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Whether it’s welding, sports medicine or physical therapy, students are moving toward goals with school support

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Ryleigh O’Connor, Mali Holland, and Reece Hoeksma
Kent ISD
Ryleigh O’Connor, Mali Holland, and Reece Hoeksma

As they inch closer to graduation, three high school students share their career ambitions and the efforts of educators and school staff to empower them to reach for their dreams.

Joy Walczak speaks to Kent ISD Student Leadership Community members Reece Hoeksma and Mali Holland of Thornapple-Kellogg High School, and Ryleigh O’Connor, a student at Comstock Park High School. Sheree Joseph-Bos, Kent ISD’s Diversity, Equity, Belonging Consultant joins the conversation

Joy Walczak (JW):
Welcome to the Your Dream is Our Dream podcast, where we celebrate student success one dream at a time. This program is made possible by Kent ISD in partnership with WGVU. I'm Joy Walczak, and today we have several members of the Kent ISD Student Leadership Community with us, along with our Diversity, Equity and Belonging Consultant, Sheree Joseph-Bos. Thanks to all of you for being here today.

All: Thank you. Thank you.

JW: Let's go ahead and start by meeting the students who are here with us today. Will you please share with us who you are and what school you go to?

Reece Hoeksma (RH):
My name is Reece Hoeksma and I attend Thornapple-Kellogg Schools.

Mali Holland (MH):
My name is Mali Holland and I also attend Thornapple-Kellogg High School.

Ryleigh O’Connor (RO):
My name is Ryleigh O'Connor and I attend Comstock Park High School.

JW: Thank you all for being here. And Sheree, will you share with us your role with the community we hear with us today?

Sheree Josesph-Bos (SB): Yes. I am Sheree Joseph-Boss and I am the Diversity, Equity and Belonging Consultant for Kent ISD and I have the privilege of being one of the facilitators for our Student Leadership Community.

JW: Tell me more about this Leadership Community. Who makes it up?

SB: We have our administrators, mostly our superintendents, that have selected two students, at least two students from each school district within Kent County and some of the schools that we have are not just districts, but also are public charter academies.

JW: It's a terrific group and it's brought together in part to empower students and allow them opportunities to share their voices, which is why we're here today. Now, each of you has a dream for your future and we'd love to hear about that. Reece, why don't we start with you?

RH: So my dream is - I'm not fully sure about it yet – but I’m going into the trades, so I'm definitely looking to like community colleges or trade schools to help with that. I looked into GRCC welding certificate program, which I'm pretty sure I'm gonna do next year, so that's definitely my dream.

JW: There are so many jobs available in that career field. I think that's a great choice. Mali, where are you headed?

MH: Hopefully I'm off to college. I would like to study sports science, get some athletic training, maybe a minor in PT, but that's the hope.

JW: A great direction as well. And Ryleigh, can you share with us what your dreams are?

RO: I plan to graduate high school and then go to U of M and then become a sports medicine doctor or a sports physician.

JW: These are all very wonderful places to start and to get to your next step in your dreams. You've all been along an educational journey. I'd love to learn if you have something from your school, perhaps a teacher, a program that may be inspiring you to take the next steps in this dream. Reece, would you like to share?

RH: Yeah. So my freshman year started out high school. There was a class called Principle Tech. Mr. Cuff taught the class. Um, they have a welding area in that class, so that really got me into welding. So I think I found my passion because of that class. So that helped a lot.

JW: It's great hands on work.

RH: Yeah.

JW: And Molly, how about you? Is there something in your educational journey that may be propelling you to the next step?

MH: Um, with being in sports at Thornapple-Kellogg, that helped me, but also Mr. Ruger's, um, essentials of strength and training class. It's a college level class, but he teaches it in high school. And I think it just really sparked my thinking about going to college and pursuing something along the lines of that.

JW: I can tell you that sparking, inspiring, and empowering is something every teacher wants to be able to do. Ryleigh, what's your experience in this area?

RO: So both my counselor, Ms. McCambridge, and my

JW: Counselors are part of the equation. So are teachers It could be somebody who inspires you as a leader in an in an extracurricular activity. Are there some ways that school is helping you to achieve the dreams that you're looking toward?

RO: Yeah, so Tyler Far is one of our Counselors and then we have Ms. McCambridge and they both know my goal and they both set me up for classes and different opportunities that can help me get to my goal.

JW: And each of you is a leader in your school community. And that's part of what brought you to the group that we're all part of here today. And Sheree, when you're listening to these students talk about their experiences in school, can you share with us how this inspires leaders in education to perhaps do their own work differently?

SB: Yes, one thing that I am learning just by listening to all of our students is that they really enjoy having the options. They enjoy learning about what is out there for them to do. Not everyone is going to take the same pathway, but knowing that this is something that they can do is something that they are learning that, hey, this could be me. And also that they may choose something different from one of their peers, and that's OK. Or they may choose something different from what a parent wants them to do. And that's okay as well. What they are sharing with us is that, you know, they have their own dreams and they want these dreams to become a reality.

JW: I believe it is important to ask students about their dreams, but I'd like to hear your take on that. Reece, could you share with me? Is there…what do you think of it when adults ask you what your dreams and aspirations are?


RH: Um, so yeah. Um, obviously, parents are going to have different expectations than other people. But if...

JW: Does it help for us to know what you're aspiring to do? And how could that change how we support you?

RH: Yeah. So telling teachers or parents like what ideas you have in the future is definitely important because they want to help you and you need the help because it's the next step and the future of, you know, stepping in the workplace and the after school is big.

JW: It is big. There are very many ways that we can support our students. One thing I'd love to know is, Mali, if you might have some advice for a younger student, perhaps somebody in middle school or just starting high school, as they're starting to shape and decide what they might want to be in the future. Do you have some advice?

MH: Uh, yes, I think that the most important thing is to not let other people tell you what you should do. And I think that it's important to know that you don't have to have it figured out until you're ready to have it figured out, because you don't have to decide what you want to do until you're doing it.

JW: Absolutely. And we all know that our pathways can change as life continues. Ryleigh, what would you like to share about what you've learned about your own dreams and maybe what you'd like to share with somebody else to help inspire them to dream big?

RO: What I've learned is that it's really hard to just stick with one thing. Like, you're going to find different things that you like and you're going to change your decisions on what you want to do. But it's important to like research and put the same amount of energy in all of them, even if it's not your first pick. And I think that everybody just needs to think about that and think that there are other options even if you don't think so right now because you want to go into it. For a family business or something, you have to think of yourself first, or else you're not gonna be happy.

JW: And Ryleigh, how do you think you'll know when your dreams actually come true?

RO: I think I'll know when I'm happy with my future and happy with what I'm doing, and I look forward to going to work every day, not as a chore.

JW: Mali, how about you?

MH: I would just like, like Riley said, I just want to grow up and like know that I decided the right thing. And if I didn't decide the right thing, I would like to be confident enough to change my decision.

JW: Absolutely. Reece, what would make you feel like your dreams have already been achieved?

RH: Um, when, uh, working does not feel like a job to me.

JW: Absolutely. We like our work to be our passion and always continue to be learners in any space where we are. That's what being a student of life is all about. I want to thank you so much for sharing your dreams with us today. Thanks for being part of our podcast.

All: Yeah, thank you. Thank you

JW: I'd also like to thank everyone who's listening as well. If you know a student of any age who dreams big, we would love to share their story. You can share your ideas and hear more dream stories at KentISD.org/Your Dream. The Your Dream is Our Dream podcast is presented by Kent ISD in partnership with WGVU.

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