While studying Design at Ferris State, I found a passion for writing and decided to pursue a minor in Public Relations. I've continued to practice writing for work during the early years of my career, as well as a hobby.
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For most people, choosing a career takes time. It’s a process of learning about yourself, understanding your strengths and weaknesses, and finding what motivates you. It can take years to find your calling, and who knows if it might change overnight? This wasn’t the case for Sarah Ferenz. As a fifth grader, she made her decision and stuck with it. Sarah knew she wanted to be a teacher.
Mrs. Snowden was Sarah’s fifth grade social studies teacher. She also happened to teach Sarah’s dad when he was in fifth grade. Mrs. Snowden introduced Sarah to her passion for education.
“For whatever reason, I had this awesome teacher, and it was social studies believe it or not,” Sarah said, “I don’t know what it was, but I said I want to be a teacher, and ever since then I never changed my mind.”
Sarah grew up in Muskegon, Michigan and attended Reeths-Puffer Schools. She was involved in many extra-circular activities, including theatre, choir, and several sports. Sarah was passionate about many things, but one activity reigned supreme. Sarah loved softball. She loved watching, talking, practicing, learning, teaching, and most importantly playing the sport.
Sarah played softball all four years in high school, where she made priceless memories with her teammates and friends. Then, she continued playing at Muskegon Community College for two years after graduating high school. Around this time, Sarah attended a softball camp at Ferris State University.
“I really liked the atmosphere and the energy and the intensity of everything,” Sarah said about the camp, “And then I walked the campus and it just felt like home.”
Sarah decided to bring her talents to Big Rapids where she played softball and studied Early Education. However, like many students spending their first year away from home, Sarah felt homesick. She missed all her close friends she made at Reeths-Puffer and her family in Muskegon.
“My mom actually had my whole family and friends write letters and send them to me, so that really helped me get through it,” Sarah said.
Later during her time at Ferris, Sarah suffered another setback. In the fall of 2017, Sarah’s grandpa passed away unexpectedly. He was the biggest fan all of his grandchildren and their greatest supporter in whatever they did. He was always so proud to wear his many hats from all the schools they attended.
Although this event seemed untimely, Sarah was lucky to know three girls who knew what she was going through. Within a one-year span, three of Sarah’s teammates also lost a grandpa. They were fortunate to have each other to get through the hard times. Also, Sarah was a member of Fellowship of Christian Athletes (FCA) at Ferris, where Pastor Mike played a huge role in alleviating the grieving process.
“He was so helpful through it all,” Sarah said, “He met with me outside of school and helped talk through everything.”
Despite these challenges, Sarah worked tenaciously to balance her education with her student athlete commitments. Her school years consisted of a fall softball season followed by a winter of conditioning. The regular season begins in early spring and finishes late into the semester. Then, they’re given workouts to do in the summer. Her college years were a non-stop grind, but her efforts paid off when she graduated in the spring of 2018.
Sarah had a short list of schools she wanted to work for. Not long after graduating, Sarah received a phone call about a job opening at her number one choice. She went in for an interview and was quickly offered a position at her alma mater, Reeths-Puffer High School. Along with her new teaching job, Sarah also recently became the varsity softball coach.
“I think because I’m young and I’m freshly out of college, I have new ideas,” Sarah said, “And I’m not far enough away from the game as a player that I still understand what it’s like to be a player.”
As for the classroom, Sarah believes her age and experience allows her to relate to her students and understand what they are going through on a daily basis. Having been involved with so many school activities, she can connect with her students’ interests.
“It’s kind of cool because I can share the same experiences with my students, like you’re in madrigals, you’re in the musical, you play softball, volleyball, NHS, and I think, ‘Oh yeah I remember what it was like,’” Sarah said, “and my students, they appreciate that.”
Sarah currently resides in Muskegon, Michigan and plans to continue doing so for the foreseeable future. She wants to give back to the community and school that gave her so much when she was a student. Sarah credits much of her success to her time at Ferris State University, as well as helping her become who she is today.
Ferris State University was founded in 1884 by Woodbridge and Helen Ferris. The four- year public university is known for its quality instruction and large selection of academic programs. For more information, please visit www.ferris.edu.
Former Ferris State softball player Sarah Ferenz with her grand-parents after winning back-to-back games on Tuesday, April 19, 2016. Sarah’s grandparents traveled from Muskegon, MI to watch their granddaughter participate in two day games. The Bulldogs beat the Northwood Timberwolves 5-3 and 4-2.
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The St. Louis Blues are Stanley Cup Champions for the first time in franchise history. Since joining the league in 1967, the organization has always had a loyal, passionate fan base. One super-fan, however, had a special bond with the team and players like no other. 11-year-old Laila Anderson was the inspiration that fueled the Blue’s Stanley Cup run which resulted in their first championship in 53 years.
Laila grew up in St. Louis, Missouri with her parents Scott and Heather Anderson. She went to school and played sports like every other kid. She lived a pretty normal life until two years ago. Laila received news that would go on to change not only her life forever, but an entire city.
“One day she got out of the car and she collapsed,” Heather said, “She threw up and couldn’t answer simple questions. At the ER they thought she was just dehydrated.”
Unfortunately, it was much more than that. Laila underwent a series of tests to find what caused the episode. After several weeks, she was diagnosed with an extremely rare genetic disease called Hemophagocytic Lymphohistiocytosis (HLH). Only 15 other children in the world have been diagnosed with it. It is a potentially fatal condition where white blood cells build up in and damage organs and destroy other blood cells.
Laila’s treatment was long and strenuous, but Laila fought hard every step of the way. She was treated at St. Louis Children’s Hospital where she was visited by St. Louis Blues forward, Alexander Steen, along with others. Laila had always been a Blue’s fan, but this act of kindness went a long way with her.
Heather remembers a player saying to Laila, “Look at us, we’re missing teeth, we’ve been beat up, so you’re one of us.” She added, “That completely changed her outlook.”
Laila promised the visiting players that she wouldn’t give up in her fight against the disease. In return, the players said they would fight until the end in their quest of winning a championship. The timeline of Laila’s diagnosis and treatment lined up with the Blue’s Stanley Cup run. Their paths crossed when Laila was cleared to attend Game 3 of the Western Conference Finals in St. Louis.
“I was instantly bawling. I can’t believe we’re here. And I can already taste that Stanley Cup,” Laila said.
The video of Laila reacting to her mother sharing the good news went viral. Then, when people heard more about Liala and her story, the city of St. Louis instantly fell in love. Laila also went to Game 4 and Game 6 of the series, where she witnessed her favorite team become Western Conference Champions.
Only one series separated the Blues from earning their first Stanley Cup in over five decades. The team had so much to play for, including for their city, fans, and alumni. Laila’s inspiring story gave every player one more reason to win.
When asked about Laila impacting the players, defenseman and Laila’s favorite player Colton Parayko said, “Of course. One hundred percent. She’s meant a lot. It’s hard to describe from my standpoint. She’s taught me a lot from outside of hockey. Because there is so much more to life than hockey.”
The final series went the distance, but the Blues prevailed. She traveled all the way to Boston to watch her team close out the cup-clinching game. Laila joined the team on the ice and hoisted the Stanley Cup over her head with the help of her favorite player. As promised, the team delivered the best gift Laila could ever dream of.
The St. Louis Blues are one of 31 teams in the National Hockey League. The team joined the league in 1967 and is currently coached by Craig Berube. For more information, please visit www.nhl.com/blues.
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The state of Michigan currently ranks fifth in the nation for childhood obesity after recent study revealed that 18.9% of teenagers are considered obese. Two years ago, Sammy McNorman was a one of these teenagers. He struggled with severe obesity for most of his life, which also affected his self-esteem and confidence. He didn’t where to begin, but Sammy knew he wanted to make a change. Thanks to the after-school health program Fit for Life, Sammy received the proper training, discipline, and guidance to turn his life around. Today, he is healthy, happy, and motivated to help kids just like him.
“As a mother, it’s the worst feeling in the world”, Sammy’s mom Sandra said. “He would come home from school in tears after being constantly being shamed by other students because of his weight.”
Sammy was never very social as a kid. He spent most of his time alone indoors while other kids played sports and rode their bikes around the neighborhood. At school, most students avoided him because of his quiet and shy nature. The one thing that Sammy did enjoy was eating. Because of his inactive lifestyle, he quickly began to gain weight at an alarming rate.
“I began to notice around sixth grade,” Sammy said, “I didn’t think too much of it until it started to affect my breathing.”
Sammy was required to take a physical education course in sixth grade. While doing a weekly run around the track, his instructor noticed him struggling to keep up with other students. So, he suggested to Sammy a program that could help improve his physical well-being.
“When Sammy first started the Fit for Life program, it was apparent that he is unfamiliar with most of the techniques we teach,” program director Ima Lively said. “We knew this would be a challenge for him, but we were confident he could do it.”
Sammy showed up twice a week to the gym where he began his training. Fit for Life trainers are experienced and knowledgeable educators who are committed to demonstrating healthy and active lifestyles. Each class features a one hour lecture about proper eating strategies followed by a custom workout designed for each participant.
“It wasn’t easy at first,” Sammy said, “It was a lot to take in. The workouts, the eating, it was just all so new to me. I thought about quitting several times, but I new this was too important to just give up.”
Sammy lost 30 pounds during his time at Fit for Life. He is proud of his accomplishment and plans to continue practicing this healthy lifestyle for the rest of his life. Not only did his physical appearance improve, but so did his mentality and outlook on life. Sammy appreciates everything the program has done for home and would recommend it to anyone looking to improve their life.
Fit for Life is an after-school health program funded by Michigan Mich-I-Can! They were founded in 2006 by Ima Lively. For more information, visit www.michican.gov.