By Ferndale Schools Superintendent Blake Prewitt

The 2016-2017 school year is off to a great start! We’ve had so many exciting things happening around the district, it is hard to pick just a few to highlight! We look forward to more positive and impactful things and events happening throughout next semester as well!

Our Ferndale High School Golden Eagles Marching Band headed to Ford Field in early November to defend their state championship title. With a score of 91.65, the Golden Eagles clenched their second straight state championship title, bringing their total number of state championship wins up to nine over the last 13 years.

In addition to an overall win the Golden Eagles won all three caption awards; Out-standing Music Performance, Outstanding Visual Performance, and Outstanding General Effect. While it is wonderful for the band to have earned their 9th State Championship in the last 13 years, “I am particularly proud of this year’s band because over a third are first-year marchers, and yet the group as a whole ‘showed up for work’ every rehearsal and got incrementally better each time. That’s hard for any group to do, even far more experienced bands,” said Marching Band Director Elon Jamison

The Ferndale Eagle Football team also had an impressive season, finishing out 7-2 and making it to the State Playoffs! The Eagles went head-to-head with Detroit King at the end of October and, although they lost the game, the journey getting to that point is one worth noting. When Coach Royal started with Ferndale, there was waning interest in the program and as a result he had to move all interested junior varsity players up to the varsity team. Those 10th graders who moved up two years ago are the biggest reason for the team’s turnaround this year. “This 2017 class have set the bar high; they set the expectation for success. The three years they spent as varsity players taught them a lot. Through their hard work and preparation, they have shown the underclassmen what it takes to be successful,” said Coach Royal.

Coach Royal was also recognized for his work by being named “Coach of the Year” for Region 16 by the Michigan High School Football Coaches Association.

Story by David Wesley
Photos by Bernie Laframboise

Dave Mesrey is one of the many torches in Detroit helping to keep the city alight and colorful. His work is appreciated but not noted nearly enough to show the gratitude he deserves for his efforts. He’s a great reflection and representative of the city: he’s gone through bleak times and weathered the storms of change to prove things like cities and lives can be destroyed but never defeated. At 47, Dave Mesrey has become something of a local presence in the last few years with his work at Metro Times and at Navin Field. His past is shrouded in mystery, but I managed to pull the curtain back on his persona — with his permission of course.

David confesses to Ferndale Friends on his first run-ins with Metro Times: “I’d been reading it off and on since about 1989. I was a fan of Curt Guyette’s and Michael Jackman’s work, as well as Larry Gabriel, Jack Lessenberry, and the great music writer Brian Smith. I knew I wasn’t in their league, but I thought maybe I could trick ‘em into hiring me as their copy boy. It worked! From 2013-2015, I got to work alongside some ff-jj-dm-papermajor young talent like Ryan Felton and Lee DeVito. Prior to that, I even got to work in their Greektown office for a spell. In the ’90s I studied creative writing at WMU under Jaimy Gordon, who went on to win the National Book Award for Fiction in 2010. I’ve got a story about her, but it’s not for print.

Currently, I’m working on a short story for inclusion in Aaron Foley’s new Detroit neighborhood anthology for the Rust Belt Press. Aaron asked me, and I was honored. I lived for 24 years in Detroit’s Morningside neighborhood on the Far East side. I’ve got a lot of stories from my old neighborhood. I’ve never really had to travel far to find a good story.

When his history in downtown Detroit is mentioned, I ask him about his work at historic Navin Field. “Navin Field​ is the historic name of Tiger Stadium, which opened at the corner of Michigan and Trumbull on April 20, 1912.  Ty Cobb scored the Tigers’ first run by stealing home in the bottom of the first, but it was actually another guy who scored the very first run there in the top of the first inning: none other than Shoeless Joe Jackson. That’s why I like to say Navin Field is the real field of dreams.

“Six years ago, a local mailman named Tom Derry founded the Navin Field Grounds Crew, an all-volunteer group that restored and maintained historic Navin Field after Tiger Stadium was demolished in 2009. I thought Tom had the right idea, and I still do. He’s been a real inspiration for all of us. For six years, Tom led the effort to preserve the Tiger Stadium site and restore it to playing condition. It was really a labor of love.

In addition to my volunteer work with the Navin Field Grounds Crew, I’m a freelance writer and producer, and recently helped produce a segment for Channel 4 about Motown, Marvin Gaye, and his landmark album, WHAT’S GOING ON. I also interviewed former Detroit Lion Lem Barney for a piece in Metro Times. I also throw a birthday party every year for the late, great Mark ‘The Bird’ Fidrych in Corktown. We call it the Bird Bash.”

Dave has the candor and color of a rainbow and our chat pinballs from subject to subject. Ferndale pops into the conversation quickly, between bumpers of beers at Anita’s Kitchen. “I lived in Ferndale for four years, and I loved it. I like shopping at the Food Patch, I always take my bike to the Ferndale Bike Shop, and I love eating here at Anita’s. Joe and Jen Wegryzyn make you feel like family. I also have a penchant for sheltering wayward creatures. I’ve long been something of a wayward creature myself. To that end, I’ve turned my house into a mini animal rescue. It’s still a work in progress. Aren’t we all?

Our mutual writing projects come up, and he tells about a historical piece he’s working on about the history of the Hazel Park Racetrack. In 1980 his father died of a heart attack in the back of the grandstand. “The track has always been a magnet for me. Ever since my father first took me there in 1974. There’s something really spellbinding about the track for me. I’ve never been to Santa Anita or Churchill Downs. Hazel Park is the only track for me.” He says he will have been in the grandstand for opening day. “I wouldn’t miss it for the world.” he says.

As we wrap up our talk, and Woodward streaks and shines beside us with rush-hour traffic ten feet away, he gives me a parting punchline of good faith, “If you were to ask me what I want to be when I grow up, I’d probably say, ‘Good question. I’m still trying to figure that out.’”

Story by Sherrad Glosson | Photos by Ed Abeska

Sport Clips is a barber shop like no other. From the outside you might think it’s just like other shops that offer a haircut and a shave. Walking in, though, you find yourself in a sports mecca. You can watch various sports on big screen TVs scattered throughout the facility. There are lockers around the barber chairs. The seats say, ‘Ask for an MVP.’

ff11648_Page_1_Image_0001I had the opportunity to sit down with owner Mike Williams, and that was the first thing we spoke about. “I wanted to set myself apart from other barber shops around. I wanted to offer more than just haircuts but more of an experience. So I offer my customers an ‘MVP’ experience. My stylist are paid hourly like a regular job, and they get W2s just like everyone else. I didn’t want them to have to be private contractors. Ferndale is a very diverse town, and I want to provide for the community and offer jobs to people locally.”

ff11648_Page_1_Image_0004As the conversation went on, he explained to me that instead of providing just a haircut to his customers, they also get a hot, steamed towel treatment, a massaging shampoo treatment, and a neck and shoulder massage. I had the pleasure of seeing for myself, and I can report that Sport Clips is indeed more than just a cut and dash.

ff11648_Page_1_Image_0003I was led to the back room and a lovely lady sat me down in a chair. The lights were dimmed and she laid my head back to rest. In my head, I was under the impression that this only happened in hair salons, but I was mistaken. She told me to close my eyes and I relaxed as she placed a hot towel around my neck and began to massage my scalp. Total bliss. I didn’t want to get up! Moments later we were done. While sitting in the barber chair I had the chance to catch the Lions game on a big screen TV directly in front of me. I had the best time of my life while getting a haircut!

ff11648_Page_1_Image_0005During our conversation, Mike made mention of something I thought vitally important. “I don’t want people to have the misconception that this business is a part of a corporate chain. This location is solely owned by me. Although there are 1,500 Sport Clips nationwide, all but 40 are individually owned.” Mike hires local employees, and also sponsors local schools and events throughout the city of Ferndale. Mike is an entrepreneur and firm believer of giving back to the community, and not just pulling money from it.

In closing I asked Mike about his goal and mission statement, and here’s what he said: “I want to continue to offer the community a championship haircut experience for men and boys in an exciting sports environment.” Through personal experience, I can assure you that if you want a haircut experience like no other, Sport Clips is the way to go!

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Story by Kevin Alan Lamb

“In the end, it’s about the teaching, and what I always loved about coaching was the practices. Not the games, not the tournaments, not the alumni stuff. But teaching the players during practice was what coaching was all about to me.” – John Wooden

Mindy and Dirk Vandermeer have spent the last 15 years volunteering as soccer coaches for the Ferndale Recreation Department. More important than the outcome of any game, however, is a coach’s ability to form meaningful connections with players and instill the values of hard work and cooperation.

“You don’t have to like, or be best friends with each other, but learn to work together. We all have to deal with that in life,” Dirk says.

At a young age competitive sport teaches children to value others based on their effort, attitude, and passion. In many ways a team is like a family; its ability to communicate, sacrifice, and endure hardship will determine its success.

“With coaching, it gets hard having time with my wife and the kids, and work, but I can’t stop yet because I did it for all of them.”

Named Volunteer Soccer Coaches of the Season (2013) by the Ferndale Recreation Department, the Vandermeers continue to run into players they coached over the years.

“It’s great when you see older kids that I coached, now having babies of their own at 24. Some still call you coach, but not many. You get to know so many kids, but you can’t remember them all, and they don’t all remember you. Certain kids will always stick out.”

If you have spent time around sports there’s a good chance you’ve heard the phrase, “Those who can’t play, coach.”

In the case of these two Ferndalians, we see that there are two sides to every coin.

“I was awful at soccer. Mindy was good, really good. She played with the men’s high school team because there wasn’t a team for girls. She talked me into coaching. We have a 23 year-old, Madison, and a seven-year-old who should be the last one.”

Coaching your child is a special experience. While I have no children, I was a competitive athlete blessed enough to spend a number of my developmental years with my dad as a coach. We traveled from town to town, staying in hotels where I came to recognize the smell of chlorine as a sign of vacation. If you’re interested in coaching your child’s team, but lacking some abilities, let Dirk be your reminder and permission to coach anyway. The coaches I remember most are the ones who helped me be the person I am today.

“I’m not a great coach by any means, but I teach a love for the game. Winning is great, but if you win half the games it’s a good season. It’s not good to pound kids, so it’s good to be somewhere in the middle.”

Life is a numbers game: Get your kicks in and eventually you will score a goal. While winning offers a reward for our sweat equity, learning to be a good person is the gift that keeps giving.

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Story by Jill Lorie Hurst | Photos by Bernie Laframboise

Ferndale Friend’s Sherrad Glosson has packed a lot of life into his first 30 years – a life full of passion, purpose, setbacks and forward motion. First on the basketball court, playing in high school and college, until a doctor discovered that he had an enlarged heart. This glitch ended his days on the court and left him with free time to get acquainted with the streets of Detroit.

“Free time” can be a blessing or a curse. For Sherrad, it has been both. Time on the streets led to time in prison just after he turned 21. “I missed the years I was supposed to grow up.” He says this matter-of-factly, and without self-pity. “My mom burst into tears when I was sentenced, but I didn’t cry in the courtroom. I didn’t cry ‘til I got to my cell.” He vowed to learn from his experience.

Prison gave him “a chance to think and the opportunity to change.” Six years to think and change. Sherrad was moved a lot, bounced around to various facilities depending on bed space. He played basketball. He wrote his first novel: “When Water Becomes Thicker Than Blood” was self-publish-ed, with the help of his mom. “I owe her so much.”

Sherrad went to his first book- signing two days after he was released from prison. He came home with a sense of responsibility – to himself, his mom, and the guys who were still in prison. One kid’s words rang in his ears; “If you get out and come back in, we’re gonna’ feel like there ain’t no hope.”

Sherrad’s hope, his focus, energy and determination to build a life doing things he loves is inspiring. He keeps moving, selling the first book, getting ready to publish his second – working title “Life Starts When the Church Ends (The Journey of Bird.)”

Sherrad, the writer, is also a dancer. He went from “Detroit Style ballroom” to teaching at the Arthur Murray studio in Royal Oak. The studio owner, Gary Wood, saw him dance and sought him out, hiring him to do a “job he loves.” He says he does not miss basketball, and quoted friend James Valentino regarding the dance floor: “Look at this like basketball. This is our court.” The dance studio has students from 12 to 96! Sherrad especially loves working with the kids, and spoke proudly of a tango he performed with a young student at a recent showcase.

He also emcees wedding receptions and does motivational speaking. He loves his work and appreciates everyone who has helped him along the way, ready and willing to help others whenever he can.

Sherrad Glosson looks up at the stars, but keeps his feet on the ground. Unless he’s dancing… seems to me he’s got it all together. He says “I’m still figuring out life.”

He’s also helping others to figure it out, too. Sherrad was recently asked to visit Flagship Charter Academy in Detroit as a dancer/writer to empower youth about life goals and going to college.

You can find Sherrad Glosson’s “When Water Becomes Thicker Than Blood” at

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Story by Malissa Martin

Heather Cutlip, owner of Little Lotus Wellness, says that yoga is a brain training exercise that “forces your mind and body to be calm in a stressful situation.” Cutlip began doing yoga as a way to cope with her stressful job as a restaurant manager. The benefits of yoga, she said, led her down the path to discover the world of wellness. “It really does start to apply to your everyday life. So you can kind of take it off the mat and learn to be more reflective instead of more reactive.”

Later, she enrolled at Irene’s Myomassology Institute in Southfield where she received her license in massage therapy. Soon after, she began looking for a space to start her business. Friends suggested Cutlip check out 195 West 9 Mile. “As soon as I found this location, it totally made the decision for me,” Cutlip said. Originally from the East Side of Detroit, Cutlip said she always loved Ferndale. “I just got the vision in my head right away and said, ‘okay, this is it,’ and everything just flowed really easy from there.”

Little Lotus Wellness opened in May 2014, and business has been growing thanks to word-of-mouth. “I think intimacy is what draws a lot of people here.” Cutlip said. The average number of students per class is five, but the studio can hold eight per session. In addition to Cutlip, there are four other instructors at Little Lotus. The Yoga Basics and Yin Yoga classes are the most popular at Little Lotus right now. Cutlip iintroduced a new class in January at her studio called Rebel Warrior, which she describes as “yoga on steroids.” Classes change seasonally to provide a variety of options for students.

Creating a calming atmosphere for each session is very important at Little Lotus. Music, candles, dim lighting, and a small bamboo fountain are just a few of the tools Cutlip uses to construct a stress-free environment for students.“We wear all these labels every day. So when people come into class it’s time to start shedding these labels. Just get down to you. In here you’re not a co-worker, you’re not a mother, you’re not a husband or a wife. You just kind of focus on yourself.” Cutlip explained.

Yoga classes and massages can be purchased in packages. Yoga packages come in sets of 5, 10, and 15 classes. There’s also an unlimited yoga package available for $99 a month.

Private yoga group classes for bachelorette parties, office parties, and more are now available and can be catered to the group’s needs. A meditation class meets every Sunday at 11:00 A.M. The class is free, but donations are appreciated. In addition to yoga and massages, Cutlip has many guests from the wellness community, such as life and health coaches, performing workshops at Little Lotus. Other workshops include intro to essential oils, mala bead making, and stress reduction. There’s also movie night, once a month, where a film about yoga is shown in relation to its history, new practices, health benefits, and more.


Contact Little Lotus Wellness at 586-344-6587 or check out the website at for more information.

By Jill Lorie Hurst

Saturday, August 8

ON SATURDAY, AUGUST 8, WALKERS, cyclists and folks who want to celebrate the planet Earth will come together on Nine Mile in Ferndale for the 11th annual Green Cruise.

From the Sierra Club website: “Join us in celebrating the many forms of human-powered transit that keep you and the earth healthy.”

I’m in. I love the fact that Ferndale is a walkable town, and that people bike, even in the dead of winter. Walking and cycling around town in August? Wonderful…

This is Jerry Haspenger’s first year as Green Cruise Chairman. He started with the group several years ago, organizing the various bike rides. “I got a good bike and found someone to help me with the routes.” There are several rides. The 40 mile and the 22 mile rides require registration and an entry fee. Ten dollars if you register ahead of time, fifteen dollars the day of the event. Everything else, including the family ride and the walks, is free. Low-key music is a part of the day, including a flamenco guitarist. Sponsored by the Sierra Club, vendors from “for profit” and “non- profit” organizations participate.

The goal of the Green Cruise is to explore (through bicycling), enjoy (have a great, fun day) and protect the planet. Vendors give out educational, environmentally-friendly information.

Jerry told me that The Green Cruise was created by Shirley Bavonese, who now lives in Ann Arbor. She gathered together a few neighbors and started the event as an alternative to the Dream Cruise. What started as a few neighbors biking has grown every year. In 2014 there were 220 cyclists. There is an award given to “Green Cruiser of the Year,” someone who is not only devoted to being a bicyclist, but also promotes cycling.

Jerry shared news that will hopefully bring out a whole new group of walkers. This year there will be a dog walk as part of the Green Cruise. Dogs and their people can do a one or a two mile walk. Lucy (my dog) and I will meet you on Nine Mile and Woodward at 11:00 A.M.

The Cruise Committee needs volunteers to help set up the morning of August 8. Many things go into planning these events. I peeked at Jerry’s carefully organized list and was overwhelmed by the details that need to be checked off so that we can enjoy a fun, relaxing day, learn something we can incorporate into making our daily lives healthier, and become more mindful of our part in the earth’s future.

“It’s important to be good stewards of the Earth,” says Jerry with calm conviction.

Ride or walk on August 8. Learn what you can do to help sustain the planet. Meet my girl Lucy and all the other four-legged Ferndalians. Be a part of the 11th Annual Ferndale Green Cruise!

For information about registering, becoming a vendor, or volunteering, go to or

Are you ready for your chance to play a super- hero in real life? Want to make the world around you a better place? Then grab your friends and sign up to participate in Ferndale’s Relay for Life at Ferndale High School June 14th and 15th.

Returning to Ferndale for the seventh consecutive year, Ferndale’s Relay for Life is a 24-hour event which brings together people from all over the Ferndale area and beyond to help raise money and awareness for the fight against cancer — one of the most affecting diseases throughout the world.

Though specific details of the Relay are still yet to be announced, participants can look forward to an incredible day of entertainment and emotion. The event begins on June 14th with the Opening Ceremony which serves as the perfect high-energy start to the awesome weekend-long event.

The first lap of the Relay is the Survivors Lap, where cancer survivors are invited to take a celebratory lap around the track in honor of their victory over cancer.

The emotional center of the event comes that evening with the Luminaria Ceremony — an extremely moving portion of the Relay where small luminaria bags containing candles are placed around the track at dusk illuminating the area in memory of those who are still fighting their battle with cancer or who’ve sadly passed away from the horrible disease. The event con- cludes with a Fight Back and Closing Ceremony both dedicated to highlighting and celebrating the commitment all participants and volunteers have made to work to fight back against cancer during the coming year.

This year’s Relay for Life promises to be a “super” event, with a superhero theme taking over the entire weekend.

Volunteers and participants are encouraged to dress up and identify with their favorite superheroes to help create a fun atmosphere. Whether you’re a spectator, Relay participant, or you make a pledge to help support the effort, the weekend event promises lots of laughs, plenty of contests, great entertainment, and memories that will last a lifetime – all for a great cause.

For more information on how to participate in the Ferndale Relay for Life visit

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Hot town, it’s summer in the city and that means people are leaving behind the winter blues and starting to spend some serious time outside. Every year, it seems, the weather breaks and the citizens of Metro-Detroit go outside, and stay outside, until fall sets in. And more than golf or tennis, baseball or beaches, summer to the Ferndalian on the move means one thing: bicycles.

It’s true: the Detroit area isn’t exactly known for its loving embrace of alternative forms of transportation. In fact, aside from a less-than-serviceable bus system, the car-centered moniker “Motor City” tends to be quite accurate. But with an estimated 87 million Americans who ride bikes, Jon Hughes and the others behind the first ever Woodward Avenue Gran Fondo believe that it’s time that bike riding, and bicycle safety, are given proper respect.

And what better place to start than on one of the most famous — and busiest — streets in the Motor City?

The original plan was set to move forward with the Woodward Avenue Action Association (WA3), a nonprofit who’ll be sponsoring the upcoming Assembly Line Concert in Highland Park, as one of the main organizers of the event. The Gran Fondo would run from Detroit to Pontiac, the entire length of the M1, and feature a traditional bike race followed by a community ride. The goal was to raise money for improvements along Woodward and raise awareness of bicycle safety.

Things took a quick turn for the worst when city officials in Royal Oak refused to cooperate with the event and the WA3 dropped out. It started to look like what many had hoped would be a new local tradition may never even get out of the starting gate.

Not one to let an opportunity go to waste, Jon Hughes, owner of the Downtown Ferndale Bike Shop, wasn’t about to let the Gran Fondo dream fizzle out. He, and others involved who wanted to see the event move forward, devised a plan to keep June 30th a day that celebrated all things bicycle — even if the details of the event had to change. “Without the support of the cities, we realized we weren’t able to put on the race portion of the event and we had to kind of change our format,” Jon said. “Now, instead of registering for a bike ride, participants are actually signing up for multiple raffles which will be held at each participating bike shop. By doing this, we are able to kind of use a loophole to keep the police from shutting us down.”

The goal is to turn this community bike ride into one of the premier summer events in the area. Hughes is now hoping to use this unique event as a forum to raise awareness about bicycle safety in and around the Motor City. “I think an event like this will bring a lot of bike awareness to motorists around the city, not just on Woodward. The more we can get out as cyclists, especially in big numbers, shows cars that we too deserve to be safe on the roads,” Jon said. The choice of Woodward Avenue as the setting for the event wasn’t an accident either. “There are bikers who ride Woodward daily and have to deal with irresponsible drivers and hopefully an event like this will bring bikes to the forefront of their minds while they are driving.”

The Gran Fondo isn’t just limited to bikers, and Hughes is working to ensure that all kinds of people participate. In addition to those on two wheels, the event is open to walkers, skateboarders, drivers and passengers; any means of legal transportation. Registration is $20, with a $5 dollar cash or equivalent food donation to Gleaners Food Bank on the day of the event. After registering, participants gather on the day of the event at any of the seven participating bike shops along the route (Downtown Ferndale Bike Shop is Ferndale’s gathering place) and are then escorted out to join the main ride. Riders are free to ride the whole 54 mile loop, or just a portion of it. Each rider will receive a rider pack with a bunch of freebies, free bike support, and the chance to enter raffles along the way. The grand prize this year is a brand-new Shinola bicycle, worth upwards of $2,500.

Still, questions remain for many about the legality of the event, which Jon is confident isn’t an issue. “What we are doing is not illegal and it is something that people do on a daily basis. The fact that the cities wouldn’t support it is ridiculous,” he said. “By not supporting the event, they are basically saying bikes aren’t a legal form of transportation and don’t deserve to be on the road. I wanted to make sure that the government knows that we are allowed to do this and they can’t stop us.”

The fact that this may upset a few people isn’t lost on Jon, and he’s sure that after the Gran Fondo, everyone will come to realize what a positive event this is for the area. ”Sometimes to make a change you have to ruffle a few feathers, even if they belong to the police chief of Royal Oak,” Jon said. “Hopefully after this year, the cities will see that it is a great event and the rewards far outweigh the risks. Then they’ll have no choice but to approve it, and we can make it bigger and better.”

No matter if you take to your bike, skateboard, or Ford Focus, Jon Hughes believes the important thing is that people get involved — and follow all of the legal laws on the road. “People are excited to participate,” Jon said. “There are lots of bike commuters out there but we are not looking for only them. We want families and riders of all levels to come out and enjoy the ride.”

And though this year’s Gran Fondo has yet to officially get rolling, Jon is already looking further down the track to what the future may hold. “Hopefully it will become the Dream Cruise for bicycles,” he said seriously. And for someone like Jon, who isn’t afraid to get his hands dirty changing a bike tire or ruffling the feathers of a police chief, no idea is too far-fetched.

But for now, if you need him on June 30th, he’ll be out riding his bike.

The Woodward Avenue Gran Fondo will take place on June 30th. All rides begin at 8 a.m. To register for the event visit For more information about the events of the day and a list of participating bike shops visit Downtown Ferndale Bike Shop is located at 163 W. Nine Mile, and can be found online at

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Students from across Michigan may soon have another choice when it comes to where they’ll attend 6th through 9th grade. The Great Lakes Anchor Academy is looking to open its doors, possibly as soon as this coming fall, right here in Ferndale. This charter school, focused on promoting student excellence through the use of maritime applications, will use a unique curriculum partnered with the principles of the U.S. Naval Sea Cadet Corps to provide students with an educational experience focused on instilling ethics, good citizenship, and academic achievement.

Amy Neibert, the project manager and the certified teacher who is spearheading the school, was inspired by the behaviors she saw from students when her daughter attended the Sarasota Military Academy. Impressed by their respect for others and their passion for success in academics, Neibert realized, upon moving back to her hometown here in Michigan, that her new community lacked a school that she felt was teaching the same principles. After tossing around the idea for a few years, and formulating her plan, Neibert finally buckled down in 2011, and is now well on her way to making her dream a reality.

Originally inspired to open a school incorporating aspects of the Marines,Neibert had her mind changed to the curriculum of the U.S. Naval Sea Cadet Corps on the suggestion of a member of the Michigan legislature. Because of Michigan’s unique position of access to 21% of the world’s fresh water in the Great Lakes, and a proud tradition of maritime commerce, the U.S. Naval Sea Cadet Corps seemed like a perfect fit for the area. With a diverse population, and a great proximity to many surrounding cities, Ferndale did, too. Now, armed with the right curriculum and location, Neibert is ready to bring her idea to fruition.

The Great Lakes Anchor Academy will focus on a STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) curriculum and will work much like other public schools. Students will have daily lessons in math, science, social studies, language arts, with their fifth hour dedicated to Sea Cadet training, including physical education. The school will also focus on involving parents and the community as much as possible, and creating a safe school environment with a zero-tolerance bully and behavior policy. All of these aspects combined, Neibert believes, will make the Great Lakes Anchor Academy a destination for students from throughout the state.

“We have received such a positive reaction from throughout the community. So many people are telling me that something like this is so needed, and are excited about the possibility of this being in their community,” Neibert said at a March 14th community meeting. Because it will be a charter school, the Great Lakes Anchor Academy will accept students from all over the state, which Neibert thinks will be another boon for the community. “You think of all of these parents driving their kids in from Farmington, Troy, or wherever. They stop in Ferndale, they buy gas or try a new restaurant, spend time in the city. I believe this could be a real revenue-builder for the city.”

The Great Lakes Anchor Academy will also offer an extended school day, with instruction from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m., with activities continuing beyond those hours. Plans include the GLAA Hammerheads competing in basketball and football, along with some diverse electives yet to be determined. The focus, though, will be a concentration on academics, college prep, and career tech with a relentless pursuit of student excellence. Through unique partnerships with the Navy League Cadet Corp and the Noble Odyssey Foundation, students will have the opportunity for hands on training including underwater exploration in Michigan’s Great Lakes, naval and maritime training on the Pride of Michigan research vessel, and many other opportunities unique to the Great Lakes Anchor Academy.

Though they aren’t yet authorized (Michigan charter schools can be authorized by local school boards, intermediate schools districts, colleges or universities), the Great Lakes Anchor Academy is currently working with a local university to achieve authorization, and Neibert is excited about the future. She hopes to open the school in the now vacant St. James school, located at 22111 Woodward Ave, which will be up for rent in the near future. Until then, Neibert and her staff are working to engage the community, answer questions, address concerns, and help get the word about the Great Lakes Anchor Academy out to everyone in Ferndale and across the state.

“We understand concerns, and we so welcome discussion. Ferndale is such an inclusive and great community, with great schools, it isn’t our intention to pull students away from any of the other public schools here in town,” Neibert said. “We believe there is enough room for all of us, and through working together, we can make create a model education system right here in Ferndale for all students.”

For more information on the Great Lakes Anchor Academy, visit For the latest updates on the progress of the GLAA follow them on Facebook at ae