Start your family with best living places

Start your family with best living places

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Saugatuck students fundraising for Dominican Republic school expansion

Saugatuck students fundraising for Dominican Republic school expansion

A group of Saugatuck students are hoping that one project will have a big impact for many families in the Dominican Republic.

A few dozen people came to the Saugatuck Center of the Arts on March 22 to hear the Saugatuck High Schools Interact Club’s plans to construct a school expansion in the Dominican Republic.

“We as a club can’t take on the vast issue of global poverty,” said senior Lena Burdick, secretary of the Interact Club. “But we can have a noticeable target of impact on the area we’re familiar with, by focusing on one school.”

The Saugatuck High School Interact Club focuses on giving back through local community projects and one international project. About 30 students, 10 percent of Saugatuck High School’s student body, are in Interact Club.

The club’s local projects have included painting and setting out trash cans on Oval Beach and other parts of Saugatuck and Douglas, reading to migrant children at a migrant camp in West Olive, planting and tending trees on Mount Baldhead and picking apples for food pantry Christian Neighbors.

Since June 2012, their international project has been annual trips to the Dominican Republic, installing water filters and building latrines, usually in the bateys. Bateys are communities that house people who work on sugar plantations, a large and profitable industry for the Dominican Republic. About $94 million dollars of sugar is imported into the United States annually.

However, those profits don’t trickle down to the field workers. Club members said the workers make an average of $8 a day, often working 12-hour shifts with no breaks. Many of them are undocumented immigrants from Haiti, who are lured by recruiters known as buscones with promises of a better life in the Dominican Republic.

The club visited Batey 106 during their February 2014 trip and stopped by the Batey 106 school, which has only one room. Because of that, approximately 50 students can only attend the school part-time, and only through fourth grade. Currently, students who want to continue their education beyond fourth grade have to travel by bus to another school, and most families can’t afford the bus fare.

It was then the club decided they wanted to build another room onto the Batey 106 school.

“Education is the most effective tool to escape the cycle of poverty in the bateys,” said club member Georgia Richardson-Smaller. “It links to increase in survival, decrease in malnutrition, increase in income and increase in growth for developing economics.”

During the club’s trip this Feburary, the club members did research and talked to locals to make sure they were making the right choice and giving the community something they actually wanted and needed.

The response was overwhelmingly positive, with people saying that being a high school graduate means more job options. Without the diploma, working in the sugar fields is only option. Currently, about 80 percent of kids in bateys don’t graduate from high school.

“With education, they become professionals that benefit society,” said Batey 106 teacher Maribel in a video message made by the Interact Club. “They should know there is another way of life. Education is key. Without education, you have nothing.”

The club plans to build another room on the school, doubling student access to full-time study and providing additional shelter for families during tropical storms and hurricanes. La Romana, a service organization the club works with in the Dominican, has confirmed that they will be able to hire a second teacher with the school expansion.

The construction would be overseen by another service organization the group works with, and Dominicans would be hired to do the work.

In order to raise money for the school, the club has opened a crowdfunding campaign at The club is asking for donations of $10, enough to cover the cost of one of 1,600 concrete blocks needed for construction. However, more than $10 is welcome. Total construction cost is estimated at about $25,000.

“If we raise more, we don’t want to just build one school room,” said club vice-president Joseph Cappelletti. “They want to continue to build. If we raise more than $25,000, that will go into future plans, like funding travelers for the annual trip or a fund for students to ride the bus to high school.”

Club president Rudy Joon said they are also planning on doing a few other presentations at churches and Douglas Elementary School to raise awareness about the project.

“We’ve had a large donation from student council from our school’s Snowcoming Dance, and we’ve had a few private donations,” she said. “We’re basically starting campaigning now.”

Helping the club doesn’t just help the Dominican students, but Saugatuck students as well. Teacher and Interact Club supervisor Mike Shaw said project-based learning like this helps students develop important “habits of mind” like engagement, responsibility, persistence, openeness and curiousity.

“Our students develop not only a deeper perspective of the world we inhabit, but also compassion for others and gratitude for the multitude of blessings we have here in America,” Shaw said.

Both Joon and Cappelletti agree, saying they plan on continuing in philanthropic work after high school.

“Being a part of this has matured as a young man, and helped me figure out what I want to do with my life,” Cappelletti said. “I think everyone in the Interact club has had similar experiences.”

For more information about the Interact Club and their work, visit

— Follow this reporter on Twitter @SentinelErin.

Holland Christian mourns death of fourth-grader Caroline Kanis

Holland Christian mourns death of fourth-grader Caroline Kanis

Holland Christian is mourning the death of fourth-grader Caroline “Peach” Kanis, who died Saturday, March 18.

Kanis, 9, died of DIPG, a highly aggressive and inoperable brain tumor that forms at the base of the brain. Kanis, a Rose Park Elementary student, was diagnosed almost a year ago. DIPG is primarily found in children, with approximately 300 children diagnosed in the United States every year.

“Peach was never angry, never complained, never questioned why,” her father Michael Kanis posted in the Facebook group “Prayers for Caroline “Peach” Kanis.” “She kept to her admonition for me that day I took her home from the hospital after those first few horrible days: ‘We must never be angry, and we must never have regrets.’”

Kanis said in the post that his daughter died peacefully, surrounded by her family. 

“We were overwhelmed with gratitude for the prayers of our Holland Christian family woven into a tapestry of love, or the pages of a volume bearing tracings of your hands,” he said. “By the many thousands of prayers prayed at all hours of the day and night. For the meals given so lovingly. For words of assurance and comfort that could fill volumes. For all this we are most deeply and profoundly grateful. We may never be able to convey to you the relief of sorrow you have provided or the encouragement to trust and faith.”

Holland Christian superintendent Dan Meester said in a Facebook statement that Holland Christian is offering resources from Helen DeVos Children’s Hospital to help parents have age-appropriate discussions with their children about Kanis’s death.

“I encourage you all to remember that in order to lend your support for the Kanis family,”  Meester said in the statement. “You don’t have to have perfect words. You don’t have to avoid the hurt or the tears. You don’t have to worry that your gesture won’t be grand enough. Walking with people through pain is often just about being present, and I know I can count on all of you to do your part.”

Kanis is survived by her parents Michael and Tina, brothers, Grayson, Christian, and Noah, grandparents, Herman and Sue Kanis and Betty Ledbetter, aunts and uncles, SallyJo Morris, April Smith, Julie and Brian Lundeen, and great-grandparents, Madeline Sells and Cread Sells.

She is preceded by her great-grandmothers, Elizabeth Huizenga, Della Rogers and grandfather Glen Ledbetter.

Visitation is 2-6 p.m., Thursday, March 23, at Langeland Sterenberg Funeral Home, 315 E. 16th St. in Holland. Funeral services are 10 a.m. Friday, March 24, at Central Wesleyan Church, 446 West 40th St., Holland.

Memorial contributions can be made to Caroline’s P.E.A.C.H. Foundation (Philanthropic Effort to Advance Children’s Health).

— Follow this reporter on Twitter @SentinelErin

Holland High students to 'ladle out love' for My House Ministry

Holland High students to 'ladle out love' for My House Ministry

Holland High students are putting their cooking skills to good use, preparing food for My House Ministry’s second annual “Ladles of Love” fundraiser.

“It’s really cool to get out an help the community, instead of sitting at a desk,” said senior Maylin Walton, one of Andrew Campbell’s foods students. “It’s refreshing.”

Campbell’s students are preparing soup and desserts for the lunch fundraiser, which will be held 11 a.m-1:30 p.m. on Tuesday, March 14, at the Boys and Girls Club of Holland south side location, 435 VanRaalte Ave.

My House Ministry offers transitional, temporary housing for women for up to 18 months. The nonprofit currently operates three homes in the Holland area: two in the Westcore Neighborhood and one in Holland Heights. The plan is to open five more houses over the next five years.

“It’s good to know we’re making a difference and helping people who need it,” senior Rachel Payton said.

The first Ladles of Love last year had over 300 guests and raised a total of $10,112. My House Ministry founders and husband-and-wife Mark Jones and Nancy Haaser Jones had hoped to get 250-300 guests and raise about $9,000.

In addition to the food from Holland High students, 12 area restaurants will also be providing soup, Russ’ Restaurants will be providing breads and additional desserts will be provided by Crane’s Restaurant. Edible arrangements will be displayed in clay pots decorated by My House clients.

A silent auction will also be held, and additional donations to My House Ministry are encouraged. To-go boxes will also be available.

Tickets are $10 can be purchased through Monday, March 13, at

Proceeds will provide resident case management to help the nonprofit carry out its mission of providing hope, housing, and guidance to women and children in need.

— Follow this reporter on Twitter @SentinelErin.

Michigan bills would change curriculum, require ambulances at sports events

Requiring ambulances at high contact sporting events and curriculum tweaks were topics of bills introduced in the Michigan legislature over the week.

Ambulances at “high contact” sporting events

House Bill 4269, introduced by State Rep. Jewell Jones, D-Inkster, would require school boards to ensure that an ambulance and appropriate emergency medical sercies personnel will be present at athletic events like football and other sports that the school “considers to be high contact or otherwise reasonably likely to result in serious injury.”

According to the Program For Injury Prevention, Education and Research, the most common injury out of an estimated 568,789 high school football injuries are strains or sprains, not something that requires emergency medical attention. However, more serious injuries do occur. This past football season, parents in Pennsylvania and Nebraska raised concerns about what was considered slow ambulance response time to more serious injuries.

On-site ambulance varies across Michigan and other states, dependent on factors including cost, school location and school size. The Michigan High School Athletic Association says schools should secure ambulance service “if possible” for football games, but it is not required. However, the MHSAA does require medical personnel on-site for football games.

The bill has been referred to the committee on education reform.

Black History

House Bill 4293, introduced by State Rep. Sherry Gay-Dagnogo, D-Detroit, would require schools to have pupils of all grade levels receive instruction “regarding African-American history, and the contributions made by African-Americans in the development of the United States and the world.”

Black history is not specifically required in many states, apart from slavery, the Civil War and the civil rights movement. Concern has also been raised about how well even those core subjects are taught.

The 2014 Teaching Tolerance project by the Southern Poverty Law Center gave “F” grades to 20 states, including Michigan, when it came to teaching the civil rights movement. An “F” grade meant “essential content” was missed in most of the key areas, and states should “substantially revise” standards. Five of the 20 states — Alaska, Iowa, Maine, Oregon, and Wyoming— did not have civil rights education included in state standards.

“Rather than recognizing the profound national significance of the civil rights movement, many states continue to mistakenly see it as a regional matter, or a topic of interest mainly for black students,” the Teaching Tolerance report said. “Generally speaking, the farther away from the South — and the smaller the African-American population— the less attention paid to the movement.”

Out of approximately 1.5 million public and charter school students in Michigan, about 280,000 or 18 percent are African-American.

The bill has been referred to the committee on education reform.

Elementary music education

Senate Bill 198, introduced by State Sen. Curtis Hertel, D-East Lansing, would write the importance of elementary music education into Michigan’s school code.

Under the bill, every pupil in grades K-5 would have to be provided with at least two, 30-minute class periods per week. A school district would have to employ one certified music teacher for every 400 pupils enrolled in grades K-5, adopt and implement a music curriculum consistent with state and national standards, have at least one learning space dedicated to music education and establish and maintain an appropriate budget for elementary music education.

The bill has been referred to the committee on education.

— Follow this reporter on Twitter @SentinelErin

Zeeland school board approves bids for auditorium renovations

The auditoriums at Cityside Middle School and Zeeland East High school are getting a makeover.

The Zeeland Board of Education approved bids totaling $544,172 for auditorium updates at its Monday, Feb. 20 meeting.

The bids break down into $315,392 auditorium updates with Star Electric, Parkway and Structural standards for auditorium updates, $167,460 for audio and visual upgrades with Parkway and $61,320 for house lights at Cityside’s auditorium with Star Electric. The auditorium updates at Zeeland East include the addition of two lobbies.

The project is being paid for out of the $53.5 million bond approved by voters in 2015. Bids came in higher than expected.

“Costs for these projects were estimated before the February 2015 voter approved bond referendum,” Zeeland superintendent Cal DeKuiper said. “Our needs have changed slightly since then and we did estimate too low in general.

However, all other construction bids have come in under budget. Finance director Lynn VanKampen also said in a memo that they can cut costs in the auditorium project.

Zeeland East’s auditorium work is scheduled to begin in April, coinciding with other work at Zeeland East that includes changing the location of the front office area to make the entrance more secure, and turning the current office area into a learning lab. The work at Zeeland East is expected to be completed in August.

The Cityside work is slated to begin in June 2018, and will be completed by August 2018.

— Follow this reporter on Twitter @SentinelErin.

Holland schools win theatre championships

The city of Holland took over the 2017 Michigan Interscholastic Forensics Association (MIFA) State Competitive Theatre Championship at the Stage Theatre Festival at Charlotte Performing Arts Center, on February 18, 2017.

The city of Holland took over the 2017 Michigan Interscholastic Forensics Association State Competitive Theatre Championship this past weekend.

The event took place at the Stage Theatre Festival at the Charlotte Performing Arts Center, on Saturday, Feb. 18.

The Holland High School Theater Department was awarded two state championships in Division 1 at the festival and took home a third award for backstage management.

In Division 2, Holland Christian High School was awarded first place in the Main Stage division for its production of “Lend Me a Tenor.” Holland Christian High School was also awarded the People’s Choice award, which is voted on by the peers for their favorite performance.

HHS’s first award was the Main Stage division, which they have now won 19 times. Its production of “Triumph of Love” was awarded 285 points, making it the Division 1 state champion and the highest-scored show of the main stage event among all shows in all divisions.

The team was also named the Division 1 champion in the Studio Theatre State Competition for their production of “Agnes of God.” Holland High School is the only school to ever win both events in the same year.

Holland High Theater was also given the Golden Truck Award, which director Kevin Schneider said goes to the Division 1 school that best exemplifies professionalism and efficiency in its back-stage work, including load in, load out and backstage costume changes, technical set up and running of a show.

“We always talk about ways to get students to push themselves and to reach higher, these kids do it every day,” Schneider said. “Taking things apart, performance and technical aspects, making them better, problem solving when we are on the road in new spaces and new evaluators, explaining their choices and learning from feedback and all of this theatre competition. These kids are pretty amazing.”

The award continues the success of Schneider who has now won 20 state championships in his 30 years at the school.

Schneider said the students have been training for these performances since they returned from Christmas break and they had three weeks of rehearsals before the show opened.

The path to the championship for both schools started at the district level and then went to the regional level. After winning, the schools then had the chance to perform at the state level.

The HHS competitive theatre students will now be performing their two plays on Tuesday, Feb. 21 at 7:00 p.m. at the Holland High School Performing Arts Center. Tickets for these encore performances can be purchased at

Holland Christian High School will also be performing their play on Tuesday, Feb. 21 at 7:00 p.m. at Holland Christian High School and tickets can be purchased at

— Follow this reporter on Twitter @SentinelAustin or @BizHolland.

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