Category Archives: Community News

Muskegon County Calendar of Events 12/18/17- 01/04/2018

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Presented by the Muskegon County Convention & Visitors Bureau

Tech Center teens introduce elementary students to the growing field of computer science

MUSKEGON: Our world is surrounded by technology. Information, commerce, communication, and entertainment all rely on computers. Only a tiny fraction of us learn computer science, the basics of how computers work, or how to create software, apps, or web sites. To celebrate Computer Science Education Week (Dec 8-14), students from the Internet, Network & Security Technologies (INST) program at the Muskegon Area Career Tech Center (MACTC) joined a massive campaign to prepare our population for the 21st century.

The Hour of Code, a global campaign reaching tens of millions of students in 180+ countries, has an audacious goal: to introduce 10 million students to one hour of computer science. To help support that effort, INST students worked alongside students from Lakeside Elementary, Oakridge Lower Elementary, Orchard View Elementary, and Shoreline Elementary to assist them with a variety of hour-long self-guided activities to help students experience the basics of computer science.

“Our first visit to an area school to assist with the Hour of Code was a big success. The teacher at Oakridge Lower Elementary and the student, Hunter Crampton, had a great experience,” shared INST instructor Susan Rhem-Westhoff.

Other classmates involved from the INST program included Orchard View High School students Austin Anderson, Mercedes Bueche, and Dakota Sibley who assisted students at Orchard View Elementary; Trevor Hackney (Whitehall) and Tony Polidori (Whitehall) who worked with students at Shoreline Elementary in Whitehall; and Muskegon High School students, Christian Richards, Ka’Marius  Matthews, and Antonio Mercedes-Perez from Mona Shores High School, who volunteered at Lakeside Elementary in Muskegon.

This is the third year INST students have participated in the international event. In addition to assisting with Hour of Code activities at local elementary schools, INST students took part in a variety of hour-long tutorials provided by Computer Science Education Week for the event.

Curious about the field of computer science? Try one of the one-hour tutorials designed for all ages in over 45 languages for the Hour of Code.

INST students Ka’Marius Matthews (Muskegon) and Christian Richards (Muskegon) guide Lakeside Elementary students through one of several online tutorials available as part of Hour of Code.

Star Wars: Building a Galaxy with Code, seen here at Lakeside Elementary, is one of several one-hour online tutorials available to students participating in Hour of Code events.

Tech Center tours offer memorable experience for 1,700 sophomores

MUSKEGON: “How did you first learn about the Career Tech Center?” is one of several questions asked of Muskegon Area Career Tech Center (MACTC) students each year. Last year, 59 percent said it was during a tour. High school guidance counselors and a friend who attended tied for second. Every December, the MACTC pauses business as usual to host Sophomore Tours. The four-day event, December 14, 15, 19, and 20 this year, is open to sophomores from all Muskegon Area schools giving them the opportunity to see the MACTC and explore classes of interest.

“This is our largest marketing event of the year,” shared Student Outreach Specialist Stephanie Hoekenga. “Our staff and students spend weeks getting ready.” Preparations include visiting local high schools to speak to sophomores, creating individual schedules for guests, and developing hands-on activities and demonstrations.

Each sophomore is assigned a three-class schedule based on classes they expressed an interest in visiting. They spend 15-minutes in each of their three assigned classes. During that time, sophomores meet instructors and current students, witness and take part in demonstrations, view student projects, and learn about each program through a mixture of instructor and student-led testimonials.

“It is a great experience to come visit and fall in love with the CTC. As a sophomore, I knew I was going to love it here. Now, as a second-year student in the Hospitality & Tourism program, I’m enjoying hands-on learning and am meeting lots of amazing people–including my instructors,” said Hospitality & Tourism student Noah Sweet.

Some of the activities prepared for this year’s guests included meeting pigmy goats Luna and Billy, the newest additions to the Environmental/Veterinary Sciences program; samples of recipes prepared by Hospitality & Tourism students; a tour of the progress at this year’s Construction Trades home; gummy bear dissections in Allied Health Technologies; a hands-on opportunity to weld; and more.

“I was nervous at first, but attending the Tech Center is one of the greatest decisions I’ve ever made. Each day I learn more about agriculture, and it’s pushed me to become a better leader,” said Environmental/Veterinary Sciences student Danielle Hysell.

The Muskegon Area Career Tech Center is free to all Muskegon Area ISD sophomores and juniors. Classes take place during their normal school day. To learn more, the Muskegon CTC will be open to the public during Connect with Tech Night on Wednesday, January 24, 2018 from 5–7 p.m. or additional information is available at


Allied Health Technologies students Skyler Bogner (North Muskegon) and Brianna Grow (Whitehall) demonstrate how to give CPR using an ambu bag.

Graphic Production Technologies student Kayla Smith (Orchard View) shows sophomores one of her class projects.

Internet, Network & Security Technologies student Trevor Hackney (Whitehall) directs the mouse as he talks to a visiting sophomore about game development.

Machining/Engineering Technology student Roberto Tavares (Montague) demonstrates how to tap a hole.

Welding students compete for prizes and future careers

Welding students from Newaygo and Muskegon counties had more on the line than just bragging rights as they competed on December 8 in the newly expanded Innovation Lab at the Muskegon Area Career Tech Center. Certified Welding Instructor Darek Scarlavai of Sheet Metal Workers Local 7 served as the competition judge, and also scouted out new talent for employment opportunities.

To qualify for the competition, welding students from both career tech centers participated in a trial prior to the event. Charles Figuorua (Hesperia), Lucas Rosel-Pieper (Grant), Triston Rubin (Hesperia), and Tyler Young (Fremont), from Newaygo County Career-Tech Center, and Muskegon Area Career Tech Center students Tyler Gross (Fruitport), Nick Lieffers (Ravenna), and Bryan Sauers (Fruitport) were selected. Each student was responsible to perform a series of structural welds that were later evaluated using a bend test.

“Even though this is a competition, it is really just a learning experience for all of you,” said Scarlavai as he addressed the group before they began. “Don’t hesitate to ask me questions. I am here to help.”

At the end of the day-long competition, Muskegon Area CTC students Lieffers and Sauers were awarded first and second place respectively. Third place went to Newaygo County CTC student Triston Rubin. Event sponsors Miller Welding, Purity Cylinder Gases Inc., and Sheet Metal Workers Local 7 donated $1,110 in prizes to the competitors. Lieffers earned the first place prize, a Miller welding hood and backpack, while Sauers won the second place prize, a Miller flashlight and multi-tool. Rubin received a chipping hammer and metal brush for his third place prize. Each competitor was awarded a pair of welding gloves, safety glasses, USB, keychain, and other great prizes for their efforts.

Scarlavai was impressed with the skill of the student competitors as well as the quality of the facility that features ten new welding stations with high-efficiency RoboVent CrossFlow tables and brand new Miller and Lincoln Electric welders. 

“We’ve always incorporated college and industry tours into our welding curriculum,” shared Welding Technology Instructor Rodney Bulthouse. “Competitions like these, though, that bring industry leaders to us and allow students to demonstrate their skills while getting feedback from professionals, are invaluable.”

Students completing a welding program at a career and technical education center can expect to make $12-13 an hour after graduation. Those who complete a four to five-year apprenticeship program will more than double that hourly rate averaging $30 an hour. Most students who complete the welding program in high school choose to pursue an apprenticeship. College options are also available.

The Welding Technology program and the 14 additional career development programs offered at the Muskegon Area Career Tech Center will be open to the public during Connect with Tech Night on Wednesday, January 24, 2018, from 5–7 p.m. or information is available at

Darek Scarlavai (Sheet Metal Workers Local 7), Triston Rubin (Hesperia), Aaron Brandon (Welding Instructor, Newaygo County Tech-Center), Tyler Young (Fremont) and Darryl Pelletier (Purity Cylinder Gases Inc.) review a project after performing a bend test.

– A view of the new equipment used in today’s competition funded by a 61C state equipment grant.

Backrow: Tyler Young (Fremont), Charles Figuorua (Hisperia), Tyler Gross (Fruitport), Lucas Rosal-Pieper (Grant) Front: Triston Rubin (Hisperia) 3rd, Bryan Savers (Fruitport) 2nd, Nick Lieffers (Ravenna) 1st

Darek Scarlavai (Western MIchigan Sheet Metal, Instructor/Coordinator/CWI), Nick Lieffers Ra 1st, Darryl Pelletier (Purity Cylinder Gases Inc.)

Darek Scarlavai (Western Michigan Sheet Metal, Instructor/Coordinator/CWI), Bryan Savers FP 2nd, Darryl Pelletier (Purity Cylinder Gases Inc.)

Darek Scarlavai (Western MIchigan Sheet Metal, Instructor/Coordinator/CWI), Triston Rubin Hisperia 3rd, Darryl Pelletier (Purity Cylinder Gases Inc.)

Reeths-Puffer Intermediate students explore, experience Tech Center

The energy in the Student Commons area of the Muskegon Area Career Tech Center was bubbling as 36 Reeths-Puffer Intermediate students, hand selected by their teachers and school Counselor Kelly Peel, waited for Hospitality and Tourism students to greet them. The sixth graders partnered with the Tech Center teens on Thursday, November 30, 2017, to prepare cookies for the Run the Spruce with Dr. Seuss race. By the end of the day, Peel’s students left with something greater than a paper chef’s hat and cookies.

Reeths-Puffer Intermediate students rode the bus to the Tech Center with the high school students who attend and spent the entire morning session at the Tech Center–just like their high school peers. After their initial welcome, the group split in two with half of the students going into the Food Theory Lab with Hospitality and Tourism students to start making cookies, and half taking a tour of the building. The groups then rotated. During the tour, students witnessed high school classes in session and started making plans about what classes they will take when they are old enough to attend.

“Mrs. Peel, I know what I want to do!” shared one wildly excited sixth grader with Peel. “I am going to be a welder, and I am going to come here to learn it!”

This is the third year in a row that Reeths-Puffer Intermediate students have participated in this activity. The visit is offered as a reward to students who have performed exceptionally well or been nominated by their teachers.

“Our teachers feel this is a great experience for our kids and hope we can offer more trips,” shared Peel. “Seeing first-hand this kind of path to learning is remarkable for kids,” added Peel.

The Muskegon Area Career Tech Center will be open to the public during the Connect with Tech Night on Wednesday, January 24, 2018, from 5–7 p.m. Additional information is available at




Contacts: Elissa Penczar, MACTC Catering & Culinary Management Instructor, 231-767-3668,

Stephanie Hoekenga, MACTC Student Outreach Specialist, 231-767-3613,



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Muskegon Area Promise scholarships save 204 families over $750K

Muskegon Area Intermediate School District (MAISD) officials announced today that use of the two-year Muskegon Area Promise scholarships has exceeded expectations for 2017. The original planning model, based on historical data, estimated around 168 eligible students would stay local and enroll at either Baker College of Muskegon or Muskegon Community College. In total, 204 2017 graduates with grade point averages of 3.5 or higher chose to accept the Promise award. Projected savings to these families will top $750,000. Countywide this reflects a 12% increase in the number of recent high school graduates choosing to stay local for college.


MAISD Superintendent John Severson said he is elated so many high achieving students are choosing to stay local to further their educations. “We are fortunate to have two such high caliber colleges right here in Muskegon County, and clearly our parents and students agree,” said Severson. “Of course we want even more kids to achieve at higher levels and qualify. We need our entire community to get behind our kids in order to fully realize the power of the Promise,” said Severson.


In total, 495 high school graduates met the eligibility requirements that include a 3.5 or higher grade point average, residency within the MAISD boundaries and graduation from a public, charter, or private high school within the same boundaries. This is the first year the scholarship was made available to graduates of all 16 high schools countywide. Due to limited funding, scholarships were offered to Holton, Muskegon Heights, and Muskegon graduates who qualified during the first two years. Of the 68 who qualified, 29 chose to accept the scholarships.


Severson pointed out that the Promise was only a dream until the private and corporate investments of over one million dollars flowed in to make it a reality. “Hines Corporation, Nichols, Adac Automotive and the Alcoa Foundation stepped up with our first $100,000 level gifts and were followed closely with identical gifts from Quality Tool & Stamping, Verplank Trucking Company, the Dan & Sheryl Kuznar Family, and the Community Foundation for Muskegon County. Their investments and so many others all add up to directly benefit our families who live and work here, and build on our economic vitality,” said Severson.


Promise funding is made up of a mix of private, corporate, and public investments. This fall the MAISD received its first State Education Tax capture payment of $617,794. This payment from existing state tax revenue is only available to 15 established “Promise Zones” in Michigan. The amount of the annual payment will vary based on the growth of local property values.


“All of these resources work together to secure future scholarships and provide for sustainability,” said Severson. “Members of the ten-member Promise Zone Authority Board monitor the budget monthly to examine expenses and consider the need for additional donor support,” he said. “We are always looking for additional partners to position us to expand the scholarship and meet the increasing demands we expect to see,” he said.


The Michigan College Access Network (MCAN), which helped found the Local College Access Network named Muskegon Opportunity in 2006, has also been instrumental in establishing the Promise. MCAN funds were used this fall to initiate the “Dream Big” campaign in local schools. The campaign reaches preschool through high school students and includes direct mailings, indoor and outdoor Promise banners, stickers, rulers, posters, brochures, and pocket cards. “Our local schools are using these tools in innovative ways to leverage the Promise to motivate students at every grade level to achieve at higher levels and become an active part of our area’s college going culture,” said Severson.


“Experts from the W.E. Upjohn Institute have told us that by 2025, 64% of all job postings will require a certificate, associate or bachelor’s degree. Currently only 31% of the members of our current local workforce have these types of certifications and degrees. The Promise is the game-changer that will get us closer to where we need to be,” said Severson.


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John Severson, MAISD Superintendent at 231-767-7201 or
Megan Byard-Karaba, College Access Specialist at 231-767-3623 or


Muskegon Museum of Art winter exhibitions and the questions and toil of cotton


The Muskegon Museum of Art opens two new exhibitions, Sarah Wagner: Vegetable Lamb of America and Southern Roots: The Paintings of Winfred Rembert, on Thursday, December 14, 2017. The MMA invites the public to an opening reception and a talk by artist Sarah Wagner that evening. The reception will run 5:30 to 7:00 pm and Wagner’s talk will begin at 7:00 pm. The event is free and open to the public.


The exhibitions examine, in various ways, the influence of cotton upon history, economics, and the environment.


Sarah Wagner: Vegetable Lamb of America 

Sarah Wagner sculpts in wood, metal, and fabric, creating animals and environments that address the fragility and resilience of Nature and humanity’s impact on its surroundings. Her art is inspired and informed by the city of Detroit, where she lives and works. For her Muskegon Museum of Art exhibition, Wagner is creating a new installation inspired by the history of the cultivation of cotton, and its impact on the development of capitalism and industrialism around the world. Support for Sarah Wagner: Vegetable Lamb of America has been provided by MMA Michigan Artist Series Media Sponsor Blue Lake Public Radio.


Southern Roots: The Paintings of Winfred Rembert 

Winfred Rembert works in the medium of carved and dyed leather, creating vibrant and rhythmic imagery of his life in 1950s Georgia. A storyteller, Rembert reveals images of culture, community, family, and struggle through intense color and repeating patterns. His most recognizable pieces depict pickers at work in the cotton fields, a grueling task the artist himself experienced in his childhood and later on a prison chain gang. Over 25 works, including the premiere of several recent paintings by the artist, are featured in the exhibition. The artworks in Southern Roots appear courtesy of Adelson Galleries, Boston, and the artist.


Special Program

The MMA will present a screening of the documentary about Rembert’s life, All Me: The Life and Times of Winfred Rembert, following a special reception on Thursday, February 8, 2018. The reception will start at 5:30 pm and the film will start at 7:00 pm. Winfred Rembert has a lot of stories to tell, from his childhood on a cotton farm to his near lynching during the Civil Rights Movement; his life experiences are the bed of work that inspires his artwork. This film documents Rembert’s life and how his tooled leather artwork has become his biography and therapy. The film was directed by Vivian Ducat of Ducat Media. She and artist Winfred Rembert will join us for the screening, followed by a Q & A with artist Winfred Rembert following the film.


Southern Roots: The Paintings of Winfred Rembert is underwritten by the Van Kampen Boyer Molinari Foundation and PNC Bank. Additional support has been provided by the Michigan Council for Arts and Cultural Affairs, an affiliate of the National Endowment for the Arts.


The Muskegon Museum of Art is located next to Hackley Public Library in downtown Muskegon. Call 231-720-2570 or go to for visitor information.



Image Credits




MEDIA CONTACT: Marguerite Curran, tel. 231.720.2574,

Muskegon Museum of Art office secretary: 231.720.2571


The Frauenthal Center presents “Free Family Movie Day” featuring The Princess Bride


Date:  December 27, 2017
Time:  3:00 pm
Place:  Frauenthal Theater
Tickets: FREE, No Ticket Required


Muskegon, MI  —   The Frauenthal Center will be showing the movie of the classic fairytale The Princess Bride at 3:00pm on December 27, 2017.  This beloved tale begins with a grandfather reading his favorite book “The Princess Bride” to his hard-to-impress grandson.  This book, he promises, has everything – “Fencing.  Fighting.  Torture.  Revenge.  Giants.  Monsters.  Chases.  Escapes.  True Love.  Miracles.” – and all that he promised comes to life before the boy’s enchanted eyes as his grandfather reads him the adventures of Buttercup, the most beautiful woman in the world, and Westley, the man she loves.



Running Time:  98 minutes.  MPAA Rating:  PG. 
This event is FREE admission, no tickets required.


Thank you to our sponsors for their generous donations:  Berkshire Muskegon, Community Foundation for Muskegon County, Grand Valley State University and John and Linda Hilt.


Frauenthal Center
425 W. Western Ave.
Muskegon, MI  49440


Contact:  Kelly Walden
231.332.4137 /


Muskegon County Calendar of Events 12/04/17- 01/04/2018

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Presented by the Muskegon County Convention & Visitors Bureau

Other ways to get involved

Volunteer for the Lakeshore Art Festival

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