Fremont Area Community Foundation is accepting applications for mini-grants to support innovative classroom projects. The application for education mini-grants is open through April 16.
Education mini-grants are available to Newaygo County educators teaching preschool through 12th grade in private and public schools as well as state-licensed childhood learning centers and daycare providers. Last year, the Community Foundation awarded 73 mini-grants to local schools and educators.
Mini-grants support classroom programs or projects that assist in reaching the
Community Foundation’s Goal 2025 initiative. All applications must meet one of the Community Foundation’s education priorities: kindergarten readiness, STEAM (science, technology, engineering, art, math), literacy, remediation, or creating a positive college and career-oriented culture.
Applications must be submitted by teachers through each school’s administration office and are due to the Community Foundation by April 16. Educators interested in applying must follow their school’s internal deadlines.
To find more information, review guidelines, or to apply, please visit facommunityfoundation.org/mini.
By Charles Chandler, N3 Contributor, Trail Enthusiast
On February 1st about 30 interested community members from Lake, Mason, Newaygo and Oceana braved the cold and occasional whiteout to meet for a Regional Trail Connectivity Summit in Hart, MI.
The Summit host was Spenser Riggs Executive Director of the Mason County Growth Alliance. Mr. Riggs opened the Summit and gave an overview of the work at hand. He stated that in 2017 a group of leaders from Lake, Mason, Newaygo and Oceana counties met and working under the direction of Michigan State University Extension established an Economic Alliance Development (LEAD) partnership. With $50,000 in grant funds, they began helping various groups within the four counties, identify and share common assets, and pool resources in three critical economic development areas. These were Workforce Development, Broadband Infrastructure, and Regional Recreational Trails Connectivity.
The purpose of the Summit in Hart was to convene those key stakeholders representing recreational trails in Lake, Mason, Newaygo and Oceana counties. Some attending the Summit were, Scott Faulkner, Treasurer, Newaygo Nationals Association, Tobi Lake, Administrator Lake County, Jim Maike Newaygo County Commissioner, Nick Smith, Newaygo County Parks Director, Mark Guzniczak from NCEDO,Kathy Bietau representing the Huron-Manistee National Forest, Kenny Wasnick representing the North Country Scenic Trail and Jamie Way representing West Michigan Shoreline Regional Development Commission.
The participants were given Summit pre-work including answering questions about the most popular types of trails, the least used trails, and issues facing trail users and managers in the four counties. With guidance from consultant Norman Cox from the Greenway Collaborative, Inc. the attendees reviewed regional trail asset maps, and marked trails that were not previously identified. There were also asked to name some of the unique ecological and cultural characteristics of the four counties. With these maps and from table conversations the participants were able to see the variety and number of trails in the four-county area and how disconnected they are.
One of the more interesting tasks was to collectively develop a description for the four county region that could become the recreational trails brand identity and would then be used in marketing literature and incorporated into larger Michigan Trail System.
All participants had ample opportunities to offer opinions and give feedback to the consultants and facilitators. Mr. Faulkner, always the visionary, suggested that when considering economic and environmental character the region being discussed is really larger than the four counties. The region could be considered that area from MDOT 131 on the east and extends from Grand Rapids up to Traverse City including the"ports of entry" from Grand Haven to Manistee.
After the Summit N3 asked facilitators and consultants Cox and Mehmed if their expectations for participation and outcomes were met. Both agreed that the participants were productive and recognized the scope and scale of work required to integrate the various recreational trails in the region. Additionally, they were surprised as to how well the attendees worked together given their diverse recreational interest. The participants identified the need to develop more and longer loop trails because they eliminate user backtracking or car spotting. Other pointed to the need for a common or regional language for wayfinding signage.
When consultant Cox was asked about next steps and timelines he mentioned that they would be taking the marked up maps, notes and suggestions from the Summit and refining that information to be presented in additional meeting with the larger community. The purpose of expanding the audience is to ensure there is further collaboration in defining the vision for integrating the regional trails and setting priorities for spending limited resources.
Summit host Riggs suggested that by midsummer we should have a working document that would include the vision, preliminary plans and strategies for growing and connecting the regional trails.
And hopefully some strong arguments for the benefits this initiative would bring to the recreational users and communities of the four counties.
DNR seeks volunteers for annual frog and toad survey
The Michigan Department of Natural Resources is seeking volunteers throughout the state to assist with its annual frog and toad survey, an effort that helps biologists monitor frog and toad abundance and distribution in the state.
Declining populations of frogs, toads and other amphibians have been documented worldwide since the 1980s. Studies suggest amphibians are disappearing due to habitat loss, pollution, disease and collection.
“In Michigan, over the past 20 years, we’ve noticed a decline in Fowler’s toads and mink frogs,” said Lori Sargent, the DNR’s frog and toad survey coordinator. “These are two species that have a limited range in Michigan, unlike most of the other species that occur statewide.”
Michigan’s is the second-longest-running such survey in the country, after Wisconsin’s.
“We have collected a large, valuable data set to help us evaluate Michigan’s frog and toad populations,” said Sargent. “We’re now able to watch trends and consider how to slow down some of the species’ declines.”
The surveys are conducted by volunteer observers along a statewide system of permanent survey routes, each consisting of 10 wetland sites. These sites are visited three times during spring, when frogs and toads are actively breeding. Observers listen for calling frogs and toads at each site, identify the species present and make an estimate of abundance.
Sargent said new volunteers are needed in all parts of the state, and that the program's continued success is dependent on strong volunteer support.
Those interested in volunteering should contact Lori Sargent at 517-284-6216 or SargentL@michigan.gov.
More information on the frog and toad survey and other projects supported by the Nongame Fish and Wildlife Fund is available at www.michigan.gov/wildlife.
FLOODING UPDATE FROM EMERGENCY SERVICES!
Yesterday, the Newaygo County Board of Commissioners declared a Local State of Emergency due to flooding.
As of 1030 AM the Muskegon River at Croton was at 9.89 feet with flows of 8,810 Cubic Feet per Second and holding steady. The river peaked at 11.51 feet yesterday at 530am.
As of 9:45 AM the Muskegon River at Newaygo was at 13.41 feet with flows of 9,830 cubic feet per second. The river peaked at 15.11 feet yesterday at 8:45am.
As of 10:00 AM the Muskegon River at Bridgeton was at 16.23 feet with flows of 9,890 cubic feet per second. The river peaked at 16.78 feet yesterday at 6:30pm.
Field Damage Assessment Teams are currently deployed to the impacted areas to obtain data needed for the local disaster declaration.
Currently all launches remain closed. Lauches upstream from the City of Newaygo are being reassessed and may reopen today. Lauches downstream from the City of Newaygo will remain closed today due to the extremely high waters and very dangerous flows.
The Muskegon River at Croton is at 11.51 feet. If you live within the impacted area, you should evacuate now.
WHAT IS HAPPENING NOW
MODERATE FLOODING IS OCCURING ON THE MUSKEGON RIVER. Inundation of homes, roads, and structures is occurring. If you live within the impacted area, and you have not already done so, you should evacuate now. If you need assistance safely getting out of your home, please contact the Newaygo County Emergency Operations Center at 231-689-7307.
Widespread standing water is expected in low lying and flood prone areas. Flooding of small streams, urban and poor drainage locations continue to occur. Three USGS River Gauges are used to determine the river levels. As of 5:30 am, the Muskegon River near
WHAT TO EXPECT
The following roads are currently closed due to flooding:
In Muskegon County M-120 from Twin Lake to Maple Island is Closed.
Instructions:If you live within the impacted area, and you have not already done so, you should evacuate now. If you need assistance safely getting out of your home, please contact the Newaygo County Emergency Operations Center at 231-689-7307.
From our friends at Emergency Services:
The National Weather Service has issued a Flood Warning for the Muskegon River near Croton
* As of 1:00 PM EDT a widespread 1 to 2 inches of rain has fallen in the last 24 hours with localized amounts just over 2 inches. Water equivalent within snowmelt has added to these totals, which is making it directly into streams and rivers, thanks to mostly frozen soils. *Another round of rainfall is forecast to impact lower Michigan this afternoon into early Wednesday morning. An additional inch to two inches of rain can be expected. Rivers will rise with many exceeding bank full and a few going into minor flood stage.
WHAT TO EXPECT Widespread standing water is expected in low lying and flood prone areas. Flooding of small streams, urban and poor drainage locations continue to be possible. Three USGS Streamgages are used to determine the river levels. As of 4:30 pm, the Muskegon River near
ALL PUBLIC ACCESS SITES ON THE MUSKEGON RIVER ARE CLOSED! Due to unsafe conditions on the Muskegon River, all Public Access Sites on the Muskegon River in Newaygo County are CLOSED until the Flood Warning has been lifted. Any use of these properties will be prohibited until further notice. Violation of this order shall be enforced under MCL 750.552 (Trespass) by State and Local law enforcement. ROAD CLOSURES The following roads are currently closed due to flooding: * Warner Ave. between Baseline and 8th St. * 8 Mile Rd. between Comstock and Dickinson * Luce Ave between 32nd & 24th in Dayton Township. * Elm and 8 Mile (Old M-20) intersection in Norwich Township. In Muskegon County M-120 from Twin Lake to Maple Island is Closed. FLOODING SAFETY
Fremont Area Community Foundation (FACF) presented a $400,000 grant to the Newaygo County Promise Zone Authority Board at their February 13 meeting.
This most recent award brings the Community Foundation’s total grant support of the Promise Zone to more than $650,000 over the past two years.
Dr. Steve Witter, board member and fundraising chair for the Promise Zone, expressed the board’s gratitude for the Community Foundation’s grant support as well as the fundraising and marketing assistance FACF staff has provided during the Promise Zone’s launch.
“The grant doesn’t encompass all the support Fremont Area Community Foundation has given us,” said Witter. “We would not be here today without that help and strategic partnership.”
FACF President and CEO Carla Roberts was on hand to present the grant along with Vice President and Chief Philanthropy Officer Todd Jacobs, and Lindsay Hager, FACF board chair. Roberts noted that the Promise Zone aligns closely with the Community Foundation’s goal to increase postsecondary achievement in Newaygo County.
“Thank you for letting us be a part of this campaign,” said Roberts. “We have been delighted to be part of this process. While our active role in the Promise Zone’s launch is now substantially completed, we look forward to continuing to partner with you as advisors and advocates of this wonderful opportunity for local students.”
A $1.5 million fundraising goal had been set to fund scholarships and operations while awaiting the start of state tax capture funding in the Promise Zone’s third year. Witter reported that more than $1.3 million has been raised to date.
Teams vie for room and board scholarships to CMU
East Jordan and White Cloud compete Wednesday, Feb. 21 at 7:30 p.m. on WCMU Public Television’s Quiz Central.
Quiz Central is an educational and entertaining academic quiz show. Teams from 48 Michigan high schools compete in four divisions based on school size.
East Jordan is coached by Sarah Malpass, and team members include Captain Hayden Ferguson, Joshua Ziebarth, Madeline Malpass and Trent Graham. Their alternates are Anna Roskamp and Nick Norton.
White Cloud is coached by Tony McHattie, and team members include Captain Cameron Karnes, Jennifer Shepherd, Kiranna Franklin, and Delton Dowling. Their alternates are Janessa Shepard, Parker Karnes and Brendan Lodden.
Teams compete in elimination rounds as they vie for the championship in their division. The four starters and three alternates of the division championship teams will each receive a two year, $4,000 room and board scholarship from Central Michigan University Residence Life.
The division champions then face off to determine the overall season winner.
In addition, four lucky Quiz Central seniors will receive textbook scholarships from the CMU Bookstore.
Now in its 13th season, Quiz Central is locally produced by WCMU Public Television.
The competition can be streamed via http://video.wcmu.org/show/quiz-central/
During the event.
Camp Newaygo, Assistant Director Jalisa Danhof and Radford University’s Anja Whittington are being recognized for ongoing research they are doing on the impact of girls’ experiences at camp. They are receiving a national award from the American Camp Association for their efforts.
A five-year research partnership between Camp Newaygo and a Radford University professor is showing that individual resilience and grit get strengthened by girls attending summer camp.
Resiliency increased after just a week at camp, according to the studies done by Camp Newaygo Assistant Director Jalisa Danhof and Anja Whittington, a professor of Recreation, Parks and Tourism at Radford.
The research being done by Camp Newaygo, Danhof and Whittington is being recognized by the American Camp Association (ACA). The efforts are being honored with the Eleanor P. Eells Award for Excellence in Research Practice on Feb. 21 at the ACA National Conference, which runs Feb. 20 to 23 at Coronado Springs Resort in Lake Buena Vista, Florida, outside Orlando.
“The research is still going on,” Danhof said. “But this supports what we had known.
“I think just the amount of change that you can see in these girls in a week, with their determination and confidence, is noticeable.”
In addition, results from the 2014 survey of 368 girls, ages 10 to 16, also found increases in approaching challenges positively,independence, confidence,friendship skills, and relationship building. The research results are already impacting Camp Newaygo, with programming changes made to support girls’opportunities to grow in resilience and relationship skills, Danhof said.
In addition, the 2014 Camp Newaygo survey was part of a larger study measuring the outcomes of girls’ experiences at camp. A 34-item survey was given to girls at Camp Newaygo and seven other camp organizations across the U.S., helping develop the Adolescent Girls’ Resilience Scale (AGRS) that measures approach to challenges, self-efficacy and relationship building.
In 2016, Camp Newaygo worked with Whittington to survey camp alumni. They found Camp Newaygo offers girls opportunities for college readiness skills that include, to a great extent, independence and self-reliance, teamwork, resilience and leadership.
Another study under way is a survey of a dozen campers entering 11th grade done in 2016 with a follow-up survey to be completed when the girls are college freshmen. The Camp Newaygo girls’ results are to be compared with a group of Radford freshmen who did not attend camp. The purpose is to see if Camp Newaygo promotes college readiness skills in camp.
Danhof and Whittington are making a presentation on their Camp Newaygo research in a panel discussion titled Camp Outcomes for Girls on February 21 at the ACA National Conference.
In her sixth year with Camp Newaygo, Danhof is a Florida State University graduate with a bachelor’s degree in recreation and leadership administration. She received the ACA’s Jack Weiner Leadership Award in 2017.
Whittington’s research interests include girls’ and women’s experiences in outdoor, adventure and recreational settings. She has an educational doctorate and a master’s degree in science education from the University of Maine and a bachelor’s degree in forestry from the University of New Hampshire.
The Youth Advisory Committee (YAC) of Fremont Area Community Foundation is accepting grant applications for programs that improve the quality of life for youth in Newaygo County.
Multiple grants of up to $12,500 are available to support programs impacting local youth. The group used the results of a needs assessment survey distributed in local schools to develop three funding priorities for the grants: H.E.L.P. (Helping Everyone Live Positively), social opportunities for youth, and continued educational opportunities.
H.E.L.P. is focused on support for Newaygo County youth who face challenges with drugs, questioned sexuality, teen pregnancy, or poor home life.
The social opportunities for youth focus aims to build and improve recreational and educational activities for local youth.
The third and newest focus is on continued educational opportunities and seeks to provide youth with helpful skills to aid in their success in employment and leadership in Newaygo County.
Grant applications will be accepted from nonprofit organizations, educational institutions, and governmental entities providing programs and services impacting Newaygo County youth. Proposals are reviewed by YAC members and must be submitted online by March 1, 2018.
For more information or to apply, visit facommunityfoundation.org/YACgrants. Questions may be directed to Wes Miller at 231.924.5350 or email@example.com.
By Ken DeLaat
The Newaygo County Board of Commissioners voted to contract with Enterprise Fleet Management for the purchase, sale and maintenance oversight for vehicles used by the Sheriff’s Department and the Commission on Aging.
Initially this will include the purchase of 16 vehicles and the sale of 7.
A lengthy discussion at last week’s Finance Committee meeting addressed contracting these services out. Cost savings to the county, increased efficiency and maintenance accountability were among the advantages County Administrator Chris Wren spoke to when describing the contractual arrangement.
Commissioner Vern Willett asked about the selection process. Mr. Wren explained the vetting involved in the selection of Enterprise included gathering information from other counties who had gone through a similar process including Muskegon who performed an exhaustive assessment and decided on Enterprise.
“They stood well above the other options we looked at for price and the services they provide,” said Wren.
He also explained the company would be using local dealerships for delivery and other services.
“What’s the contract length?” asked Commissioner Willett.
“We can cancel at any time,” Wren replied.
The Board passed a resolution that will put the Veterans Affairs Millage on the ballot for renewal. Commissioner Jim Maike singled out the efforts of Commissioner Willett in initiating this support for the Veterans Affairs office during a previous term on the board in 2003
Drain Commissioner Dale Twing answered questions about a resolution to bond for the Fellows Consolidated Drain Project in Grant. The project will also be receiving substantial financial support in a collaborative effort with the Michigan Department of Transportation (MDOT)who are also planning a major project in the city.
The Carmen Hoaglund Trust recently delivered a generous contribution of $44,661 to the Newaygo County Animal Shelter and the board passed a resolution recognizing the family for the donation. Look for more information in a future story on this unsolicited gift. A gift that will significantly upgrade shelter facilities and benefit the animals housed there.
In other business Linda Landheer was appointed to the Tax Allocation Board.
By Charles Chandler
There are many things I love about February in Michigan, the weather being one. It is predictably cold and snowy, not at all like miserable March. These big lake snow bands just fascinate me, one minute almost a whiteout then a few minutes later beautiful blue Michigan sky. I love the first snow because it covers up all the brown, including those autumn leaves that did not get raked as planned. If it gets deep enough you can go cross country skiing or snowshoeing out on the North Country Trail. Other February favorites are the Super Bowl, crazy good college basketball, my daughter and Punxsutawney Phil’s birthday, West Michigan Luthier Concert at the Dogwood Center and the biggy......Valentines Day.
And being from the South I kinda miss the Mardi Gras season especially the foods. If you can’t make it to one of the great Carnival Cities this year you can join me and other foodies and create your own up north Mardi Gras celebration. It’s easier than you think. First start playing some traditional Carnival music like Dixieland Jazz or my favorite Zydeco, wear something purple, green and gold and get plenty of those traditional bead necklaces of the same color. Then head on down to the Gala Gourmet on 18 State Road in Newaygo for a big surprise.
Terrie Ortwein and her culinary crew at the Gala Gourmet are serving up traditional Cajun and Creole dishes during the month of February. These include the cornerstone of New Orleans cuisine the famous Poor Boy and Muffuletta sandwiches. Pair these up with a bowl of their spicy Gumbo and you will surely forget about the cold and snow outside. I had an Oyster Poor Boy because this is a rare treat here in the river valley and as far as I know the nearest place to get these delicious shellfish is up at Pearl's New Orleans Kitchen in Elk Rapids.
The Gala crew rarely serves fried food but someone in the back of the house is an expert because frying oysters is a practiced art with timing and temperature supercritical. My “Po Boy”was perfect, oysters lightly breaded, not overcooked and dressed with fresh lettuce, tomato, with touch of house sauce served on a crusty roll.
Our family tradition was to always brighten up the warm oysters with a few drops of the original McIlhenny brand red Tabasco sauce and fresh lemon juice. The classic Muffuletta is a hearty working man’s sandwich and when you add a bowl of gumbo can be a light lunch for two. Terrie O also offers the delicious Jambalaya as a take home prepared meal.
I took my Muffuletta home and am still munching on the huge sandwich with my compliments to the Chef because the traditional olive tapenade relish has to be homemade. As for the Jambalaya, Dianne and I had that with a small salad for a pre Valentine dinner. My great aunt Amore Hebert from Baton Rouge, La set the culinary standard in our family and she would have served this dish.
Terrie’s Jambalaya has all the classic spicy ingredients with a light tomato base that added that signature color to the perfectly cooked rice. This is a hearty meal and perfect for two. Ask Terrie to select a wine from their extensive stocks and make it a celebration dinner and don’t forget a loaf of crusty French bread. Fat Tuesday is fast approaching and it will soon be Lent so don’t hold back. Browse that enticing Deli Case and load up on the desserts. A cup of strong French Roast coffee and one of the house special dark chocolate turtle cookie are my first choice.
Now back to the Mardi Gras beads.
After you and preferably a group of your friends have had a great Cajun or Creole meal at the Gala Gourmet, walk outside and pause a moment on the sidewalk. Then when one of those big noisy log trucks that frequently rumble down State Street begins slowing for the corner traffic light squint your eyes. If you do it right I promise that log truck will look just like one of those crazy floats rolling along Royal Street heading down to the French Quarter.
Then yell ‘Laissez le bon temps rouler’ really loud and fling your beads at the log truck and there you have it.
Mardi Gras with no hangover and a lot less travel money.
By N3 News Team
Members of the White Cloud Rotary Club are shown with big smiles and holding a BIG check representing a $9,000 contribution to their Fremont Area Community Foundation (FACF) Rotary Scholarship Fund. N3 met White Cloud Club Rotarian Scott Swinehart in his Edward Jones office in Newaygo and asked for additional details.
According to Scott the White Cloud Club with this latest contribution now has endowed three annual $500 scholarships that will be presented to three qualifying White Cloud students.
The qualifications for the scholarships are attendance, good citizenship and character, a 2.0 GPA, demonstrated community service and the desire to attend college or an accredited trade school Interested White Cloud students can access the Fremont Area Community Foundation’s website http://facommunityfoundation.org and apply on-line for these scholarships to be placed on a list with other qualified students.
A team comprised of members from FACF and White Cloud High School will select the most appropriate applicants that also meet the Rotary ideal of “Service Above Self.” The three recipients will be notified and the funds presented at the school’s annual awards banquet.
Scott also mentioned that going forward the White Cloud Rotarians will discuss expanding the criteria to cover apprenticeships, tools and equipment for specialized training, academy and skilled trades, as well as adult students.
You often see Rotary Clubs in the media funding various projects or initiatives like these scholarships as a result of their fundraising activities. This is the work that Rotarians do around the world. Their initiatives and projects are impressive; ranging from building a picnic pavilion in the local White Cloud Rotary Park to helping to eliminate Polio from our planet. For more information about Rotary, please access the following. https://www.rotary.org/en/about-rotary/rotary-foundation
From Newaygo County Emergency Services:
Both lanes of E 36th Street over the Hardy Dam are expected to be Opened by 5:30 pm today (February 5, 2018).
Contractors worked throughout the day to clear the ice causing the issue and reset the tipping wall blocks onto the foundation. It is anticipated no further closures will be needed at this time.
Ice issue poses no risk for dam, residents
By N3 News Team
The road across Hardy Dam has been closed again and will remain so until further notice. That section of 36th Street had been shut down Thursday due to an issue with the tipping walls involving an ice buildup creating pressure on the wall blocks. It was reopened after testing was performed later that afternoon.
According to information released by Consumers Energy contractors will be onsite Monday to start the process of removing ice from the upstream side of the tipping wall and the road will be closed until it can be safely reopened to traffic.
The two tipping wall sections have tilted further toward the roadway, with the greatest movement in Section 4 from about 4 inches to about 10 inches. (2 of the 7 sections associated with the tipping wall have shown additional movement.)
The change still poses no risk of a release of water and there is no risk to Hardy Dam, Croton Dam or downstream residents.
Because of the proximity of the tipping wall to the roadway, Consumers Energy has requested that the road over Hardy Dam be closed for the safety of motorists due to the additional tipping wall movement.
Emergency personnel are aware of the issue and an alternate coverage plan have been put into place.
Abby Watkins Newaygo County Emergency Services Director encourages residents to sign up for Nixle by texting NewaygoES to 888777 to receive alerts or accessing NewaygoES on Facebook for the most up to date information.
N3 will provide updates as they become available.
Foundation funded 'Quiet Time' reaping benefits
By Ken DeLaat
White Cloud is midway through a school year project that looks to impact kids in a positive manner through utilizing Transcendental Meditation.
A project that rose from the vision of one who has long known and taught the benefits of TM, a school system with the courage to give it a try, a principal who saw the possibilities of the program and a staff of teachers willing to buy into it.
To make a difference.
Few if any schools in our region are not filled with children who have survived domestic violence substance abuse, homelessness abject poverty and any number of other trauma producing events and situations. They arrive at our schools wearing the face these troubles. Problems that deeply impact their ability to learn.
Beyond those wrestling with the chaos of day to day lives are the students who might struggle for other reasons and find themselves falling short behaviorally and academically.
At White Cloud for the 30 students participating in the project it's called Quiet Time.
The Fremont Area Community Foundation funded program began last fall at White Cloud Elementary and Middle School with selected students from 5th and 6th grade.
N3 visited White Cloud Elementary at the invitation of the school and Mike Hummel the former school teacher who has long taught TM and remains an avid advocate of the benefits of its practice.
Our first stop was the classroom where 14 of students meet twice daily to practice the method they learned early in the school year. Patti Wildfong is the Behavioral Specialist for the elementary and has witnessed the commitment of the students toward practicing their TM.
“They hustle and bustle in here talking about this and that but the minute that bell rings they are in. They take it seriously. It’s important to them.”
As the students find their spots Ms. Wildfong rings a small bell that signals them to begin.
The room goes silent as the kids quickly fall into practice. For the next ten minutes each sits peacefully in their place without fidgeting, without talking and without moving.
They emerge from the practice shortly after a second bell and there is a sense of calmness compared to the level of activity apparent at their entrance.
After the kids gathered around a table I asked them about learning TM and what its done for them.
Like many in their age group they are candid about their thoughts and were willing to share openly.
“I do better on my school work.”
“I’m more organized and I know what I’m supposed to be doing now.”
“It helps make my math easier.”
“I can focus more.”
“It calms me down and I’m not so naughty”
“I used to be in trouble all the time and now I’m not.”
The answers came without hesitation and their words were spoken with a definite clarity.
It was apparent that they were well aware of the benefits of the method and easy to see why they were anxious to embrace it.
“Who would you want to have learn TM if you could choose anyone in the world?”I asked the group.
I expected a variety of replies that would involve pop culture figures or other famous people but their answers each involved someone close to them.Someone they would want to share their gift with. Someone they saw every day.
“My Dad because he’s stressed out”, My Mom so she can handle my sister better,” My brother because he’s naughty,” and “My Dad because my brother’s naughty.”
The students in this pilot group were chosen by the principal Laurie Watson and her staff for a variety of reasons including anxiety, difficulty sitting still, and other behavioral issues.
And thus far the results look promising.
“They respect it,” said Ms. Wildfong who has also been trained in the practice. “It’s been a good experience. I was admittedly a bit skeptical at first simple because it’s something different but I’m not the least bit skeptical anymore.
“ I’ve seen what it has done for this group of kids.”
“They have come so far together and have turned completely turned around previous behavior patterns.
"And the reason it's here and works here is because of (Principal) Laurie Watson. When someone comes along with something that is going to help the students in our building she is going to be all about it.”
We then met with Ms. Watson and Mr. Hummel
“When I came to the principal of the high school and superintendent they brought me to the school board to talk about the project,” said Mr. Hummel. “ Laurie was there and said ‘Wait a minute we have kids that could benefit from this.’ so we changed it around and brought it here.”
“We have a population that comes through these doors with some real struggles,” said Ms. Watson. “They arrive here after experiencing a wide range of issues in their life.The practice gives them a bit of calm and peace and they start day ready to engage in academics and tolerate working with other people.”
“It’s a great way to give them time to focus.”
Both emphasized the ability of the students to practice whether in school or not.
“The beauty of this is our kids have embraced it. No matter what may go on at home he can carry this gift and do it on weekends and all summer,” said the principal.
“It’s part of our message to our students that ‘You Matter’. Other people you don’t even know paid for you to get this gift because you are important. You were chosen because you matter to people who don’t even know you.”
“This has been a powerful tool and I believe the more we can do this now on this end when they’re young to give them what they need and what can help them the more it will help them down the road. It starts here. We want to help them now before they get into other mindsets, other habits.”
I also spoke with Superintendent Barry Seabrook who was the first person Mr. Hummel approached.
“Mike brought the idea to me and he had videos of other places where they’ve had success with this approach,” said White Cloud Superintendent Barry Seabrook. “ We set it up for him to present it to the board and he sold them on the idea for an interim pilot project that included training for all the administrators and a pretty good chunk of staff. We’re all TMers now.”
“Do you practice?” I asked.
“Yes, and it helps bring down the stress level. When Mike comes to do a monthly session with us as a staff you can feel the difference afterwards. There’s just a sense of calm.”
“In our county we have issues with homelessness, kids living with grandparents, drug and alcohol issues a lot of things that create stress for our kids and its throughout the county not just in White Cloud.
"If this method helps them to focus on school and leave behind what might have happened last night then let’s do it.”
“It’s still early in the process but I think we’ve seen enough progress and heard enough good things from the kids to try and move forward on it.”
Mr. Seabrook had high praise for the support provided by the Foundation.
"Kudos to them for making this happen. This is something we would not be able to do without their support.”
For Mike Hummel who spent a career in the education field and has long been aware of the wide ranging rewards the practice can bring there's a bigger picture. The small groups could easily become large groups of students with entire classes and much of the school engaging in the method.
“Even a classroom with 30 kids?” I asked. “ I’d think trying something like what I saw earlier might be disruptive in a large group.”
Mr Hummel smiled.
”Actually I look at it as not as disruptive as if they didn’t have it.”
The road spanning Hardy Dam has reopened but according to Road Commission Director Kelly Smith there will be another upcoming closure next week when a contractor will be brought in to remove built up ice beside the wall.
“They drilled holes and are confident there aren’t any voids causing the tipping of the walls. The ice has pushed the wall 3-4 inches and the contractor will get behind it next week sometime to clear it out.”
The State Department of Environmental Quality will be contacted before work begins.
“As soon as we know when they’ll be coming we’ll get the word out about the
closure,” said Smith.
Consumers Energy states the issue is above ground and there is no risk of a release of water nor any risk to Hardy Dam, Croton Dam, and downstream residents.
"We'll continue to monitor it as part of our regular weekend patrol until it gets resolved," added Smith
By Ken DeLaat
The road across Hardy Dam will be closed until further notice after Road Commission personnel assessed a possible problem at the spillway.
“We got a call last night around 10pm that one of the tipping walls was beginning to tip the wrong way,” said Road Commissione Director Kelly Smith .
“We looked at it and decided to close it until Consumers people could take a look at it. They’ll be drilling some cones to verify it isn’t a large void causing the problem.
“Our crew will be setting up detours, by noon but its already blocked by law enforcement
"This is a precautionary measure. Sometimes when you get a warm/cold cycle ice can form and cause problems.
“Right now we don’t know a lot. It’s not a critical situation, we just want to be cautious and make sure.We should know more later today."
A Consumers crew is enroute from Midland.
Near North Now will post updates as they become available.