- Phoenix High School
2021 Graduates: Sierra Ward Says Busy Is Best
“My parents always pushed me to stay busy to stay out of trouble. I just had so much energy as a child, staying busy was a way to channel that into something positive,” Sierra Ward says.
So, as a student at Loy Norrix High School, Ward:
- Participated in Girl Scouts through high school.
- Took an Education for Employment class, which led to dual enrollment at Kalamazoo Valley Community College.
- Was president of the Merze Tate Explorers Travel Club, which encourages female students to travel. She studied abroad in Europe and earned college credit and represented Kalamazoo in Japan as part of the Numazu Sister City program.
- Played volleyball for four years, and dabbled in basketball, softball and track.
- Was president of DECA, a career and technical education program that focuses on marketing, finance, hospitality and management.
- Was president of Interact, the high school arm of Rotary International.
- Attended church at Bible Baptist Church, where she volunteered.
Some of the positives that came out of all of that activity: Gold and Silver Awards — the highest accolades in the Girl Scout program, the Outstanding Senior Award from EFE, certification as an basic EMT, and the Social Justice Youth Award from City of Kalamazoo.
“I like trying new things. My motto is you never know until you try something,” Ward said.
Ward, 18, is the daughter of Kalamazoo Public Schools teachers Cherise Ward (Arcadia Elementary) and Atiba Ward (Loy Norrix High School). Her younger sister Aliah is a rising freshman at Loy Norrix. She plans to enroll in Western Michigan University to study public health, with a minor in holistic health and chemistry.
One of her longest-running activities has been the Girl Scouts, which she started in as a first grader at Prairie Ridge Elementary. Her mother has served as her troop leader.
While many people see Girl Scouts as an activity for younger children, the program has many stages that “offer different avenues as you grow through the program,” Ward said.
Among the highlights of her high school career was receiving the Gold Award, which is the highest accolade available to a Girl Scout. The award requires girls to complete a service project with a minimum of 80 hours of work. The girls must research an issue and choose an associated project that is both sustainable and puts the Girl Scout principles into practice, while inspiring others.
Ward created a series of inspirational bookmarks, which she distributed to KPS graduating seniors in 2020, nursing homes and hospitals.
“I had a lot of family who were sick and passed away during the COVID-19 pandemic, and this project was kind of in their honor,” Ward told WMU for a story on incoming freshmen. “I had a lot of friends graduating last year who didn’t get a traditional graduation, and then senior citizens weren’t allowed to have visitors in nursing homes and hospitals because of COVID-19. So, I made the bookmarks to try to lift everyone’s spirits.”
In the fall, she plans to be a leader for a Girl Scout Daisy troop.
“I’d like to help other girls, especially girls of color, know they can receive those high honors.” Another carryover she’ll take from high school to college is her EMT training, which began with the Education for Employment (now called Career & Technical Education) EMT course, and continued with her dual enrollment at KVCC. Through the program she received certification for basic life support, CPR, and disaster assistance. She is studying for her national EMT certification and hopes to work as an EMT while in college.
Ward’s suggestion for all high school students: take advantage of every opportunity. She remembers walking through the hall of Loy Norrix one day when she came across an event for the Interact Club. “They had pizza — and I was just so hungry,” she laughs. She stopped for the pizza — but ended up becoming the social chair, and then the president of the service group.
“I feel like a lot of people do activities for the cords at graduation,” she said. “But, I feel like you can’t replace the experience of being a part of those groups. My mom tells me high school is your least stressful time — it’s an opportunity you want to take advantage of.”