2021 GRBS Perseverance Award Winners


Garden City: Marina Short

Marina started her essay on perseverance with, “The hand I was dealt as a child was not one that set me up to win as an adult.” She shared how by the time she was six years old, she had lost both of her parents and became an orphan before she even knew what that meant. While she was growing up, she was made to feel inadequate, unlovable, and damaged beyond repair. With these feelings bottling up, everything came to a head in 2016 when she started a 2 year stay at a mandated youth housing facility. In 2018, she moved to Garden City, and unfortunately, bad only became worse. Not only did she have to battle her own mental health, she was battling a terrible home life as well. Choosing to self-medicate resulted in returning to the mandated youth housing facility. She shared there was little hope and support as everyone had all but given up on her.

This is when the story begins to change. Marina decided she needed to find her own hope, her own path, and set out the course for sobriety. A year later, she was allowed to return home days before her 17th birthday, only to find an unhealthy, unsupportive environment. Marina shared with us, “Not once did anyone at home communicate with me in any way or fashion. They just disposed of me as I had been disposed of my entire life.” Marina stayed at the girls’ home, Genesis, where she credits her growth. There she was taught, “patience and resilience and empathic tendencies.” Returning to Garden City High School, she made an agreement with her physics teacher that she would run cross-country… she didn’t want to run, but it gave her motivation to get healthy. And thankfully, she had two people that believed in her and invested in her and best of all, gave her a stable home life; teachers and coaches from Garden City High School, Mr. Hornbeck and Mrs. Hornbeck. Marina ends her essay with a powerful statement, “My perseverance through all that life has thrown at me has gotten me here and hardly any of it was luck; I’ve survived through my hardships and now I am more than just a survivor, I am a thriver.”

We couldn’t agree more. She persevered and overcome some of the most troubling hardships any of us could imagine. We know how proud the Garden City High School Administrative and Counseling team is for your accomplishments, and especially the Hornbecks. Every year, one student is recognized as the GRBS Perseverance Statewide winner of as $5000.00 scholarship. Marina, is our Statewide winner for 2021.  GRBS is donating $5000.00 to the school of her choice post-graduation.  We are humbled and honored to share her story, and to showcase her perseverance. Congratulations Marina!

Birch Run: Cassie Tasior

Cassie shared her struggles of growing up with scoliosis. At 14, she was diagnosed with mild scoliosis with a 53-degree curve on the top and 38-degree curve on the bottom. Then, the unsettling news of spinal surgery came. She had to have two rods and 8 screws put in her upper back to fuse the vertebrates together. The operation took 8 hours, and she woke up not able to feel her legs, instantly fearful she was paralyzed. Fortunately, the numbness was due to how her body was positioned on a nerve. It was a hard few days of recovery before she was able to leave the hospital. After returning home and not feeling “normal”, she fell into a depression. She writes, “I felt hopeless, lost, alone, frustrated, I was falling behind in school. I didn’t enjoy the things I used to.” However, she got stronger and took back her life. With time, motivation, and hard work she was able to overcome all the hardship she had to endure.

Birmingham Groves: Joshua Wallington

When his mother was unexpectedly hospitalized, our recipient had to take on more responsibility than he could imagine. He was picking up prescriptions, grocery shopping, cooking for himself and his younger sister. He was also visiting his grandmother nightly to monitor her blood pressure and blood sugar. Along with getting her pills ready. He wrote, “For a month a didn’t care of myself. I did not assess my mental health or needs. I became irritates. I was overwhelmed with taking care of other people.” However, in the end he is grateful for what his mother and these unfortunate circumstances taught him: managing time, working efficiently, doing for other, and the importance of taking care of yourself.

Birmingham Seaholm: Sajid Alam

When his father was suffering from PTSD after his tours in Afghanistan and Iraq, our recipient wrote how the family turned to religion to help cope. At this time, he was attending a parochial school and continued to do so for many years. However, as circumstances changed, their family felt it was best for the children to attend a well-regarded public school. They made the move so they could attend Birmingham schools. He was a freshman starting a new school with only knowing a few faces from football. To say he was nervous is an understatement. However, he persevered, he put himself out there and introduced himself to others. He is thankful for his parents giving him the opportunity to attend public school and show him great strength and motivation.

Byron Center: Morgan Westrate

HOPE, that is what this essay was all about. Morgan remembers her mom yelling “get out!” as her eyes lit up from the flames. The family had all been asleep when a fire broke out in their home. Hours and hours of firefighters, neighbors, and family members all there doing their part to help the family. However, they now had nothing of materialistic items other than the pajamas they were wearing. They went to the store without wearing shoes, just so they could get necessities. That night was one to remember, and she shared that she learned to always have hope that things can and will get better.

Cedar Springs: Abigail Buttermore

Abigail shared with us her journey of physical hardships due to her Crohn’s disease. She has limitations on what foods she can eat as well as suffering from fatigue, stomach cramps and a weakened immune system. She writes, “Persevering through the physical ailments has taught me to be strong.” However, she has had to push through the mental aspect as well. With Crohn’s she knows, this will never go away and sometimes feeling she is missing out a time with friends, has taken a toll on her. Yet, she stays positive, “Through persevering, I have learned to overcome physical battles, mental barriers, and anything that the world has to throw at me.”

Comstock Park: Nolee Camp

Nolee shared with us her story of losing her mother at a young age. As with many families, her parents separated. Life was very different with each parent and time with her mother was not what she had imagined it to be. At the beginning of 7th grade, she had not seen her mother in over a month, when she received the news that she had passed away. While she felt many emotions at that time, she shared with us how much she learned as well, “I exert myself because I have seen how quickly life can change. I never take what I have for granted.”

Comstock Park: Gavin Burd

Gavin wrote to us about growing up with Asperger’s Syndrome. He was diagnosed at the age of one, and since then struggled with delay in language development, many ear infections, speech session. He practiced building conversations and cohesive thoughts. This year, he is graduating high school with over a 4.0 GPA. He ended his essay giving thanks, “If my school did not give me the help I needed, I wouldn’t be where I am today.”

Comstock Park: Carley Bishop

This young woman that wrote a powerful essay documenting her struggles with Spina Bifida, titled “Knocked Down, Not Knocked Out”. Her essay captured the essence of how difficult life has been with needed braces to walk, falling and having to get back up, two back surgeries before she even walked and knowing there may be more ahead. In 2019, she had her third back surgery. She went from being active to needed help getting dressed. She endured a spinal fluid lead and two infections. Her junior year started with her in a wheelchair. She credits her parents, teachers, coaches, friends, and her sister with all they did to help her succeed and push through each and every day. Something she wrote is more meaningful today than ever before, “I learned to importance of maintaining a positive support system, and how even the little things they do, can make such a large impact on someone in the long run.”

DeWitt: Adam Hoekstra

Our recipient wrote to us about how he was able to learn responsibility through hardships. For many years he has helped his grandmother with maintaining her home. He also shared with us his mother was diagnosed in 2014 with cancer. Since then, he has helped his family by helping to take care of his mother, grocery shopping, household chores, and doing all of this while maintaining a 3.75 GPA. Not many students would be able to keep up this demanding schedule, yet he does, and he does it with pride. He and his family also got involved with making hundreds of face masks and donating them to hospitals and nursing homes.

Fremont: Gage Moravec

Gage writes, “Hardships are usually something that will set someone back or even stop them from achieving goals in their life. I have had many family issues that have affected me, and I have had many social or school issues that have set me back.” She shared his personal journey of ups and downs in his life, but ended his essay with, “I have come out on top. I believe my hard work paid off.

Fremont: Dalton Luchies

Dalton wrote to us about life with a hearing defect and a heart condition. He shared that he eventually developed a stutter as well, which made him a target for being mocked. Through his hardships, he has learned to look out for the new “targets” and stand up for them. He writes, “The challenges I have experienced so far in my life have made me a stronger, wiser, and kinder individual.”

Gaylord: Mackenzie Wright

This essay started with Mackenzie sharing how she lost her father in 2005. He passed away unexpectedly in an accident driving to work, the family was not able to say goodbye. She was only three at they time, but the impact has always stayed with her. Moving forward to 2016, her mother was diagnosed with stage two breast cancer. Her lone parent was now struggling, and Mackenzie and her brothers knew they needed to all come together. Each and every day, she remembers to not take anything for granted and to appreciate all the small things, because you never know when it might be taken away.

Hartland: Kimberly Darish

As many young athletes have to deal with injuries, Kimberly had a torn right ACL. She was a dual sport athlete playing basketball and soccer year-round. In 2018 she had her first surgery which left her with a 3” scar. Two months after surgery, she had to go back in for doctor to break up scar tissue. In January of 2019, another surgery was scheduled due to a lesion. After 10 long months of recovery, she was finally able to return to sports. Unfortunately, she then tore her left ACL. She says she was able to get through all of this by keeping a positive mindset and attitude.


Hastings: Reese Warner

This essay was like non other… Reese wrote a letter to herself from the perspective of now being a senior. I would like to share a few of her quotes, “to sophomore self, this is the year that you start to lose yourself. Being the private person you are, please do not hesitate to open to people. Tell them your struggles and worries. Ask for the help.” “To junior self, in the spring you are sent for 2 weeks due to the pandemic. Two weeks turns into a month and then we are not going back at all before summer. Throw your anxiety and a hint of depression into the minx and everything seems to be falling apart right in front of you… please more than ever, hang in there.” “To senior self, you are more educated about mental health, you are not alone. My overall message to you is to keep going.”

Kent City: Joscey Carew

Sports injuries can be crushing for anyone, but when they take you weeks to heal and ultimately your grades suffer as well, it is an even harder task to manage as a teenager. Joscey suffered a severe concussion, resulting in missing out on life in general for almost 2 weeks. She spent this time alone in her dark room with no noise, interaction, or entertainment devices. Once she was allowed to return to school it was only for 2 hours a day. She was missing lots of schoolwork, and for a student that was accustomed to getting A’s, seeing the F on a paper was disappointing. She studied harder than before, determined not let that grade be the new standard. She acknowledged, “though I still hate the recovery process, it was necessary for me to be able to grow as a person.”

Lakeview Battle Creek: Genevieve Moore

Genevieve shared her experience with a sports injury and how that affected her not only physically, but mentally, emotionally, and in so many other ways. She wants to start a research program to help athletes in need and to help build prevention programs for schools that are affordable and attainable. She writes, “Going through this injury I was lost, mentally. I have been given hateful comments about my body or performance as an athlete. I have had a bad relationship with food, bit hid it. I have failed tests because I had to miss to much school. I have been left lonely without a friend to help. I have struggled immensely but have learned so much during that process when I thought I wouldn’t make it through the day.” We are proud to sponsor a young woman with so much determination to help others.

Lakeview Montcalm: Journey McCartney and Lauryn Frump

Both of our recipients wrote to us the stories of their mental health struggles. They both struggled to stay focused, have the will to continue and just simply be happy, healthy teenagers. Through their individual journeys they have had ups and downs, but they both credit their family and friends for helping them through. We are honored they shared their very personal stories with us, and we are proud to be able to recognize both.

Northville: Madison Swearingen

Madison struggled her freshman year to stay on track and to comprehend assignments in class and at home. She talked this through with her counselor and her parents, and they determined she needed to be tested for a learning disability. Within a week she was diagnosed with severe ADHD, triggered by a head injury from the summer prior. She writes, “Living with ADHD has taught me to regardless of what life may throw at you, perseverance, industriousness, dedication, and a positive mindset can get you anywhere.”

Parchment: Kloie Linders

Kloie wrote to us about a plethora of hardships, too many for a teenager to have to endure. She has had to watch destructive relationship, struggle through financial hard times, and depression. She writes, “Looking back, I don’t know how I overcame any of these things. I am the person I am today because of my hardships. I have taken my hurt and frustration over what I cannot control and turned it into motivation to focus on what I can control.”

Parchment: Katie Jones

Katie lost her mother in 2015. That alone brings hardship, however this young woman also had to cope with knowing she lost her mother to alcoholism. She wrote, “I didn’t know whether to remember my mother as how I knew her or as what I was coming to realize that she was like.” She attended counseling to help her find her way and to cope with the loss and mental health struggles she was battling. She ended her essay with, “Little did I know when I was 12 wishing my life would end, that the obstacle I was facing was going to change me for the better.”

Paw Paw: Adrienne Flanders

With a global pandemic, finances have been more difficult for many families. Our award winner shared with us how their family had to cope with having to budget more than ever before. She wrote something that we should all put into perspective no matter what the financial status is, “Instead of getting takeout, my dad gives my sister and I a lesson on how to cook the perfect spaghetti. Instead of shopping, we spend our weekends hiking and sledding and playing board games together.” She ended her essay with, “I have truly stepped back and realized that it’s the people, not the things, that make life so worthwhile.”

Plymouth-Canton Canton: Ethan Gross

Ethan shared a personal journey with his appearance. As with most young adults, he suffered through acne. However, he writes that his journey was different, it was one that altered his mind to believing he was not worth looking at. He tried what felt like everything with little to no results. Eventually, he decided to take it upon himself, and research acne, the cause, how it worked, misconceptions, and different products. He found a new regimen that finally worked. He was able to look himself in the mirror again and gained more confident to look others in the eye when speaking to them.

Plymouth-Canton Plymouth: Jacob Jansen

Jacob wrote to us about one of the struggles many face… he was dyslexic and had ADHD. It was not until 4th grade when they got the diagnosis. Until then, he felt as though he could not keep up with the other kids, but finally felt relief. He is thankful for the teachers and tutors that helped with his learning, and his parents for always getting him the assistance he needed. He writes, “My diagnosis became a superpower to me. I know volunteer in my mom’s classroom and work with younger kids that have the same diagnosis or struggles. Kids who have learning challenges want to do well. The best feeling is being able to help another student with similar struggles realize how smart they are.”

Plymouth-Canton Salem: Katherine Bednarz

Katherine started her essay, “One second I’m being wheeled to the operating room saying goodbye to my parents, and an instant later I wake up foggy-minded, tubes coming out of me everywhere, with the memory of the last eight hours completely and utterly erased.” At 10 years old, she found out she has scoliosis. She had to wear a brace for 18 hours a day, which at first felt like an embarrassment to have others see this. However, over time she realized it empowered her. She knew she was taking the proper steps to conquer her scoliosis. Once she had her initial surgery, they did another one to help the curvature of her spine even more. With recovery and hours of physical therapy, she is now able to, “sit up straight, shoulders back, feet flat on the floor, left hip raised, to prevent pain.” We are proud of her journey and the steps she has taken to improve her life.

Portage PCEC: Saba Khan

Saba shared her journey of attending school in India, where the experience is much different than in America. In India, school is not free, so coming from a family of 5 children it was difficult to survive on a day-to-day basis with all 5 children attending school. However, there were punishments there that would not be acceptable in America and Saba knew it was not ok. She wrote, “The schools her in the US are such a blessing! I could write a 10-page essay just on how grateful I am to be given the opportunity to attend Portage Community High.”

Reed City: Mekenzie Lintemuth

Mekenzie shared with us her harrowing tales of feeling out of place for just being who she is. There are no words I can say to take any of her hardships away. However, I can share with you some of her uplifting and inspiring wisdom that she shared in her essay. She writes, “My greatest gift is my perseverance. I have been proud of my ability to push through things that happen to me and keep going. When I look back on my childhood, I am filled with pride at what I have overcome. I have friends who consistently stuck by my, I have an amazing family who I owe so much to, but I am most proud of myself for taking the time to look in the mirror for years and push toward my happiness.”

Sparta: Hannah Gunhus

Hannah is a hero. She decided to share with us her experience in hopes to help save someone else, so they know they are not alone. She shared, “I was 14, and in a relationship where I thought I was in love. Once I was 15 and 6 months into our relationship, we were young, but believed we were mature. Looking back, I see how childish we truly were. By the 1st year of our relationship, all forms of emotional and physical abuse were in motion. I had been threatened, hit, manipulated, and taken advantage of. With the abuse of the relationship, came my substance abuse and self-harm at the age of 16.” Once the relationship ended, she thought her life had ended. She only confided in one person at the time, and they did not believe what she was telling them. She looked to her religion to help her through. Today she is proud to be strong enough to share her story.

Sparta: Michelle Kober

Growing up with an older brother that was 26 years older and a younger brother 13 years apart, meant Michelle spent much of her time at home with her parents that she loves dearly. Her father had been diagnosed with multiple sclerosis in 1990. He had been unable to walk, and Michelle had only known her father in a wheelchair. In 7th grade, her father had begun to have seizures, which meant annual hospital trips to monitor the seizures. Her freshman year, she came home one day to find her mother and older brother were taking her father to the hospital since he had not been acting the same for a few days. While there, he had been diagnosed with stage 4 multiple myeloma. For a little while, he was doing better, but then he started to become unable to do most daily tasks and a hospice nurse was brought in, and not too much longer he was gone. She writes, “I learned perseverance through my dad. Even if his body could not do the things he wanted, his mind could. He was trapped in a body that didn’t work.”

Tri County: Ashley Myers

Once our selection committee read this essay, we knew it was the voice of so many seniors this year. We would like to share a few selections…

“I was told about how great senior year is, how easy going, bittersweet, and fun it is. I have waited 11 years of my life for this final year of high school to be the best, but somehow, I ended up attending my senior year from my room, behind a computer screen… I made a choice of taking my classes online instead of in person for the sake of myself and others. Virtual learning is a day-to-day struggle, I often find myself overwhelmed and frustrated… I feel the void in my chest of missing my teacher always being there when I needed help. Throughout this time, I can take away the life lesson to never take anything for granted.”

Vicksburg: Nevaeh Gates

Nevaeh struggled through a difficult childhood, yet once things started to improve, she still felt as though she did not belong. “Why did I have to be different? Why do I not fit in?” Eventually she realized she can do anything she desires if she puts her mind to it. She ended her essay with, “What I have lived through and conquered is what I truly believe defines the person that I am today- and I would not choose for it to be any other way.”

Wayland: Alex Bouma

Sports injuries can be crushing for anyone, but when they take you weeks to heal, it is an even harder task to manage as an 11-year-old. Alex suffered a torn ACL at soccer practice. By listening to the doctor, eating right, and pushing physical movement, the healing process would be easier. It took hours of physical therapy, but Alex was able to get back on the field and play soccer again.

2020 Student of the year:
Savannah Glidea: https://grbsinc.com/important-stuff/savannah-gildea-grbs-scholarship/

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