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09.29.16 – Luncheon Notes

SPOKES Notes written by Nick Kroeze

A dreary day was perked up when President Sytsma invited Kevin Paul up to lead us in a rousing rendition of “This Land is Your Land.”  Dale Bramer provided some wisdom perspective on life before offering a very thoughtful invocation.  With lunch finished, President Sytsma spoke to the “Rotary Relevance” seen in our club and then invited Michael Loughman up to introduce our nine guests.  We had fun with a new Club element called “Guess the Rotarian” led by Renwick Brutus.  After several clues, Rotarian Kevin Paul determined the subject was Mark Piersma, for which he received a wonderful gift card to a coffee shop.

Deb Nykamp and Roger Morgenstern had the delight of bringing us one of the luncheon highlights—the introduction of new members!  Eric Messink and Matt Tiedgen of Lead Marketing Agency were warmly welcomed into the club and several committee chairs immediately tried to snag them.  With that, Dr. Paul Farr came forward, providing an enjoyable introduction of our Keynote Speaker, Pat Cwayna of West Michigan Aviation Academy (WMAA).  Paul made special note of the exceptional nature of the school’s culture and that his own son thought so highly of Pat’s “knack with connecting with his students” that he fondly recalled from his days in education.

Pat provided us with some background on WMAA, which was founded in 2010 by Dick De Vos.  WMAA is a non-profit high school with a public charter, serving students from a wide area.  Over the past seven years, the academy has grown form 80 students to 601, compelling them to enroll new students through a highly-supervised and inclusive lottery system.  The resulting student body reflects great diversity and provides an atmosphere that values character and performance over background.  There have been three graduating classes, resulting in 35 licensed pilots.

Pat made note that WMAA’s engineering program has a special endorsement—STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math).  Students successfully meeting the criteria receive the STEM Endorsement on their transcripts, which enhances their enrollment potential at major universities.  U of M and GVSU are partners with WMAA through their engineering programs.

The Q & A time highlighted that there is no tuition charge at WMAA but students participating in flight training are assessed a fee for flight hours.  Graduates will go on to institutions like Emery-Riddle, into the military or into university engineering programs.  The graduation rate is not yet 100% as they are striving to help students adjust to the demands of academy education.  There is a small sports program but it is not emphasized as may be seen in traditional high schools.  WMAA is chartered by Bay Mills Community College.

President Sytsma warmly thanked Pat for his energizing presentation, noting how Pat and WMAA are examples of Martin Luther King Jr’s declaration: “Intelligence plus character-that is the goal of true education.”   A water filter certificate and Rotary application were joyfully presented and received.

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