GRBS has taken an active role to provide scholarships as a way to show our appreciation to the communities we serve. The GRBS Perseverance Scholarship focuses on students who have overcome personal challenges and/or hardships, as many of our team members face in their own personal lives. We hope to celebrate perseverance and perhaps attract candidates not receiving other scholarships. Sometimes the accomplishment of overcoming challenges is the greatest measure of true success.

GRBS has contributed over $475,000 in the past 19 years in scholarships to graduating high school seniors for post-secondary education, and we are excited and proud to continue our support again this year. All of our 2024 Perseverance Scholarship Recipients will be posted here after June 10th.

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Brandon Nimtz
Alyssa Naughton

Student of The Year:

Comstock Park Public Schools: Shelby Rogalski

Our recipient shared with us her struggles with mental health and appropriately titled her essay “The Day I Asked for Help”. In 2021, she was quarantined with COVID and felt like nothing was going right. Once back in school, she felt her seasonal depression coming back. She lost the ability to care about anything. She wrote, “I had piles of schoolwork that were miles high yet was not motivated to even read the directions. I didn’t care about what I was wearing, because I would go right back to bed as soon as I got home. I was never on my phone unless I was selecting a playlist best fit for my mood before I took my daily 5-hour nap.”

She shared her experiences with being on medication and how that made her feel, or ultimately not feel much of anything writing “I felt like the medications were turning me into some type of zombie-like machine just so I would be able to wake up in the morning.”

Then one night, it had all been too much for her to handle. She felt like she had no other options, and she made an impulse decision. Ultimately as soon as she realized what she had done, she knew how bad it was and she needed help immediately. It was 3 in the morning and ran to her parents’ room screaming. She was crying so hard she could barely get a word out, let alone take a breath. This was the first time she had genuinely asked for help.

She ended her essay with this, “It has been just around 2 years since then, and I feel more alive and aware than ever. I get help when I need it. I’m aware of my support system, and I’m overwhelmed with the love around me. I’m proud to say that I’m aware of the bad days, and that I have methods to keep myself going and motivated each day.”

According to the University of Michigan Medicine, 1 in 7 children and teens have at least 1 treatable mental health disorder including depression or anxiety, yet half of these do not end up getting treatment.

We are proud of her for opening up about her journey and allowing us to share it with all of you.

Each year, we select one student as our Student of the Year, this is never an easy choice as so many students have had to overcome difficult obstacles. However, this year, reading this story or perseverance, we knew it was the one. This year we have selected Shelby as our Student of The Year and she will be receiving a $5000 scholarship. Congratulations!

2024 Perseverance Scholarship Recipients:

Bay City Public Schools, Central: Fayth Ferrer

Fayth shared her experience with how she handled having an eating disorder. It started when she was in the seventh grade, just by counting every calorie. It continued for several years, getting worse day by day. In her sophomore year, that’s when she hit a low. She started the year having to wear extra makeup to give the appearance that her skin wasn’t dull. She was in a zombi-like state, with her body already shutting down. One day, after getting a red bull from the store, she went home and that’s when she realized she needed help.

She wrote, “My heartbeat started to slow. I felt drowsy. I remember lying there wondering why by body had had enough. I thought, “is this the end?”. I thought about how I got here, and the tears started streaming down my face and that alone show that something needed to change.” She has spent the last few years working on herself, making herself a priority, and taking things day by day.

Bay City Public Schools, Western: Jaicee Newbold

Jaicee shared her private, personal journey with things she grew up with. From these unfortunate events she shared that she learned to stay focused. She poured herself into academics and dance. She wrote, “[My] achievements were proof of my strength and determination: proof that I had overcome what could have easily brought me down. I learned a substantial amount about myself. I now know how I truly deal with challenges, and that I can overcome them with not only resilience and determination, but support too.”

Byron Center Public Schools: Zoe Vandenberg

Zoe opened up to us about her very personal journey with mental illness. She shared that a few years ago she experienced sequential, traumatic events  that corrupted her manner of thinking. She was unable to see herself in a positive light, and continued to believe that no matter what, she was never good enough.

It took a stranger stopping their day to get to know her, for her to start believing she was worth more. She wrote, “ If someone who didn’t even know me could have so much empathy for me, why should I not feel that same for myself.” After this experience, she took the time to heal herself. It has taken time, and it is a continual process for her, yet she has come a long way from where she began.

DeWitt Public Schools: Zachary Davis

Zachary titled his essay, Ten Years. He shared with us how one event at six years old could drastically change the course of your life.

While his story is very personal, he shared that with this one event, he didn’t realize what challenges would come his way for his family. He moved a few times and had to make new friends. He had to start at new schools and get accustomed to a new curriculum. However, he ultimately learned to step out of his comfort zone. He ended his essay with this, “These challenges and my determination to overcome obstacles have helped me find out who I am. They have helped me prepare for college and what is to come.”

Fremont Public Schools: Oliva Hansen

Olivia started her essay describing the dynamics of wanting to be the best athlete, but realizing there will always be someone better. She shared how hard she had to work and yet constantly felt defeated. She wanted to give up on sports, feeling like it just wasn’t worth it. However, she finished the season, not wanting to be labeled a quitter.

She attributes her change in attitude to her basketball coach. He encouraged her to try out and to continue to work hard. She made the team her junior year but was not a started. She worked hard and by the middle of the season she earned a spot in the starting lineup. At the end of the season her team voted her most improved. She ended her essay with this, “I finally came to terms with the lesson I learned. I’m not going to be the best athlete. I’m never going to be perfect, nobody is, but I have to quit comparing myself to others.”

Hastings Area Schools: Akvila Griffith

Our recipient shared her hardship of emotions with being adopted. She was only two when she was placed in an orphanage in Lithuania and stayed there until she was adopted at the age of seven.  She wrote, “I always felt out of place when I was a child and felt like I didn’t belong anywhere. It was hard to figure out who I was and where I came from.” Her freshman year was very difficult, trying to fit in, but not knowing who she was. She asked her forever mom to help her find out more about her biological parents.

Her sophomore year is when she found out both of her biological parents had passed away, but she came from a very large family. Her forever mom had been in contact with and aunt and had gotten more information about her life when she was younger. She was excited to know more but saddened that she would never have the opportunity to meet her biological parents.

In January of 2023 she went to Lithuania to meet with her family there. She wrote, “I know so much more about who my parents were and know they loved me very much. I learned where I came from and got to know the people that love me. I love both of my families.”

Holland Public Schools: Natalie Legg

Natalie’s father lost his two-year battle with brain cancer on December 15, 2017. Her world was shattered. Grief took over all her thoughts and overwhelmed her life in every way possible. She wrote, “I was forced to confront my own grief and learn to navigate life without him. It was a journey filled with challenges and setback, but through it all, I discovered a strength within myself that I never knew existed.”

Lakeview Community Schools: Ashlee Anderson

Ashlee shared her struggles with having her parents separated. It wasn’t easy when she felt she wasn’t supported the same way in both homes. However, these challenges did ultimately teach her to stay motivated and persevere through the hard times. She ended her essay with this, “I have become a strong and passionate person due to the hardships and challenges I have faced. I have been built into a strong, passionate, and hardworking person.”

Lakeview Community Schools: Alexandra Hunt

Our recipient started her essay with this, “In the year 2010, four months before my 5th birthday I lost my mother in a car accident. Losing a parent is hard at any age, but when you are not even 5 years old it can be even more difficult. I try my best to remember my mother, but it is difficult to get past the fact that she died in a car crash that you survived.”

After waking from being in a medically induced coma due to a traumatic brain injury, she had to relearn to walk and talk. She spent 6 months in the hospital, recovering. During her own recovery, she was also dealing with losing her mother. She explained every stage of grief she has gone through over the years, and it doesn’t get easier, yet she shared this, “I have been able to accept the fact that just because she is not here in person watching me graduate, she is in spirit, and I hope she is proud.” We are certainly proud of her and know her mother is too.

Northville Public Schools: Anisha Thoom

Anisha started her essay describing the dynamics of realizing she had her own doppelganger inside of her. She grew up giving herself a rigid schedule, with her clock app seemingly always going off with an alarm, a stopwatch, or a timer. Her greatest fear was forgetting, forgetting a water bottle, homework, charging her phone, and everything in between. She gave herself no spare time to spend with friends, watch a movie, or enjoy the things she used to. Over time, she felt herself starting to crack. She wrote, “Amid the appearance of perfection, my life of rigorous discipline was crumbling. I could sense a doppelganger eagerly waiting to express herself.”

She began to let go of her strict life and enjoy outings with friends and family. She watched movies with her mom and learned how to do Henna. She ended her essay with this, “My doppelganger trained me to adapt, finding the mental equilibrium between pushing myself to the brink of burnout and losing myself to the vibrant moments, life has to offer. Rather than merely checking off tasks from my to-do list for the sake of it, I learned to maximize my time through purpose”.

Okemos Public Schools: Chelsey Wilder

Chelsey wrote about the struggles an athlete can have when they sustain an injury. She had a love for volleyball, but sustained an ankle sprain that would take her out of the sport for eight weeks. She was crushed inside. However, she was determined to work hard at her recovery and get back on the court as soon as possible. Her recovery was only weeks, as she pushed herself, but then her focus became on how to prove to her coach she was ready to play and not further hurt herself. Athletes will always worry that an injury can remove them from the sport they love, but if they work hard, they can get back to it.

Portage Public Schools: Isabella Yanez

Isabella struggled with the effect of COVID, learning from behind a screen. It was hard for her to stay on the task and to comprehend the lesson. It took a toll on her mental health, and she gave up on caring about school and not putting in an effort. As her junior year approached, she was not able to attend school due to not having enough credits, so she started attending Portage Community High. Once here, she started putting in the efforts and worked hard to graduate. She writes, “I realized I messed up in the beginning, but I am thriving more than I ever imagined.”

Portage Public Schools: Andrew Hinojosa

Andrew shared his difficulty with moving to Michigan at the age of nine. His family is from a small town in Texas, where there were not enough opportunities for them to thrive financially. He was not sure what it would be like going to school. He wrote, “I was not looking forward to going to school because I thought people would not like me, I was scared and timid. When I first went into the classroom, my whole life changed. I felt happy for once. Teachers cared about my education, I felt like I was being challenged and taught. It showed me that people care about me.” Because of his experience, he wants to become a teacher himself.

Portland Public Schools: Aubree Faulkner

Growing up in a small town where she felt she didn’t always fit in was difficult for Aubree. From a young age she knew she was different than her peers. Frightened by the world around her, she decided to stay quiet just enough to get by, but even that wasn’t enough to hide. She wrote, “Truly, my coming out story, was non-existent, people just assumed that I was who I presented. They weren’t wrong, but that wasn’t how I wanted my story to go. I wanted to tell people I am proud of who I am.”

No matter how hard she worked in sports, or just kept her head down, there were always rumors, always someone talking. She finally came to this conclusion, “Realizing my worth could not be defined by the whispers that were spread, I had to embrace my resilience as a sense of empowerment. Unapologetically I carve out my path, embracing my true identity of authenticity.”

Tri County Area Schools: Clare Bjork

Clare started her essay describing the dynamics of growing up in a rodeo family. Her mother is a barrel racer, and her father rode bulls, and is now a blacksmith. She grew up with the goal of winning the all-around rodeo belt buckle. To do this, she would have to spend her free time taking care of her horses, training them, and perfecting her skills. To win, she would have to compete in 5 different events throughout the year. Over the years, she has come close, taking 3rd and 2nd place, but never 1st and earning the belt buckle.

She shared she can now look back and see that she has gained more than just a belt buckle… She learned to work hard, help others, and to not be afraid to put in the hard work. She has begun mentoring in the Michigan High School Rodeo Association as well. When she wrote her essay, she was halfway through rodeo season and was sitting in first place for all around. No matter what place she is, we are proud of her.

Vicksburg Community Schools: Anna Franklin

Anna explained her struggles with ADHD and how growing up, life wasn’t easy for her. She wrote, “School was always a struggle for me… middle school was especially hard, my grades were awful, I couldn’t focus, and I refused to do any work at home.” As she lost the internal battle, she started making poor decisions and ultimately moved to Michigan to live with her father and his family here. The move wasn’t easy, and she had to adjust to living in a new place, with no friends, and being very lonely.

However, as time went on, she went to a doctor and was diagnosed with ADHD and prescribed medication, which helped a lot. She began making friends, school became easier, and overall life was easier. She ended her essay with this, “I have persevered through life and have gotten to where I am now, which shows that anyone can do anything no matter what someone has gone through, as long as they are willing to do so and push forward.”

Wayland Union Schools: Ava Makowski

Ava shared her journey with having obsessive compulsive disorder. She didn’t realize some of her behaviors that she felt were normal simply weren’t. It was from watching a Tik Tok that she started to understand she may have a mental illness. Once she got the help needed, she also found how uneducated most people are regarding OCD. As she would explain it people, they would think that they had it too because they had to have things in color order, or that it was just a need to have things organized.

She ended her essay with this, “As much as I wish I would have never had OCD, I strongly believe that I was given it as a gift. OCD has had a major impact on my life and has taught me many life lessons. The importance of mental health awareness, to see both sides to every story, to never underestimate or judge a person without learning their story, and the importance of education. I will [continue] to share my experience, in hopes that more will share theirs.”