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For this grad, it’s all about turning negative energy into positive actions

Grad with Grit: Caleb Badour

Comstock Park — The old saying about when life gives you lemons, make lemonade, perhaps best describes senior Caleb Badour and his philosophy of putting “negative energy into positive actions.”

“You’re given all these weird and bad scenarios in life, and you got to look at them and however you look at them is really the result of what comes,” Caleb said. Meaning: If you react badly, you have no chance of getting even a slightly good outcome, but if you find solutions, problem-solve or look at it from a different perspective, you might have a chance to improve your situation.

Caleb speaks from experience since during most of his middle- and high-school career, life threw him a lot of lemons.

Learning to ‘Squeeze’ the Day

The first lemon came early. Since the district at the time did not have a young 5’s program, Caleb said his first two years of school were in kindergarten.

“It was OK because in the second year of kindergarten is where I met my first friend, Lucas Berry,” Caleb said. The two have remained friends all through their school years.

Caleb said his elementary years were typical. But it was in middle school, with the aid of some teachers, that he started developing his philosophy of looking at challenges in a different way.

Angry about something — Caleb says he does not remember what — and taking it out on the tables, a middle-school teacher taught Caleb how to get out his frustrations through pushups.

“So me and him are sitting there doing pushups,” Caleb said, adding they continued to do them until Caleb had to stop. He was not angry anymore.

“He gave me a big old hug and then said, ‘If you ever get mad just bang out as many pushups as you can and you won’t be mad anymore … put all that negative energy into positive actions.’”

Senior Caleb Badour, left, with his first school friend, Lucas Berry, who also graduated this year

Caleb still had that anger as he entered high school. Halfway through his freshman year, the staff recommended that he consider the school’s alternative program, Flex Academy. It was a good move, Caleb said. Besides reconnecting him to a former middle-school mentor teacher, Tim Olson, the program’s flexibility also would enable Caleb to push through one of his biggest challenges yet.

In his sophomore year, Caleb’s mother, Sherri Nelson, had two herniated discs and a pinched sciatica nerve, making it difficult for her to work and continue her business of refinishing and refurbishing antique furniture. 

“My mom is my biggest superhero,” Caleb said, adding his mom admitted she was struggling to cover the bills. “So I said, ‘Mom, let me do this.’”

Caleb already was working at Olga’s restaurant, and as long as he was caught up on school work, he could flex his school schedule to pick up extra hours to help with the bills. 

“I would feel good about it. I wouldn’t feel like ‘Oh, I’ve gotta pay bills,’ but I felt a certain pride about it that I’m not doing this for me but I’m doing this for my little family, for me, my mom and my dog.” He added with a laugh, “And when I started, I didn’t have a dog.”  

Eventually, Caleb’s mother was able to get the surgeries she needed and go back to work. 

Caleb also learned how to control his anger; following the advice of that former middle-school teacher, he channeled it into exercise and weightlifting. 

‘When you get in those spots where you’re just so obsessed about getting something done for a good reason, then find what fulfills. What makes you happy.’

— Senior Caleb Badour

Every Day Is a Fresh Start

Healthier both mentally and physically, Caleb decided for his senior year to return to the traditional high-school setting. 

“I wanted to experience the school thing one more time, because realistically, I hadn’t experienced real school since middle school,” he said. “I wanted to get six different classes, having to hear the bell every day, having to walk to a different class, having to go to my locker, and just having to go to lunch.”

His perseverance earned Caleb the school’s Grit Award, given to a student who has embraced their obstacles as an opportunity for growth, a quality his former teacher Tim Olson said Caleb definitely exemplifies. 

“Even when problems get tough, he can find ways to get through,” Olson said. “Some people wouldn’t see it as the best way, but it’s on his own way, on his own terms.”

Social studies teacher Phillip Wilkerson, who had Caleb for economics, saw during that class Caleb’s perseverance and determination.

“His positive, can-do attitude is what sets Caleb apart from others,” Wilkerson said. “Watching Caleb constantly strive for self-improvement, no matter the circumstances, has been inspiring to say the least. I couldn’t be more proud of Caleb and all he has achieved.”

Senior Caleb Badour with social studies teacher Paul Wilkerson

When Caleb first walked into the high school, his initial thought was “When am I gonna be able to leave?” he said. He admitted that it sounds cliché, but it all did go by rather fast. 

He has made plans for his future. During his junior year, Caleb was able to attend the Kent Career Tech Center’s HVAC program, where he was EPA-certified to handle refrigerants and learned to work on small appliances. His next step is to secure an apprenticeship and move up to service tech or installer.  

He also looks back at the past four years and recognizes it has made him more respectful and appreciative of the people he’s known and opportunities he has had, which leads to one last piece of advice for those entering high school.

“When you get in those spots where you’re just so obsessed about getting something done for a good reason, then find what fulfills,” he said. “What makes you happy, and that’s kind of also another cliché: ‘Do what makes you happy,’ but that’s real. It’s a real thing.”

Read more from Comstock Park: 
“Your brain is so powerful’
Finding focus and a fresh start through auto mechanics

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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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