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Grads with Grit

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

‘A Better Life, a Safe Life, a Good Future’

In a swirling sea of students in red and white caps and gowns who were hugging family members and being photographed, Abdulhadi Aljazaeri stood tall with a beaming smile. In his hand he clutched something precious: a high school...

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...

Unbreakable Spirit

A recent district grad who's lived his life with serious health problems is on his way to Harvard, an accomplishment that surprised even him. Justin Sydloski applied to four colleges and was accepted by the University of Michigan to study...

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...

Car Crash Couldn’t Stop Him from Walking – or Marching

Editor's Note: This is the first of a series about students who have had to overcome unusual challenges and hardships to graduate this spring. Kaleb Robinson loves to play drums in the Cedar Springs High School marching band. But after...

Drawing a Path to Her Future

Katie Bork's drawings explode with imagination. Scenes in black ink reveal a world right out of her brain. Faceless people go about their daily lives with exclamation points and question marks on their bellies; they float in dreamlike bubbles;...

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...

Graduating Senior Battles Disease with Unconventional Approach

Editor's Note: This is the second of a series about students who have had to overcome unusual challenges and hardships to graduate this spring. Alexis Hickman tells her story candidly and openly, her personality displaying a combination of youthful sparkle...

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...

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...

From the Congo to Comstock Park: Refugee to Graduate with Near-Perfect GPA in Two...

Editor’s note: This is the third in a series about students who have had to overcome unusual challenges and hardships to graduate this spring When Gloire Rubambiza arrived in Comstock Park two years ago as a refugee from Africa, high...

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...

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...

Cerebral Palsy and Learning Disability Haven’t Stopped EGR Grad

Editor's note: This is the fourth of a series about students who have had to overcome unusual challenges and hardships to graduate this spring. East Grand Rapids High School senior Rosie Accola has an easy smile and super-smart vocabulary. She...

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...

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...
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