Sky’s the limit for Rockford grad

by CLIFF AND NANCY HILL

When Ginger Zuidgeest graduated from Rockford High School (RHS) in 1999, she stated in her high school yearbook she wanted to make it on NBC’s “Today” show by age 30. On Saturday, Feb. 27 of this year that dream came true for meteorologist Ginger Zee (as she is now known). when she filled in for regular meteorologist Bill Carins during the 7:00–9:00 a.m. “Today” show.

Rockford High School graduate, Ginger Zuidgeest, visits WOOD TV’s “eightWest.” photo by CLIFF HILL

Currently, Ginger is the weekend meteorologist/on-air weather forecaster for NBC affiliate WMAQ 5’s Chicago weather team, serving one of the largest TV markets in the country. She also serves as that station’s environmental “Going Green” sustainability and conservation reporter. Earlier this year, Ginger also appeared weekdays on NBC’s “Early Today” and MSNBC’s “First Look, Way Too Early” and “Morning Joe.”

All of the success of this talented young woman comes as no surprise to the also multi-talented, teacher Colleen Pierson. Pierson, with a strong background with WOOD TV as a manager of marketing services and an education reporter, now teaches broadcast communications/TV Studio 1, 2 and 3 at RHS.

Ginger Zee visits WOOD TV with"Griffin," the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society's Boy of the Year. The young lad has an indomitable spirit as he battles his disease. Photo by CLIFF HILL

“When Ginger, a sophomore at RHS, was a student in my classroom 13 years ago, I soon realized that she was one special young woman,” said Pierson. “Ginger was so good in math and science, intelligent, talented, not to mention beautiful, that I told her she should go into meteorology. She deserves all of her success, because she is one of the hardest workers you will ever come across. Ginger always credits a strong core of teachers here at RHS for our guidance and leadership, but I think it is Ginger who has taught us. She showed us by example the value of hard work.”

It appears as though Ginger diligently worked toward her goal, and as if scripted and right on cue, she found herself in New York City in NBC network’s Studio 1A.

“You know when you wake up and it feels like you are still dreaming—that is what it was like being on the ‘Today’ show. I knew it was real, but it felt so surreal,” Ginger said. “It was a crazy morning with the earthquake and an epic snowstorm in the northeast. Even so, I managed to remain calm and it was the most wonderful experience.”

Ginger was in town this past weekend to visit her ever-proud mom Dawn and dad Carl, and for a scheduled Friday morning appearance on WOOD TV’s “eightWest” talk show hosted by Rachael Ruiz and Terry DeBoer.

During her segment on the show, Ginger promoted the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society (LLS), a national voluntary health agency dedicated to curing leukemia, lymphoma and myeloma, and to improving the quality of life of patients and their families. Currently, almost one million volunteers from all walks of life give generously of their time and talents to implement LLS’s programs. Volunteers provide professional guidance and help raise vitally needed funds. Ginger has adopted this society as a personal cause, and currently serves as a spokeswoman in the Chicagoland area.

Toward that end, Ginger—who is constantly besieged by her fans, both on-air and along with high school and college classmates, for autographed photos—is making a pair of striking professional photos available for a donation to LLS. Ginger will personally sign each photo, and as a fundraiser, 100 percent of every dollar donated will go to LLS. The photos can be yours by sending a check—payable to LLS—to Ginger Zee, c/o NBC 5, 454 N. Columbus Dr., Chicago, IL 60611.

This personally autographed two-photo collage is being made available to support Ginger Zee’s desire to help those living with blood cancers, and can be yours by making a donation to the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society. Photo by CLIFF HILL

Speaking of pictures, Herman’s Boy has a framed and autographed picture of Ginger permanently on display in one of the store’s seating areas. Ginger is a big fan of the famous Herman’s Boy bagel dog, and never fails to stop in for one when she’s home for a visit.

By the same token, Herman’s Boy owner Floyd Havemeier is a big admirer of Ginger Zee. He is so smitten that he has been known to ship bagel dogs to Ginger in Chicago! (Now, that’s a fan.)

Along with a visit to Herman’s Boy, Ginger always finds the time to also shop a favorite Rockford women’s boutique, Jade.

Ginger often expresses amazement at her success at this point in her life but, along with Pierson, this success comes as no surprise to all who have known her.

“She truly made a difference in all of our lives and continues to celebrate the successes of all of us,” said Pierson.

To this Ginger added, “This is not to say I haven’t had some detractors along the way, but from them I’ve learned to let the negative push you and the positive build you, and great things will happen.”

Your star is still rising, Ginger. The sky’s the limit; the best is yet to come.

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