Category Archives: Schoolcraft

Schoolcraft High School Students Study Social Media

By Sue Moore

Parents often worry about their children spending too much time on their cell phones, tablets or computer but they may not be sure of what they can do about it, said Ric Seager, Schoolcraft High School principal. He discussed the issue with an audience of parents at a recent gathering to discuss the world of technology and its effect on students.

Earlier in the day, the high school students at Schoolcraft went through a day of classes related to social media. Subjects included social media safety, how the world sees a person online, cyberbullying, electronic communication through the law, screen time and your brain and an individual’s digital footprint. Students rotated through each session, met in discussion groups and finally joined together in an assembly dealing with texting and driving.

There were lots of lessons as the “take-away” for the day, Seager told the parents after they watched a movie about “Screen Agers, growing up in the digital age.” Several of the parents were concerned about the use of iPads that the school has furnished their teenagers and how to allow them to do their homework and spend less time playing online games.

Seager responded that all of the iPads go through the school’s filters. But he acknwoeldged that doesn’t stop kids from playing games on them. He cautioned that it’s important to set limitations as these devices are not going away. Those who can figure out how to manage the devices will have a big advantage over others.

“Have clear expectations for your kids. Set strong boundaries and over time you can give them more and more autonomy, which is really empowering to kids.”

“My philosophy is we don’t want technology to get in the way of good communication. Digital is great for maintenance but bad for building good communications. It’s important to look for the right balance. We need to know and understand it.”

A parent asked what the next step should be in showing their technology concerns. Seager urged them to “come to school board meetings and let the trustees know how you feel. Get more people involved. Talk to your peers and let’s pull it together.”

Gourdneck/Webber School Reroofing Completed

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Don Ulsh, Schoolcraft township supervisor and Virginia Mongreig, Schoolcraft township clerk, check out the new metal roof at the Webber schoolhouse on Portage Road.

By Sue Moore

What was once the proud Gourdneck Prairie/Webber country school house had been deteriorating over the years with huge holes in the roof. Its doors and windows had been boarded up to prevent vandalism. That didn’t stop the critters who made it their home during the winter, said Schoolcraft Township Clerk Virginia Mongreig.

The Township became the owner of the building as Monty Mongreig, the supervisor in 1969, purchased it at a cost of $3,010. He wanted to use it as a township museum. The site is part of a township cemetery on Portage Road, just south of V Avenue.

Historical notes from Dr. Millard Roberts indicate the school was built in 1870 and was in Kalamazoo County District 6. He attended this one room brick school from 1915 as a pre-schooler and went there through the eighth grade. Roberts wrote his memoirs and donated them to the Vicksburg Historical Society. In them he said, “We were not supposed to go into the cemetery. This we did anyway as some teachers were quite lenient. We even played hide and seek there.

“Finding enough money in the budget to repair the building and the roof in particular meant that the building was neglected for many years,” Mongreig said. “We had several citizen complaints but could do nothing until this year when Dan Gettle of Vicksburg Roofing and Siding, gave the township a big break on the price of a steel roof. For now, we will try to keep the building winterized and hope to fix it up someday, possibly with some grant money.”

There were 20 one-room school houses in the Vicksburg school district before consolidation in 1947 according to Dr. Arle Schneider’s history of Vicksburg, published by the Vicksburg Historical Society in 2000. Most of them have been demolished or were sold by the school district to get the properties back on the tax rolls. Dr. Roberts went on to study medicine at the University of Michigan after graduating from Vicksburg High School in 1927. He practiced elsewhere and retired in Vicksburg.

“Smoking was tried occasionally by the boys in their outhouse. We would take old dried corn silk, roll it into a cigarette-like object and then smoke it. We would have a strong temptation to do this whenever farmer Cooley would raise corn adjacent to our outhouse. Another thing we would try was “powdered up old dried leaves. However, this was a little too potent for us.

“One time one of the boys brought a can of Prince Albert smoking tobacco. We all eagerly tried it, and this was the best yet! But when we left the outhouse to return to the school, our teacher and the girls were standing as a group in the distance. They knew what we were up to as they could see clouds of smoke rolling up from where we were. We got a severe scolding. The teacher threatened to report us to the school director, a local farmer. I think we stayed after school as punishment.

“Paper we used for rolling cigarettes was most any kind. Generally, it was tablet paper. We would stick it together by wetting it with saliva.” Three of Roberts classmates were Maurice, Victor and Vincent Rawlinson. Vincent worked at the mill for many years as purchasing agent. Maurice was the longest serving president of the Vicksburg village in the 1950s and 60s. He owned Rawlinson’s Appliances.

Enjoy the Memorial Day Parade!

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Boy Scouts from Troop 251 will head the Memorial Day parade in Vicksburg.

The Capt. Charles Osborne Post 5189, Veterans of Foreign Wars, will be sponsoring Vicksburg Memorial Day activities on Monday May 29. The annual parade, led by Vicksburg High School’s Marching Band, will step off at 10 a.m. from the Vicksburg Middle School. The post is asking local organizations to join the parade with floats or marching groups and yes, it would love horses and vintage vehicles, said Senior Vice Commander Robert Rainwater. He can be reached at 649-1700.

Immediately after the parade there will be a remembrance ceremony at the Vicksburg cemetery to salute our fallen veterans. Commander Edward (Butch) Wesoloski hopes many neighbors will turn out for the ceremonies this year. The speaker will be Jan and Denny McNally’s daughter, Kenzi Pridgeon. She is an Air Force captain and a pilot in the Air National Guard.

The next five years are a period of time when 75th anniversary commemorations will take place of many major battles that led to victory in World War II. This would include the Tokyo bombing raid led by Gen. Jimmy Doolittle. 2017 is the 100th anniversary of the nation’s entry into World War I. A total of 117,000 Americans paid the ultimate price.

“This is a special time when all Americans should take time to reflect on the price that was paid to protect the life style enjoyed by our people. All children should be taught the importance and meaning of this holiday in American History,” said James L. Hamrick, the post’s quartermaster.

Memorial Day Schedule – Vicksburg

10 a.m. Vicksburg Memorial Day parade, will start at the Middle School and be led by the Big Red Machine marching band. They will march to the cemetery on Highway Street, via Prairie and Michigan Avenue, where a ceremony will take place. The speaker will be Capt. Kenzi Pridgeon.

Memorial Day Schedule – Schoolcraft

10:40 a.m. the parade begins at the corner of Cedar and Cass streets. It will travel to U.S. 131 and go north to Lyon Street, turn left on VW to the cemetery, led by the Schoolcraft High School band.
11 a.m. Ceremonies honoring veterans at the cemetery.

Memorial Day Schedule – Fulton

11:30 for participants to line up.
Noon for the children’s parade to travel south to the cemetery on 44th street.
12:30 the parade led by the Vicksburg High School Big Red Machine marching band will begin at the north end of the village limits and travel on 44th street to the cemetery for a short ceremony.

New Schoolcraft Township Cemetery Rules

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Troy Pryor and his son Austin, survey the tree stumps they created in the Vicksburg cemetery while cutting down the four dead ash trees in the older part of the township cemetery.

New cemetery rules were enacted by the Schoolcraft Township Board of Trustees at its April 11 meeting. “Some people are going to be uneasy about it, but we felt that it is necessary to maintain the general appearance and beauty of the cemeteries,” Clerk Virginia Mongreig said.

The rules as adopted are:

• No tree or shrub shall be set or planted on any lot or grave without obtaining approval of the clerk.

• The sod or seeding on any grave shall not be dug up, removed or disturbed in a space not to exceed 12 x 24 inches in lieu of a marker. Plants and flowers may be set in a space 12 inches wide next to, in front of, and along the length of the monument. Receptacles for cut flowers or potted plants will be permitted in lieu of set plants. No rose bushes are to be planted in the cemetery.

• The use of plastics and poly-resin decorations is prohibited. No structures shall be permitted.

• The township has the right to remove and dispose of any and all growth, emblems, displays or containers which have become unsightly, a source of litter or a maintenance problem.

Reroute Presents Three Growth Plans for Schoolcraft

By Sue Moore

Three distinct plans for growth in Schoolcraft were presented by Jorden Parker of Wightman & Associates to approximately 30 people who attended the second in a series of Reroute workshops. He presented representative ideas of areas where growth could occur and asked the audience for feedback on what they liked or didn’t want to see in the village’s future.

The first idea presented looked at pedestrian traffic getting across N. Grand Street and suggested an overpass on U.S. 131. The intention is to make Burch Park on the west side of the village more accessible to foot traffic.

The recently closed Early Elementary building on Cass Street featured prominently in the second plan presented. It included a walking trail along the railroad with an eventual link to future trails linking to Three Rivers and Portage. It could also become part of a new commercial district on East Cass Street, Parker said.

The third plan featured some “out of the box” thinking, Parker told the group. It envisioned low-budget housing in open fields between Cass and Clay Streets, east of N. Grand Street. It also had a trailhead facility, event park, and dense housing that did not necessarily need village sewer service, as they envisioned use of septic service instead.

Kelly Bergland, who moved to Schoolcraft two years ago, via Los Angeles, although she was born in Vicksburg, commented on the third option: “If you build it, will people come? Will the housing sit vacant because there isn’t much to offer in the downtown?” She lives near Burch Park and was pleased to see the emphasis on the park in the first plan.

Mae Pfost, a lifelong resident of Schoolcraft and planning commission member, felt that Schoolcraft needs a major draw. “There is no place for people to stay and nothing much to do when they get here. The major corridor needs a sewer which comes before growth as a destination point,” she said.

A table of young people attending with their mother was concerned about safety issues. They liked the trailhead possibility. They proposed a simple idea to inform drivers about the village by putting signs with information about the community at the south side rail crossing. With many trains stopping traffic on U.S. 131, car occupants could read and learn about Schoolcraft.

Nearly everyone wanted a plan to slow traffic down on the 131/N. Grand Street corridor and felt the overpass had some possibilities. Right now, the village residential area is set apart by the heavy traffic on the major highway.

“This is where the process gets more difficult,” Parker said in closing. “These are just representative projects we are using to tell a vision through the plans presented. We are looking for consensus to start building the vision for the future. The challenge is how can we implement the vision.

“We will take the feedback we’ve heard here tonight, compile it in a booklet for the stakeholders to review. There will be one final open house this summer for the public. This is where the real change begins. We hope there is a buy-in and people are inspired to see real change.”

Wightman’s work was funded in part by a grant from the Vicksburg Foundation and the Village of Schoolcraft.

Blake Bales: Five-Sport Athlete for Schoolcraft

Blake FB Senior Night
Blake Bales with his parents, Bob and Cheri, at Schoolcraft High School’s Parents Night. Photo by Stephanie Blentlinger, Lingering Memories Photography.

By Hannah Gold

One cold, blustery day in January 2008, Blake Bales got serious about sports. He was nine and his parents had just bought a golf course, so he picked up his clubs and headed toward the first tee … in a blinding snowstorm and 35 degree weather. That was their first indication that he was destined to be a dedicated athlete.

Nine years later, Bales is a five-sport athlete at Schoolcraft High School, lettering in golf, football, baseball, bowling and basketball. He carries a 3.62 GPA. He represented the school in state competition for both bowling and golf and has been part of some of the school’s most successful athletic teams for the past four years. In June, Bales will graduate with not only a high school diploma, but 41 college credits to get him started on his way to becoming a defense attorney. He plans to attend Kellogg Community College in Battle Creek to study and play baseball.

What drives a young athlete to achieve? According to Bales, one experience was playing high school football. Bales played rocket football but quit in middle school to focus on baseball. His junior year he decided that he wanted to play football again and said, “It was one of the best choices I’ve ever made.” Citing the culture of the team as having forever changed his high school experience, he noted that his teammates are his family. “Through football I learned how to help other people through any kind of issues that may come up because, even though we are not related, we are a family,”

“Being a student athlete taught me the importance of sportsmanship. In football, we went 9-0 in the 2016 regular season and then were beaten in the first round of playoffs by our biggest rival. After the game our coach didn’t have much to say, but he did tell us that no matter what had happened we would not trash them or their game.

“We play for the name on the front of our jerseys, and not the name on the back. Even though our season was over, he made sure that we put things in the proper perspective.”

Bales recently was recognized by the MHSAA with the Scholar-Athlete Award. He credits others for his drive for success as well, namely his parents and teachers. “My parents have always pushed me to be a good student and to get good grades and my teachers have always been available and willing to help one-on-one. I knew I wanted to go to college from a young age and studying hard in high school was a way to be eligible for scholarships.”

Outside the classroom, Bales has stayed busy as a member of the National Honor Society, a volunteer for Big Brothers Big Sisters, a coach for the Schoolcraft High Junior Pro Basketball Program, and a member of Complete Baseball club. He also has held a full-time job every summer and worked part-time throughout the school year since he was nine. At 10, he ran a golf club washing business to help raise money for his travel baseball expenses.

He was injured twice during his high school career. He suffered a broken thumb in his sophomore year, which prevented him from playing baseball but didn’t hinder his golf game – he qualified for State. In his senior year, he developed a stress fracture and spent the next eight weeks in a corrective boot, forcing him off the basketball court, but not the bowling alley, where he again qualified for State.

If Bales has his way, as a defense attorney he will have the opportunity to help innocent people prove their case, and bring guilty parties to trial. “I predict I will feel a great satisfaction working for people in need; especially in financial need since I can understand their situation,” he said.

Schoolcraft Sports

These Schoolcraft sports team photos supplement the rest of the photos published in last month’s issue.