June 3, 2022
Defer third graders Nyla Burrascano and Di'eze Mamba "visit" London during Pierce's International Festival.
Pierce festival celebrates unity, community and diversity
Families from across the district enjoyed a taste of different cultures around the world during Pierce’s International Festival on Thursday, May 26.
Highlights included an array of international dishes, country exhibits, costumes, prizes and even a selfie station, where students posed with props and accessories in front of a backdrop with an iconic depiction of a country, such as the Leaning Tower of Pisa in Italy or a double decker bus in England.
The festival began about eight years ago at Trombly as an ethnic dinner showcasing food from around the world. After a hiatus due to the pandemic, volunteers brought it back again on an even larger scale.
“We are trying to keep up the tradition,” said Blanchy Kaminski, one of the original organizers who was instrumental on this year’s planning committee as well. Her oldest son, now a sophomore at Grosse Pointe South, was 8 during the inaugural event.
Pierce eighth graders, from left, Morgan Mannino, Zoey Nichols, Samantha Turner, Alya Augspurger, Verona Relan and Narjes Almugabgab. In front: Madelynn Nyenhuis
Moving the event to Pierce required a few adjustments to entice the older students. Committee members worked with school staff, students and parent volunteers to come up with a plan to make the event not only appealing to the middle schoolers, but a learning experience as well. For example, National Junior Honor Society members created a promotional video and posters for the event. Each selected a country to research, then shared interesting facts about that country in a poster displayed in the hallway. In addition, Pierce's string quartet performed.
Another twist to the revitalized event was reaching out to families from Defer and Maire to encourage them to attend, providing an opportunity for the younger students to get to know their future school.
Families created country tables and exhibits representing Brazil, Germany, Greece, India, Indonesia, Nigeria, Panama, the Phillipines and Poland. There was even a special fundraiser at the festival to purchase supplies for Ukraine, supporting a Defer initiative. Other highlights of the evening included a performance by a mariachi band, generously sponsored by the Haig family.
Local businesses, including Trader Joe's, Park Grill and Baobab Fare, donated food and food baskets that served as prizes.
Members of the 2022 Pierce International Festival planning committee pose with the mariachi band.
Participating in the event were community leaders, including city council and Board of Education members.
“Unity in diversity is an in important experience that should be celebrated around the world by everyone,” said Park city councilmember and Pierce parent Vikas Relan, who served on the planning committee along with his wife, Wendy. “Following such an understanding, where we respect each other’s upbringings, can guide us to a life filled with peace, love and harmony.”
For Blanchy, the purpose of the event was to impress upon the students “how we are all connected. In the future, the kids are going to always find somebody who has a different culture. That’s why we are sharing our roots to younger generations so they have a little taste of different cultures and different countries, different parts of the world.”
Blanchy is grateful to the families who donated the food and set up the country table exhibits, the Pierce PTO, administration and staff for their support, in particular Julie Lawrence, who served as a liaison with the staff and students, and community leaders Vikas Relan, Lauri Read and David Brumbaugh “for their consistent support throughout the years.”
She also appreciates the hard work of fellow committee members Doris Grose, Renee Jakubowski, Nitiah Hurt-Caudle, Wendy Relan and Hagi Craig, who helped make the festival possible.
“Most importantly, we came together as a community and shared our cultural roots with younger generations,” she said.
As her family leaves Pierce after this year, Blanchy looks to pass the baton to Renee Jakubowski to lead the planning for the 2023 Pierce International Festival and continue the tradition.
Parcells seventh grader recognized by NJHS
Parcells seventh-grader Elliana Orlando with NJHS adviser Rachel Butler.
Parcells seventh grader Elliana Orlando was selected as a 2022 National Junior Honor Society Outstanding Achievement Award winner. She was one of only 12 students in Michigan to achieve this recognition.
Elliana will receive $500 in a 529 college savings account to be applied toward her higher education. Recipients are chosen based on their demonstrated work to support the five pillars of NJHS: scholarship, service, leadership, character and citizenship.
Elliana learned about the award from her Spanish teacher and NJHS adviser, Rachel Butler. She decided to apply, which required her to create an account, request teacher recommendations, complete a form, and write a paragraph or two about citizenship.
“It said that you had to go above and beyond and you have to help the community as much as you can and not expect anything from it,” she explained.
One of the ways Elliana helps her community is by assisting with a special needs swim program at Pierce Middle School every Wednesday.
Swimming is one of her favorite activities, along with drawing and walking her dog. Her favorite subjects in school are social studies and Spanish.
Elliana, who lives in the Woods, serves on Parcells’ Student Council and recently applied to become a WEB – Where Everyone Belongs – leader next year. In fact, this week she led tours of fourth graders, who visited the school in preparation for becoming middle schoolers in the fall.
Elliana had some encouraging words for the incoming fifth graders.
“There are so many friendly people and so many friendly teachers,” she said. “It’s just amazing. There are so many fun opportunities that happen here.”
She also had some advice.
“The locker combinations aren’t that bad,” she said. “Just try your best and it’s really fun – don’t worry about it.”
What she is looking forward to most next year is “having people look up to me. I’m looking forward to having more opportunities because as you get older, more opportunities open up.”
Dueling Dogs team members, from left, Emily Vassel, Jack Dystra, Ben Ryan, Zach Nyenhuis and Estella Raether, dressed up as superheroes during the Duct Tape Ball. The students created their costumes entirely out of duct tape.
Destination Imagination team duels in global competition
This past week, the district's fifth-grade Destination Imagination team, the Dueling Dogs, competed in Kansas City at Global Finals and placed sixth in their age group and category. This team of fifth graders, made up of Jack Dykstra, Zach Nyenhuis, Estella Raether, Ben Ryan and Emily Vassel, has been working to solve their STEM challenge since September and put in well over 100 hours of work.
According to DI coordinator Courtney Dykstra, who co-manages the team along with Pierce parent Courtney Vassel, Grosse Pointe has a long history of students participating from many different buildings at all levels.
This year GP had six teams that competed in the regional showcase in early March. Two of the teams went on to the State Tournament at the end of March. The second and third grade team from Defer placed sixth in Elementary Fine Arts and the fifth-grade team from Pierce placed third in Elementary Engineering (DI includes fifth grade in the elementary division). This allowed the fifth graders to advance to Global Finals, which was held in Kansas City, MO in mid-May. While many of the international teams were unable to attend Global Finals due to COVID restrictions, 440 teams from 6 countries and many states participated.
The Dueling Dogs posed in the staging area moments before they performed their play for the judges.
Each September, DI releases seven different STEAM-based challenges that teams of students solve over the course of several months. The Dueling Dogs selected the Engineering Challenge this year. Their objective was to build a structure that weighed between 25 and 175 grams, could roll down a ramp, and then support weight being placed on top of it.
In addition, they had to perform a play demonstrating how a character (or characters) overcame an insurmountable obstacle and became legends. Finally, they had to create a prop or scenery piece that rotated and two team choice elements which are team selected items to be scored. One of their team choice elements were the over 200 origami flowers they made to be held in eight papier-mâché vases.
According to Courtney, the team set a goal in September to place in the top 10 at Global Finals.
“After days of difficult work rebuilding their scenery and props, they performed for the judges. Their structure weighed 63 grams and held 575 pounds. The judges loved all aspects of their performance! At the awards ceremony, after nine months and over 100 hours of work, their team placed 6th in the world.”
After such a tremendous accomplishment, they are already excited about next year, she added.
The Destination Imagination global community is united by a core belief that when students have the freedom to grow and collaborate without boundaries, their confidence explodes and the world opens up to them in new ways. We enable this transformation by providing challenges rooted in STEAM subjects that inspire unique solutions through the use of the creative process.
The Dueling Dogs competed in the Engineering Challenge.
ALUMNI THROUGH THE DECADES
Grosse Pointe North High School
Class of 2021
Kai Dickerson left a legacy behind when she graduated from Grosse Pointe North High School last spring.
While in high school, Kai took advantage of as many opportunities as she could. She served as an officer for Link Crew, a group of students who mentor incoming freshmen; tutored students as a member of the National Honor Society; and served two years as president of North’s Diversity Club.
She also had the opportunity to travel to Washington, D.C. as a participant in Close Up, a program that brings high school students from across the country together to make lasting connections with the people and places that represent our democracy.
Among Kai's favorite classes at North was Exploring Global Issues with social studies teacher Dan Gilleran. In this class, students are able to connect what they learn about issues facing countries around the world with work with a local organization. In Kai’s case, she worked with Beaumont Hospital Grosse Pointe to put together Wellness Wednesdays. Still in existence at North today, Wellness Wednesdays are focused on education that removes the stigma surrounding mental illnesses, promotes stress reduction techniques, and provides resources for the Grosse Pointe student population.
Her years as president of the Diversity Club also led to some lasting change. Kai co-founded North’s Inclusion, Diversity, Education & Allyship Week, known as IDEA Week, which took place this year on April 25 to 29. The purpose of IDEA Week, according to Kai, is to design a series of events highlighting the social and cultural diversity present within the Grosse Pointe community.
As part of the inaugural week, Kai helped to facilitate Mental Health Across Cultures Day, a student-led symposium aimed to eradicate stigmas and expand perspectives on what mental health is and looks like internationally.
Through this experience, Kai connected with different grassroots organizations in the area, including The Family Center – which led to her meeting MaryJo Harris, The Family Center’s Director of Programs & Administration. MaryJo offered Kai an internship with The Family Center this summer, beginning this May.
As an intern, Kai helps plan wellness programming for middle and high schools and researches resources to be distributed in counseling centers as well as published on their websites.
Reflecting on her early years attending Mason Elementary and Parcells Middle School, Kai said her fifth-grade teacher, Karen Frakes, “had a huge impact on me. She was really encouraging and introduced me to my passion for writing and just sparked a real interest in academics that I didn’t have previously.”
Kai just completed her first year at Spelman College in Atlanta where she is studying psychology and is on the premedical track to become a holistic psychologist.
“As a holistic psychiatrist, I want to address the physical manifestations of psychological disorders and the psychological manifestations of physical disorders as well as the ecological, socioeconomic, racial and nutritional impacts that may impact the illnesses,” she said.
Before attending medical school, Kai plans to pursue a master’s degree in medical anthropology to understand the holistic side of the field.
Kai's advice to young people is, "Regardless of your age, if you see a need for change, you can take action. Anybody can make a difference."
Our Vision: One Inclusive Community Learning Together
Our Mission: Cultivate Educational Excellence By:
- Empowering Students
- Valuing Diversity
- Inspiring Curiosity
- Pushing Possibilities