Rockford youth turns life around by BETH ALTENA Spencer Williams was a 17-year-old high school dropout who knew his life was headed nowhere. His dad, Dan, described Spencer as a “pissed off kid, a mad kid” who just didn’t quite fit in. He wasn’t dumb, but he just didn’t click in the traditional high school setting or even the alternative education program. His parents didn’t know what to do to get through to him or to help him. Then Spencer heard about a quasi-military program that takes on kids just like him. Dan calls the Michigan Youth Challenge Academy the “unheard-of secret—the most amazing program.” Twenty-two weeks after Spencer stepped onto the campus of the Battle Creek academy, he walked away with his GED, 15 college credits, and 81,000 collective hours of community service. More importantly, he walked away knowing he had succeeded in the most difficult struggle of his life and with a new pride in himself, self-respect he never felt before, and a vision of his future. “I knew I had to change myself to change my future,” Spencer said. “I knew I wasn’t going to graduate. I knew I had to do something to get my life on track.” Spencer was dropped off at the campus with a duffle with just socks and underwear. Cadets at the academy can’t bring cell phones, video games, cigarettes—no creature comforts from home to the National Guard military barracks at Fort Custer. Students get one chance to stick it out at the academy and can’t return if they quit. From day one, Spencer was in a whole different world. “They are in your face 24/7,” he said of the National Guard staff who run the state supported school. “They break you down mentally and make you do everything out of your comfort zone,” Spencer said. A typical day begins at 5:30 a.m., removing the rack (cot) sheets and standing in line in silence, waiting for orders. Calisthenics follow for the next hour, then cadets are allowed to brush their teeth before morning chow. Each day includes presenting colors: the raising of the Michigan and United States flags at attention before marching to classes. The first couple of weeks were the worst, by design, and quite a […]
Those of us lucky enough to call Rockford and northern Kent County home may have grown accustomed to the many positive changes in our local landscape over the past five years. But talk to a newcomer or someone who hasn’t visited in years and you may just view our quaint, Norman Rockwell-like town through a different lens. Rewind the tape and you’ll see much has changed: the picturesque Peppler Park in full floral splendor, a boardwalk meandering north along the west bank of the Rogue, a packed Garden Club Park and bandstand for year-round festivals, new family-owned shops, and the catalyst to much of the development, the Promenade building and river walk. Perched along the bank of the Rogue River, the Tuscan-designed Promenade was built in 2005-2006, replacing the inoperable Water Treatment Plant and creating an award-winning gateway to our city. On August 11, 2011, Reds on the River, located in the north end of the Promenade, will celebrate its fifth anniversary with special thanks to the City of Rockford, Rockford Public Schools, Rockford Chamber of Commerce, the Heart of Rockford Business Association, and the many guests it has had the privilege to serve since opening its doors. Glenn Forgie, Reds’ executive chef who has been on board since before the restaurant opened, noted, “We are extremely blessed to be a part of such wonderful community. There are very few places like Rockford with tremendous community support, a vibrant downtown, picturesque landscape, great schools, an excellent work ethic, and local farms offering organic fruits, vegetables, meats and dairy. The past five years have been tremendous, despite a challenging economic downturn, and we are really looking forward to the next five years—and beyond—in Rockford.” Since Reds opened, it has been a tremendous community partner and spokesperson for Rockford. Milestones include: • Voted Best New Restaurant by Grand Rapids Magazine, January 2007 • Winner of fine dining awards, Grand Rapids Magazine, 2008-2011 • Chef of the Year, Grand Rapids Magazine, 2011 • Voted #1 Outdoor Dining and Notable Wine List—Open Table • Founder of Heirloom Tomato Festival and Rockford Ice Festival • Co-founder of the Rockford Community Gardens • Partner with Rockford Public Schools for student internships • Active member of the Heart of Rockford Business Association […]
Recine-Ruark John and Barbara Ruark of Comstock Park would like to announce the marriage of their daughter Adrianna Leigh Ruark to Nicholas Lorenzo Recine. Nicholas is the son of Lorenzo and Heather Recine of Seymour, Conn. An intimate ceremony took place on the afternoon of November 6, 2010, in Virginia Beach, Va. The beautiful couple was surrounded by their loving families and close friends. Mr. and Mrs. Nicholas Recine will make their new home together at Heritage at Settlers Landing, 553 Settlers Landing Rd., Apt. 411, Hampton, VA 23669.