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A line to Lansing: Seniors appointed to statewide council

Students ready to make a change

Cedar Springs — Two Cedar Springs High School students are lending their voices to a statewide chorus this year as part of the Michigan Department of Education’s Student Advisory Council.

Seniors Nathan Slager and Haley VanKampen were appointed to the council after being nominated by school administrators. Their first meeting was on Sept. 13, and they’ll continue to meet monthly throughout the year with State Superintendent Dr. Michael Rice to discuss safe spaces, race and diversity, the amplification of student voice and more, according to a statement from MDE

“I’m really excited to put input in, and to just start having those discussions surrounding the way our education system is in Michigan,” Haley said. “I feel like that will be really interesting.”

The council was first conceived in 2020 following the murder of George Floyd in Minnesota. That event spurred Rice to ask superintendents to recommend students to discuss how to make schools more inclusive and welcoming by addressing issues like safety and inclusion.

‘There’s a lot of input we can give as a rural school in a small town. … It’s an important part of the puzzle.’

— Senior Haley VanKampen

“Basically, it’s going to be an opportunity for us to sit down with students all across the state and … just voice our opinions with different issues that might be going on, different districts and schools that we want to talk about and address, and work toward solutions to those problems,” Nathan said. “Obviously, we have all sorts of different communities throughout the state — rural, urban — so it’s an opportunity to get a mixture of all of those.”

Haley is eager to share her thoughts, feelings and experiences from Cedar Springs, which she hopes will help represent other, similar districts.

“There’s a lot of input we can give as a rural school in a small town,” she said. “I feel like that’s the case for a lot of other Michigan schools, and it’s an important part of the puzzle.”

Haley and Nathan are the first Cedar Springs students to serve on the council, said Superintendent Scott Smith. 

Calling them “game-changers,” Smith said he’s proud of the seniors and excited about what they’ll accomplish.

“Only a small number of students from across the state serve on this council,” he said. “It is astonishing to think that two of the students selected from a statewide pool of quality applicants are from Cedar Springs Public Schools. The selection committee made an outstanding decision by selecting Haley and Nathan.

“They are well deserving of this honor and will do a remarkable job in Lansing.”

Likewise, the students are ready for the opportunity to make a change.

“There’s lots of problems and issues that go on in schools and different districts,” Nathan said. “I kind of just like addressing those problems out there.”

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Riley Kelley
Riley Kelley
Riley Kelley is a reporter covering Cedar Springs, Grand Rapids, East Grand Rapids and Sparta school districts. An award-winning journalist, Riley spent eight years with the Ludington Daily News, reporting, copy editing, paginating and acting as editor for its weekly entertainment section. He also contributed to LDN’s sister publications, Oceana’s Herald-Journal and the White Lake Beacon. His reporting on issues in education and government has earned accolades from the Michigan Press Association and Michigan Associated Press Media Editors. Riley’s early work in journalism included a stint as an on-air news reporter for WMOM Radio, and work on the editorial staff of various student publications. Riley is a graduate of Grand Valley State University. He originally hails from western Washington.


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