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Linda Mah
/ Categories: Communications

KPS Offers Variety of Routes to Success

Students Can Find Their Own Paths

For the past few years, the August edition of the Excelsior has celebrated the accomplishments and talents of our graduating seniors. The young adults in our district always amaze me.

As we launch a new school year, it occurred to me that reading the stories of our students provides insight into of some of the programs that make KPS a unique educational experience. As a large and diverse district, we can offer students multiple ways to succeed, depending on their needs, interests and talents.

In 2017, for example, one of the graduates we highlighted was Kalamazoo Central student Roselyn Nsenga, whose family fled violence in their native Rwanda. She was born in Kenya and grew up in Malawi. KPS is home to hundreds of students from immigrant backgrounds and offers an extensive English as a Second Language program.

For someone who spent years hiding her background because of fears of ethnic violence, Nsenga said it was r e f r e s h i n g to come to a school where she was accepted into a diverse and empathetic community.

Our award-winning music and art programs and other extracurricular activities give many talented students outlets in which they can express themselves. Two examples are Kalamazoo Central students Kendra Parkman, who was known for her choral and musical theater work, and Julia Kemple-Johnson, who won accolades through Mock Trial.

Other students find ways to shine on the court and on the field, carving out identities as athletes. Isaiah Livers, who was the 2017 Mr. Basketball and who now plays for the University of Michigan, was a basketball — and baseball — standout at Kalamazoo Central.

The Class A sports opportunities at KPS high schools include everything from tennis to football, swimming and diving to basketball and softball. Soccer, lacrosse, bowling and golf are just a few of the other sports offered in our schools. The wide variety allows students to forge unique paths. 2017 Loy Norrix alumna Sheridan Britney, who in the off-season from track started working out with the wrestling team, discovered a second athletic love and became the co-captain of the wrestling team in her senior year.

Diverse opportunities exist not only in extracurricular activities, but in our academic program as well. Students stretch themselves through collaboration with Education for the Arts, Education for Employment, Early/Middle College, and the Kalamazoo Area Math and Science Center.

There have been stories of students for whom school is a place where they thrived, and our Academically Talented program and educational partnerships allow us to offer opportunities that challenge students on every level. In 2018, Kalamazoo Central’s Thomas “Jake” Fales talked about the inspiration he found as an English student in the Academically Talented Youth Program, which allows students to complete four years of high school work in two years of middle school. Rachel Mei Lanting, who is a Heyl Scholarship winner, came to KPS as a freshman and was thrilled by the challenging AP classes she found at K-Central as well as at the Kalamazoo Area Math and Science Center.

And finally, one thing that comes through clearly in these stories is not just that our students are smart, talented, and gifted, but when they do struggle, we have a caring community of staff there to help students with the challenges life sets in front of them. Some students have shared those stories in the Excelsior as well.

Students also have shared stories about struggling with drugs, dealing with deaths of family members and friends, and addressing anxiety. They have shared their experiences, which luckily included them finding the right environments in which to heal and the support systems within their schools to enable them to succeed.

Not only are our students extraordinary — but so are our teachers, administrators, counselors, paraprofessionals, and community supporters. Together, we provide our children with diverse opportunities that let them shine no matter what their talents or their stories.

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