create the Hidden Emotions brand and a manufacturer to print them.

He tapped into that same attitude to earn his high school diploma. He carried a full load of classes and took online courses in the evening, all while continuing to build his clothing brand. 

“I did a certain amount of assignments for each class each day,” Michael said. “I just stayed on track with all of my classes so I could make sure that I did not miss any.”

Michael estimated that he spent about one to three hours a day on his online classes. He took breaks on weekends when his work was caught up, and got in-person help when he needed it.

Senior Michael Bowlson, third from left, poses for pictures with his classmates

Exceeding Expectations

“You can truly see his dedication to graduating through the hard work and perseverance he put in this year,” said teacher Alexi Wolf. “Through it all he has had a positive attitude, and took each class in stride.”

Math teacher James Rex also noticed. 

“Michael was grinding harder in class, putting in more time after class and engaging with school in a way I hadn’t seen all year,” Rex said. “This was what impressed me the most. At the most difficult time to stay focused, he was rising to the challenge and exceeding expectations. 

“It’s always a special moment watching students walk the stage on graduation day. For some students who had a more difficult road to graduation, it’s a little extra special. Michael is going to be one of those memorable students for many of the staff here, and I’m very proud of how he finished his high school career.”

Michael took his place with his classmates as they walked from the high school to the football stadium on May 17. When his name was announced, he shook hands with everyone in the receiving line.

“If you put in your blood, sweat and tears into something, and you try your hardest and you are fully committed to it, you’re gonna get a great outcome,” he said. “That’s how I see it.”

His advice for others: “Take it seriously, because at the end, everything is gonna come back to you. You don’t want to be in my position, where I had to do so many classes in one year and nine months.”

Senior Michael Bowlson stops to shake hands with Principal Chad Conklin
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Joanne Bailey-Boorsma
Joanne Bailey-Boorsma
Joanne Bailey-Boorsma is a reporter covering Kent ISD, Godwin Heights, Kelloggsville, Forest Hills and Comstock Park. The salutatorian for the Hartland Public Schools class of 1985, she changed her colors from blue and maize to green and white by attending Michigan State University, where she majored in journalism. Joanne moved to the Grand Rapids area in 1989, where she started her journalism career at the Advance Newspapers. She later became the editor for On-the-Town magazine, a local arts and entertainment publication. Her eldest daughter is a nurse, working in Holland, and her youngest attends Oakland University. Both are graduates from Byron Center High School. She is a volunteer for the Van Singel Fine Arts Advisory Board and the Kent District Library. In her free time, Joanne enjoys spending time with her family, checking out local theater and keeping up with all the exchange students they have hosted through the years. Read Joanne's full bio

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