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08.18.16- Luncheon Notes

SPOKES Notes written by Dan Durkee

Our meeting was opened in song with ‘America the Beautiful’ led by Kevin Paul, followed by a thoughtful invocation by Mark Potter.  President Michael Sytsma then described a new initiative to share Rotary member bios selected at random during each meeting in September and a goal of growing our total club membership from 200 to 250.  Following lunch, our guests and visiting Rotarians were introduced by Steve Starnes and President Sytsma introduced our speaker, William Fetterhoff, who has been with Godwin Heights Public Schools since 2005 and served as Superintendent for the past five years.

Mr. Fetterhoff opened his presentation by sharing how much of an issue poverty is with many of their students, having 90% participate in the federal ‘free or reduced price lunch’ program.  One of the greatest barriers these students face is the psychological challenges that occur due to the stress associated with poverty in their home environments.  Approximately 25% of all high school students drop out and the majority are from poor homes, many of which with single parents.

Equitable funding is an ongoing issue in order to provide more resources, opportunities, and time for schools to help these students to catch up with their peers.  Holding students back does not seem to be the answer and a more effective approach is to offer a variety of development levels for students.  Other key issues include attendance where initiatives are being implemented, and mentoring programs for students who do not have others to help model appropriate behavior.

There are a number of programs available to help deal with this issue including ‘Kent School Services School Network’ where schools become a community center that combines the best educational practices with a wide range of vital in-house health and social services to ensure students are physically, emotionally, and socially prepared to learn; and the Michigan Department Health and Human Services ‘Pathways to Potential’ which targets improved outcomes in attendance, education, health, safety, and self-sufficiency and places a MDHHS worker in a school to provide a direct connection to families in need.  There are several local groups who provide generous support for these and other programs including the DeVos, Kellogg, and Steelcase Foundations.

Mr. Fetterhoff provided an insightful view into the challenges so many of our Grand Rapids area students face and encouraged everyone to consider providing support to Kids Hope USA, One Wyoming 1 on 1, or other mentoring programs available.

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