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‘This is when my life starts getting better’: EGR senior pushes through painful loss

Grads with Grit: Ed Prentice

East Grand Rapids — Ed Prentice has what some might see as a surprising amount of poise for someone so young who’s been through so much.

The East Grand Rapids High School senior speaks with clarity about his hurdles on the path to graduation, which include the untimely loss of a parent and multiple school changes. Looking back on it all, he’s found a way to cast it in a positive light. 

“I got all the adversity out of the way when I was young,” Ed said.

Still, he admits, “I haven’t had the easiest of lives.”

In fall 2018, two years before he started high school, Ed’s mother died after suffering a brain aneurysm. It’s an incident he recalls in vivid detail. 

“I heard a thud in the bathroom area,” Ed said. “My mother collapsed. Sudden aneurysm in the brain. I observed the whole thing. It was a Saturday, if I remember right. It was snowing.”

The following Monday, though his mother was in the hospital and on life support, Ed, shellshocked, went to school as usual. He said he wasn’t sure what else to do.

His mother passed away two weeks later. 

“I just kind of withdrew,” he said. “I kept to myself.” 

A tumultuous period followed, full of familial strife, custody concerns and readjustment. Ed had been living with his mother and stepfather in Grand Haven at the time, and he didn’t see much of his dad.

Initially, after his mother’s death, Ed opted to stay with his stepfather and stepsisters in Grand Haven. His grades started to slip during a rebellious eighth-grade year, and things at home continued to be strained as his family struggled to cope with the loss.

‘I think that, honestly, all the adversity I experienced was probably one of the best things that ever happened to me, because it molded me into the person I am today.’

— East Grand Rapids senior Ed Prentice 

Turning Point

When the coronavirus pandemic hit, Ed happened to be with his father in Grand Rapids. It made sense for them to stay together during the initial lockdowns.

Eventually, the arrangement became permanent, and Ed switched from Grand Haven Area Public Schools to Union High School in Grand Rapids. Ed counts the reunion with his father as a turning point that kicked off a period of slow, steady healing. 

He and his dad moved to East Grand Rapids to start anew, and Ed enrolled at East Grand Rapids High School. At first it was a struggle.

“I was shy, reserved; I had a bad attitude,” Ed said. “I had a giant chip on my shoulder.”

But being with his dad was doing him good, he recalled, and in time he opened up to the new school. He started making friends, taking chances and making strides.

“This is when my life starts getting better,” Ed said of his sophomore and junior years.

He met some students on the rowing team and eventually joined. Though in the long run rowing wasn’t for him, the experience triggered an enduring interest in health and fitness.

Ed Prentice, in the cowboy hat, with fellow members of the rowing team. Ed rowed during his sophomore and junior years (courtesy)

With his dad’s help, Ed built a weightlifting rack in their basement. He also took up Brazilian jiu-jitsu, at which he excelled.

With boosted confidence from his new interests, other areas of Ed’s life started to improve as well. He was diagnosed with and treated for attention deficit disorder, and his grades improved. He started taking AP classes, joined the school’s We The People program and got involved in Veterans Day activities. The latter helped to cement an interest in the military, which Ed will put to use on his ROTC scholarship to the University of Montana in the fall.

A ‘Sizable Shift’ in Attitude

Ed’s progress was obvious to those around him. 

“I have noticed a sizable shift in Ed’s attitude, from being guarded and sometimes skeptical, to more open and confident,” said school counselor Elle Burgess.

His teachers say he’s a standout student.

East Grand Rapids High School senior Ed Prentice (courtesy)

“Ed works very hard to really learn and understand things. He also follows his passions,” said government teacher Adam Horos.

English teacher Chris Stabile lauded Ed’s determination.

“Ed has tenacity,” Stabile said. “He is driven to demonstrate his ability, both to his teachers and to himself.”

Ed says moving in with his father was the shift that ushered in the other improvements in his life, and that each positive change led to another. Now he is happy, healthy and hopeful about the future.

“I think that, honestly, all the adversity I experienced was probably one of the best things that ever happened to me because it molded me into the person I am today,” he said. “I already know there’s going to be ups and downs on the road, and I’m prepared for them. 

“Honestly, any future ups and downs can’t even compare to what I’ve experienced previously.”

He wouldn’t have been able to make the progress he’s made without the help and support of his dad, which taught him an important lesson he hopes to pass along to others.

“Tell your mother, tell your father, that you’re grateful for them,” Ed said. “They do so much. A lot of kids my age, and people in general, take it for granted. I’ve learned not to, just by virtue of my experience.”

Read more from East Grand Rapids: 
Pioneer Partners provides picture of ‘community rising as one’
Beyond robotics: Club has global reach

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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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