Character, moral quality recognized with twelfth annual Examples in Excellence

Publication, ceremony a joint project


Students who mentor others, volunteer their time, go out of their way to help others were recognized in an unveiling ceremony Monday, February 11 at the Rockford Public School administration building. Despite blizzard conditions, the school gymnasium was packed with the Board of Education members, educators, parents, friends and family who proudly applauded as each student was presented.

The event was the culmination of months of work as principals, teachers and staff at each school building in the district were given the tough choice of selecting just one student to be recognized for their strength of character, their readiness to help others and their overall moral convictions. The program is designed to recognize students, not for their academic or athletic prowess, but for those less measurable qualities that are so important.

Superintendent Dr. Michael Shibler praised the work and effort that goes into Examples annually, from the selection of students by the school, the creation of professional portraits by photographer Dan Davis of Douglas Photography and the production of the publication Examples in Excellence, Rockford Students Making a Difference by the Rockford Squire Newspaper staff.

In the hour-long ceremony, students were brought to the front of the room where their portraits and biographies were on display for the first time. The display will remain at the administration building entrance until next year’s Examples are unveiled.

Maggie Theylen, Principal of Belmont Elementary presented Dimitra Colovos, 10, a student known for her ability to “make others smile and feel good.” Dimitra shows her leadership on a daily basis and is always quick to volunteer, even giving up coveted recess time to tutor other students in math. Her story is exactly the kind of convictions that Examples is designed to recognize.

From Parkside Elementary Caitlin Baker was selected to be recognized as an Example in Excellence. Caitlin is described as a student who is able to identify students in need and jumps to help them. She continually looks for opportunities to make a difference in the lives of others. She uses her skills in math to mentor others, is a volunteer bus safety and escorts kindergarteners to their busses. She has a strong sense of right and wrong that is clear in her daily activities as well as in her writing. She was chosen by her DARE officer to read her essay at the graduation ceremony for the program.

Cannonsburg Elementary presented Brecken Durham, 10, as an Example in Excellence and described her as “extremely thoughtful, kind, generous, creative, empathetic, honest, dependable, mature and sensitive.” She is also described as a good friend who is always thinking of others first. She is a girl who knows the value of praise and compliments and has a talent for bringing out the best in others. Her teachers call her an amazing girl.

Claire Froumis, 10, from Crestwood Elementary, is a girl with “a smile as wide as the Grand Canyon.” Her teachers say she exhibits her strong sense of character with her kindness, her humble attitude and her enthusiasm. She is passionate in all she does and is an avid volunteer and supporter of the West Michigan Humane Society. When Claire’s birthday was coming up she asked friends and family to donate to the Humane Society rather than give her gifts.

Skylar Lennon, 10, of Lakes Elementary, is described as a humble, passionate young man who consistently puts others first. He is a quiet leader and a role model who “does the right thing, even if no one is watching.” Skylar’s former teacher made the following observation, “I have been teaching a long time and if there is one boy I hope my own sons emulate, it is Skylar Lennon.”

Chloe Bowen is the Example in Excellence for Meadow Ridge Elementary. She is described as a positive role model who is a respectful, compassionate person who works hard to make sure others are included. “She is constantly helping others with their academics or in social settings,” her teachers write. She is a volunteer for many different activities and is nurturing toward children and animals.

Roguewood Elementary’s Example in Excellence is Chet Hulls, 11. His teachers describe him as responsible, organized, passionate, compassionate, brave and empathetic. He spent his summer volunteering at Hillview Learning Center and has volunteered for many years with the Kids Food Basket program. He has been a bus buddy, a lieutenant safety, is honest, respectful of others and loves to learn. His teachers say his smile sums up his personality and he can be counted on to brighten any day with his positive attitude.

Staff at Valley View Elementary said Erin Gaynor, 10, is a wonderful student to have in class. She is honest, caring, loyal and self-confident. Erin recently lost her closest friend to cancer. Her strength following the death of her friend was an inspiration to those around her. At a devastating time she mentored classmates and led the way to acceptance and understanding. Her teacher said, “I can always count on Erin to lead by example with a positive approach. Her energy and attitude are contagious and it is not long before her fellow classmates catch some of her spirit and can-do attitude.”

East Rockford Middle School was represented at the ceremony by Emily Pilarski, 13. Principal Mike Ramm said. “We have a ton of students at East Rockford but Emily really stands out.” He pointed out that Emily is always first to volunteer for community service. She takes risks and puts herself “out there.” She is quick to initiate friendships and has a genuine kind-heartedness that is core to her personality. She is an excellent role model who shows compassion, patience and understanding of the needs of others.

Jacob Kelley was presented by North Rockford Middle School as this year’s Example in Excellence. His teachers say his actions speak louder than words as proof of the exemplary character of this thirteen year old. He volunteers to help elderly neighbors with household tasks, painting and tending their garden. Behavior such as this is typical of this caring, thoughtful young man. His teachers know him as a hardworking student who always strives to do his best while taking the extra effort to help others around him. He volunteers for God’s Kitchen North and with Jesus on the Streets feeding the poor in downtown Grand Rapids.

Madison Mayle was presented by the Freshman Center as this year’s Example in Excellence. Staff there describe her as caring, ambitious, athletic, cheerful and religious. “Madi doesn’t enjoy the spotlight but she loves making others smile.” She exhibits her caring nature in practical ways. She has been a bus safety, mentor, and is now a tutor after school at the Boys and Girls Club in Grand Rapids. She is also one of the organizers of the new club Supplies for Students that donates school supplies to the Boys and Girls Club. Also an athlete, Madison has been a coach for the eighth grade A volleyball team.

Rockford High School Principal Dan Zang presented Marcus Powers as one of two students to be recognized at the school as an Example of Excellence. “Every building is different, but we have 2,000 kids and have to recognize two,” he stated. He presented Marcus, 17, as a student who values integrity and honesty and adheres to his moral values. Zang said Marcus believes everyone is a child of God and treats all with kindness and understanding. Staff at RHS say Marcus is very intelligent and has the ability to learn and apply complex concepts. He is the treasurer for both Rockford Interact and the National Honor Society. He chose both organizations for their commitment to service. Powers will surely be a driving force in community good works throughout his life.

Zoe Bruyn, 17, was the second Example in Excellence for Rockford High School. She is a strong presence at RHS where she has been on the school council all four years and has served as president of her class for each of the four years. She is a compassionate person who volunteers at the Ronald McDonald House, the West Michigan Down Syndrome Association, North Kent Community Services and at the Rockford Reformed Church. Teachers say Zoe’s energy and strength of heart are evident in all she does. The last three years she has been a member of the Youth Advisory Board for the Ronald McDonald House. She never complains, strives to do her best and faces challenges head-on.

Dave Davis is River Valley Academy’s Example in Excellence for 2013. He has shown leadership qualities in school by outstanding behavior and steady academic achievement. He is a volunteer for North Kent Community Services and planted trees with children at the daycare there for Earth Day. He has been helpful in the Community Garden by working on plot enclosures, finishing the driveway and painting the shed at the East Rockford Middle School garden. His helpful, unselfish nature is also evidenced by his help for Community Services where he folded fliers, takes materials out for recycling and inflated basketballs. Outside of school he participated in mission trips with his church where he helped run a day camp for children. He is also a volunteer for Angel Food Ministries and performed in his church Christmas musical.

Extra copies of Examples in Excellence, Rockford Students Making a Difference are available at the Squire office, 331 Northland Drive by the Michigan State Police Post. The publication is free and is paid for by advertiser support.


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The Squire has been Rockford’s free weekly newspaper since 1871. Our loyal readership includes over fifteen thousand homes in the Rockford area, including the affluent Lakes area of Lake Bella Vista, Bostwick Lake and Silver Lake; Belmont, Blythefield, as well as Algoma, Courtland, Cannon and Plainfield Townships. The Squire is distributed through the U.S. Post Office every Thursday. We also deliver to in-town businesses and homes with paper carriers and news stands in our grocery stores and over thirty local shops.