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Grads with Grit

A series about students who have had to overcome unusual challenges and hardships to graduate this spring.

She’s come so far

Farhiya realized her self-created predicament was sad, but she also knew she could get herself out of it...

Running the good race, from refugee camp to top student-athlete

Jama Jafari Jama has been through rough times, but he says nothing will stop him in the long journey now before him, starting with a scholarship at Aquinas College...

MySchool@Kent students overcome obstacles to get to graduation

Students choose online high school for a variety of reasons. Here, a few of this year’s graduates reflect...

Strong faith, desire to help pushes her to be healing force through song

Despite tremendous loss, and mental and physical ailments, MacKenzie Van Dorp is off to the country music capital to pursue a career in music...

Family and friends pushed her to excel, grad says

To some, using a wheelchair might mean marching band was out, but not for Sarah Abma...

If you give a kid a 3D printer he will want to be a...

Graduate Bryan Rosello Lizardo overcame challenges and struggles, and is headed to the University of Michigan...

From conflict to commencement: African refugee finds success through perseverance

In the fall, Jeanette Mukampabuka will begin studying for an engineering or nursing degree at Western Michigan University and wants to eventually pursue her master’s degree...

Toughing it out through troubled times, she sets her sights on college

Before coming to the district, Ivy and her two brothers -- one older, one younger -- had lived in 16 different homes and been in and out of a half-dozen schools as a result...

From homelessness to supporting himself, he’s ready for college

Technically homeless, Tristen Foley worked and studied around the clock to get his diploma...

Determined grad finds her way from life-altering earthquake to success

Coming to U.S. from Haiti just two years ago, Roodflore Winkels has accomplished much and is reaching for new heights...

Coming from struggle, Somali student wants to ‘change someone’s life’

A Forest Hills Northern High School graduate born in war-torn Somalia plans to leverage the opportunities he has been given in this country to help children and families adjust to the U.S. and its culture...

‘You can’t rely on other people to build you up’

Shane Brewer admits he once did “the bare minimum” in school. “I just scraped along. It’s not that I’m not smart. I just didn’t see the point.” Until he did...

Undaunted by Disease, Staying the Course

Standing in a hall of Sparta High School, Steven Sevarns wore a smile that might suggest he wasn't headed to class that day. He had finished his last lessons before graduation, and all but the ceremony was behind him. A...

A ‘Battler’ who Wouldn’t Settle for Less

Brittney Schnicke's first thought as she stared at her limp, badly damaged fingers was not whether she would be able to keep them, or how the accident would affect her future. And it wasn't whether she would ever regain normal...

Shooting for the Top

Donnie Alford owns his past with a perspective on where he comes from, where he is today and why it all matters that seems mature beyond his 18 years. The Wyoming High School senior, who graduated June 1, tells...

Diploma: ‘I Feel Like it Changed My Life’

Tyler Zahnke sat down at his musical instrument – aka, his Toshiba laptop  – and proceeded to open a wonder-box of sounds. He called it “Welcome to the Tape.” Out the sounds came, tumbling one into the next: Bach’s Brandenburg...
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