2022 GRBS Perseverance Award Winners


2022 Sparta: Marion Hill

Marion shared her struggles at home from a very young age. For years it was just her mother and herself; she even noted that although it was just the two of them, she never felt short on being loved. She wrote how her mother had one of the most welcoming hearts and opened their home to friends and exchange students. However, her life took a turn for the worse her freshman year of high school, when her mother unexpectedly passed away while on vacation. She never got to say goodbye. She felt alone. She had no family members that were close by or that she had been close to. She writes, “I was alone, empty, broken, sad and so lost. I felt unsafe, unprotected, and vulnerable.” There was a long road ahead of her to establish a guardianship. She was in a dark place, angry at the world for what she was having to go through at such a young age.

However, things started to change once she went to a summer camp through Young Life. She stated how thankful she was to the families that helped her get there. She began therapy and making friends, along with creating a support system to help with the tough days.

She ended her essay with, “Since I chose to persevere and not make excuses, I know that my mom is proud of me.” We couldn’t agree more and that is why, we recognized the perseverance she has had to have to get to where she is today and award a $1000 scholarship to her.

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 her essay, we knew she was the one. This year we selected Marion as our $5000 Student of The Year Scholarship recipient. Congratulations!

Belding: Miriam Hare

This young student started her essay with, “Throughout my life I have faced many adversities, particularly pertaining to my mental health. I have prospered through the challenges I have faced, and they have pushed me to be the best version of myself I could be…”. She shared some of her very personal journey with us, but also that she has worked very hard to get to where she is today, 15 years old and graduating!

Birch Run: Cheyenne Brown

She started the first sentence of her essay with, “During the night, tragedy struck my family and I.” She went on to share the horrific details of the night her house caught fire and the family had to evacuate. The only thing they could do was to watch the fire and smoke take over what was once their home. Her parents were both hospitalized for a short period of time. They were grateful to have been taken care of by their neighbors, friends, and family, but it just wasn’t the same. They have learned to take it day by day and cherish memories over belongings.

Byron Center: Sophie Millhouse

Sophie wrote to us about her passion for STEM activities. Being vocal about gender equality, she has pushed herself to excel at her AP courses in Math, Biology, Chemistry, and more.  She has been accepted into the Engineering program at the University of Michigan, where she is looking forward to be coming a professional in the computer science field.

Cedar Springs: Mia Cooper

Mental health has become more prevalent in students over the past few years. That is true for Mia as well, as she wrote to us and shared her story with depression. She writes, “Depression caused me to hate myself. I didn’t want to do anything, even the things I used to love most… I was terrified”.

Her parents got her the help she needed, and she felt stronger than before, like she was a new person. She has learned to appreciate her life and the strength she had to ask for help. She knows her depression won’t just fade away, but she is better equipped to handle it.

Comstock Park: Anthony Boyce

Anthony’s essay starts out with, “I believe that everyone has faced adversity at some point in their life… The world is full of challenges and many people will simply give up at the first sign of resistance or difficulty.” He goes on to share his struggle with depression. From a young age, he found it difficult to stay focused and to care about his grades at school. He would stay home and play video games, or do nothing at all, having no desire to be productive. By the time he was ending his junior year and preparing for senior year, he realized his lack of ambition was going to harm him in the long run. In his own words he shares, he felt as though he was a disappointment, a failure, a waste.

Then one day, it changed. He sought help. He began to lose the feelings of hopelessness. He started feeling like he belonged, like he was himself again.

DeWitt: Amy Cochrane

Amy began her essay with the devastation that COVID-19 brought to all of us. What was happening, the changes in school life from virtual classes to contract tracing. But on January 15, 2021, her world stopped and COVID wasn’t the current threat, as her mother has just been diagnosed with cancer. She watched her mother from a distance, not knowing what to do. But then they began to take care of each other, and just spending time together made things a little more bearable. She writes, “We gained an unspoken understanding of one another, and I gained an understanding of myself”. She continues to do what she can to help her mother.

Fremont: John Peterson

This young man shared his personal journey with how tough school was for him and how he struggled to always connect with his teachers. He felt as though no one understood him and he had trouble expressing himself. At home there were other struggles he was going through that made life difficult all around.

However, things started looking up. He had a diagnosis, started therapy, and started feeling better about himself. His family started over and he began school in Fremont where he feels he can trust his teachers. He didn’t feel that school got easier, but learning became easier and gave him more confidence.

Garden City: Mehmet Tekin

Mehmet began his essay with the hardships of moving to another country and having a language barrier. Ultimately moving back to the United States brough on another challenge of fitting in. His conclusion sums up his perseverance in these situations. “With hardship come growth, maturity, and understanding. Life is not always going to go my way and that is OK. Learning to adapt and accept is a valuable life skill.”

Gaylord: Mackenzie Hanel 

Mackenzie shared her story with feeling unsafe in places where she should be able to feel the safest. Ultimately, she writes, “I am not scared anymore. This situation has taught me that I am strong and have people around me to help. If this didn’t happen, I wouldn’t know how to survive in the real work when I grow up.”

Hartland: Piper Luke

Piper shared a very personal family struggle she had to endure from a young age. From her experiences she has learned to be strong and be a voice for herself. She has also found an interest in becoming a voice for those that can’t speak for themselves. We are proud of her perseverance to stand up for herself when it was difficult.

Hastings: Faith Stauffer

This young woman struggled to simply pass a class. Without a passing grade, she would not graduate. She had to find ways to stay motivated, push through and keep her head up. She has realized that in life you always needs to be able to motivate yourself in order to be successful.

Lakeview Battle Creek: Andrew Crail

Andrew suffered a sports injury that hurt him more mentally than physically. With an injury to his foot, he was out of sports and simply struggling to complete every day tasks on his own. He shared, “I was bruised, battered, and beaten down mentally more than physically… Being in such rough physical shape and mental state for 8 months showed me that I possess a lot of perseverance. There was a strength inside of me I h ad not known before.”

Lakeview Montcalm: Hunter DeHate

Hunter shared his home life struggles with us. From his experience, he has learned to push through in life. He write, “It taught me to not let something stop you from what you wish to become in life, to push through the hard times and make something out of yourself in the long run.” He knows he has had unfortunate circumstances, yet he is not letting those negative experiences bring down his life, but to turn it into a learning curve and motivation to become a better person and achieve his goals in life.

Northville: Aaron Daudert

Aaron wrote to us on his very personal struggle with mental health. He shared that he is bipolar and explained the struggles he has with his mood swings and other effects that happen. At first, he was in denial and didn’t want to admit there was something going on. Eventually, he got the diagnoses and he shares, “it was a saving grace, I finally had my first step in treating my problem.” He says he has never felt better and knows that it’s ok to seek help when in need.

Parchment: Emiline Thorne

Emiline wrote on her personal struggles growing up with her best friend having a rate cancerous gene. She was 11 when she recalls a conversation with her own mother that Emma would not likely make to high school graduation, at that age, she couldn’t understand the full depth of what her mother was saying. For the next 5 years, she and Emma did everything together, but things were different. As she was learning to curl her hair, Emma was pulling chunks of her hair out. When they were 16, Emma passed away. She ended her essay with this, “Emma made me realize that you don’t have to drastically change the world to have a meaningful life, you just have to enjoy it.”

Paw Paw: Kylie Cox

Mental health is a strain for many, but for this young woman she was not only working on her mental health, but also a persistent headache that doesn’t go away. She has been hospitalized, in therapy, tried different medications to little or no avail. She had to give up playing soccer, which is her favorite sports, but getting her second concussion and the headaches, it just wasn’t in her future. She felt hopeless.

However, now that she has turned 18, there are more treatment options available. She has begun a few treatments that are giving her hope for the future. She writes, “while I will most likely still be dealing with my headaches and my mental health, I am proud to say that I am learning to manage them and I am taking back my life.”

Portage PCEC: Chloe Carpenter and Khamalawo Pangalala

Both Chloe and Khamalawo shared their personal struggles they had to endure in their lives. While they have hade very different journeys, they both recognize the staff at Portage PCEC with helping them to see their potential and help them grow.

Reed City: Sara Maka

Sara’s essay started out with, “I was born with a congenital single ventricle heart defect, asplenia, and malrotation. I have undergone many surgeries and am on countless medications”. She shares that she regularly misses on average 20 days of school each year. However, due to her determination, she is at the top of her class and takes every AP and honors class she can. She has proven to herself (and we are sure to many other around her as well) that with her determination and perseverance she can do anything she sets her mind to.

Three Rivers: Omar Ortiz

Omar’s essay begins with the struggles of being born in Mexico and coming to the United States with his mother, and her recalling she only had $20 to her name. While he was grateful for the opportunities he would now have, he was also reminded that he was not going to have his father by his side due poor choices his father had made. He now had a single mother working several jobs to make ends meet. There was a language barrier he was trying to overcome to simply learn at school. He attributes these hardships with his foundation for his determination. Determination for good grades, heightened work ethic and his ability to conquer adversity.

He pushed through and during his high school career he has maintained straight A’s. He is active in sports and in his community. He shares, “I have not allowed any of these challenges or setbacks I have faced to deter me; instead, I buckled down and worked for it”.

Tri County: Savannah Nickerson

Savannah shared her very personal struggle with simply feeling like she didn’t fit in with her classmates from a very young age. She stopped participating in school activities, stopped attempting to play at recess with other kids, didn’t participate in gym, and much more. With so much turmoil she was diagnosed with anxiety and depression. She has learned to push through the negativity and focus on her own personal goals, rather than the things in life she cannot change.

Vicksburg: Jacob Wood

This young man shared how he struggled with the feeling of be different from his peers. While at school he was just like everyone else, but his home life always felt like it was different than others. He remembers joyous times as a young boy, but that in time things changes. His parents each had their own struggles and eventually he lost them both to overdose. He ended his essay writing, “Looking back at my life I feel like my childhood ended early and I was forced to mature. I use everything that’s happened as a lesson, and I’ve learned to appreciate the small things. I know tomorrow is never guaranteed and I strive to be something my parents would be proud of.”

Wayland: Emily Dockter

Emily began her essay with her struggles of being diagnosed with diabetes at just 4 years old. This brought constant finger pricks, insulin injections, and simply just pain. She wasn’t “normal” to the other kids and couldn’t simply eat what everyone else was. That was hard enough, yet when she was 15 she felt herself starting to spiral downwards. She realized she was battling depression. She felt that she wasn’t good enough, but eventually there was help and she pushed to see that she was good enough.

Most recently she discovered she also has Celiac Disease. This was a challenge as she had to find replacement foods that her body could handle. She is still working on sticking to a gluten free diet, but it isn’t so easy when she has to think about her diabetes as well. She writes that she wishes no one would have to deal with any of these, but that she is striving to do her best and stay on track with her mental and physical health.

2021 Student of the year: Marina Short

2020 Student of the year: Savannah Gildea

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