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Grads with Grit

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

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...

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...

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...

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;...
Wyoming student Jose Sanchez Bueso

Student Graduates after Riding Train of Death through Mexico

Editor's note: This is the fifth of a series about students who have had to overcome unusual challenges and hardships to graduate this spring. During the last day of his senior year at Wyoming High School, Jose Sanchez-Bueso completed his...

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...

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...

‘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...

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...

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...

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...

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...

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...

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...

From Genocide to College, Rwandan Refugee Student Keeps Faith Strong

Editor's note: This is the seventh of a series about students who have had to overcome unusual challenges and hardships to graduate this spring. Moses Kabandana was born in Rwanda in January 1994, just before the killing started. By that June,...

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...
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