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Tony Bonofiglo: ‘We Are All Different in Some Way’

Well, kids, I hate to break it to you, but while some of you sigh your way through another summer, wondering how to occupy your time and who's going to be the next person to help you up, don't...

Shiza Shahid: Empowering Girls & Women Around the Planet

"What is it," she asked, almost in a whisper, "that you plan to do with your wild and miraculous life?" And in that moment, you could almost glean flickers of light emanating from the members of her young audience, more...

Health Advocate Jean Jilote: ‘Always Smiling, Always Available’

It's not two minutes into our interview, and already health advocate Jean Jilote is shedding tears. It's not that she's suffered some recent loss or experienced pain or trauma. She's just so in love with her kids that the thought of...

Le Tran: Teacher, Artist, Inspirer and Dragon

Le Tran is trying to arrange the start of her AP Art class when three young men bound in, seeking chocolate. Normally, there’d be some available, part of Tran’s stash that she’s peddling to benefit the National Art Honor Society,...

Fred Reusch: Teacher, Tutor, ‘Coolest Man Ever’

The story you're about to read is about a high school math instructor, written by someone who can barely add single digits. But in the course of professionally observing people and human nature the better part of 40 years, trust...

Friendships Break Down Barriers

I have pretty good recollection of who I sat with in the lunchroom during both my elementary and high school years, I can say with some certainty – and shame – that it wasn't any kids with special needs. So...

Hayley Lee: Student ‘On Fire’

Before? Well, before, Hayley Lee was, by her own admission, a little sassy, too disrespectful, and variously disconnected -- unless you include some unsavory elements that were leading her down un-righteous paths. And today? Well, you got a minute? Hayley Lee has discovered...

One Pebble, 25-Year Ripple and Counting

I think too many of us misunderstand or take for granted men and women who serve as school board members. We sometimes dismiss them as a bunch of suits pontificating from ivory towers, concurring with the superintendent's every whim. Or,...

Konarska Twins Leave Double Legacy

You could spend a lot of time perusing the resumes of identical twin brothers Kevin and Keith Konarska, who retire at the end of this month as Superintendent of Kent Intermediate School District and Grand Haven Area Public Schools,...

Student Baristas Add Math, Social Skills to their School Menu

It's not even yet 8 a.m., and already, it's a honeycomb of activity inside Mandy Acker's second-floor classroom. But the dozen or so students buzzing about aren't studying just one subject. Instead, they're engaged in a hybrid class that simultaneously teaches...

Mentor Program Empowers Students and Adults Alike

Gay Van Otteren levels his 85-year-old eyes directly at you and then says this: “The greatest gift that you can give to one another is your rapt attention to their very existence.” The room grows quiet. Heads nod in agreement. And the beautiful...

Runnin’ Rebels Encourages Teamwork and Camaraderie

Forget everything you've ever read or heard about the so-called "loneliness of the long-distance runner." At Lee High School, you'll find a unique running club in full swing, an after-school fitness party where students and staff are invited to come...

Athlete, Academic, White House Advisor: Leighton Watson

Ladies and gentlemen, keep your eyes on this young man. I’ve been wrong before, but something tells me the name “Leighton Watson” will surface down the road in more ways than one, and possibly in a manner that eventually makes...

Overcoming Disability, Student Composes Opus for Orchestra

When the 38 members of the 8th grade string orchestra at East Grand Rapids Middle School sat down to play a new opus recently, it wasn't a selection by Bach or Beethoven or Brahms. The piece was composed by none...

A Very Special Teacher for Special Kids

Some years back on a Fourth of July, schoolteacher Sarah Bolema fielded a phone call from a distraught student's mom. To the mother's horror, her son was acting out his anger by climbing onto a dangerously steep roof and...

India Stewart Dunning: Survivor and Scholar

Her clothes are arranged by color.Like Pippi Longstocking, she sleeps upside down, with her head at the footboard and her feet at the headboard. Ever since first meeting "Bucky" in the Disney flick "The Emperor's New Groove," she's been in...
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