Culture

By Ingrid Sjostrand

WHEN ICE THAWS AND THE SNOW MELTS, Metro Detroit streets start to fill with the dusted-off motorcycles previously hibernating all winter. Oftentimes after a harsh season, these bikes could use a little love – or maybe an extreme makeover – and that’s where Bad Pig Customs takes pride.

“We service and build motorcycles; we do anything from A to Z as far as customization goes. And we’ve got a storeroom that has parts, so we can do part sales,” co-owner Dave Foster says. “We can’t sell motorcycles because we don’t have a dealer’s license, but we do everything that needs to be done on American motorcycles only.”

Located at 1806 E. Nine Mile, Foster and his partner Mark Zagacki opened their Hazel Park shop in 2012 when they saw a growth in the industry and a lack of shops like theirs.

“There was a need – not just in the city, but in the motorcycle industry. It is getting larger because of gas mileage and stuff,” Foster says. “It’s a shame that in Michigan it’s not a necessity to have a motorcycle because of our weather – real short season – and the state considers it a recreational vehicle.” Foster says.

ONE THING THAT MAKES BAD PIG CUSTOMS unique is that they have an in house parts shop, so there’s no waiting for parts to be ordered and shipped in. Zagacki is actually well-known in the community for his parts knowledge and accessibility.

“We’re actually two businesses in one. We have Oak Park Mark — he sells parts — and then Bad Pig Customs is about service and custom builds,” Foster says. “We’re partners but I try to run this side and he tries to run that side. He’s been known as Oak Park Mark for many years, so we threw the second business in there.”

Being located in Hazel Park has served the business fairly well too, and they are hoping to add a local bike night but are still searching for the right location.

“It’s actually a really good location, we’re right on the edge of Macomb County, Wayne County and the Southeast corner of Oakland,” Zagacki says. “We’re kind of positioned in between the little four corners, and we’re far enough away from Harley dealers that we shouldn’t really take away from any of their business.” “There aren’t too many bike shops in our ten-mile radius,” Foster adds.

By Jenn Goeddeke

THE FRATERNAL ORDER OF EAGLES (F.O.E.) HAS GROWN DRAMATICALLY in membership and broad social impact since it was founded in 1898 in Seattle, Washington. With the motto of “People Helping People,” it now reaches out around the world with a message of peace, hope, and substantial financial assistance.

Originally set up by just six theater-owning men, and named “The Order of Good Things,” the F.O.E. currently boasts over 3000 Aeries and Auxiliaries (lodges/clubs) nationwide. Their fundraising efforts are beyond impressive: Almost $10 million raised and donated annually to various core charities, locally, nationally and internationally.

The F.O.E. also is credited with establishing the “Mother’s Day” holiday in the US, and the organization’s ‘crown jewel’ is the $25 million FOE Diabetes Research Center at the University of Iowa.

Anyone 19 or older can join, and the voluntary nature of its structure means that 100 percent of the funds raised actually reach the charity, in the form of grants (partly because the membership dues offset the cost of administrative work).

In addition to its outstanding fundraising success, the F.O.E. also promotes companionship, and members often form close friendships that stand the test of time. Fun activities include bowling, darts, pool, golf, softball and so on. There are numerous fundraising events throughout the year, with raffles, picnics, dances, barbecues and many other family-oriented gatherings. Certain months have distinct themes, such as February where money is raised for the local “Beaumont Healthy Hearts” program. April is devoted to raising funds for cancer research.

I recently had the opportunity to sit down with Todd Caswell at the Hazel Park Eagles location. This particular charter began in 1945 for males, and in 1947 for females. Caswell retired a few years ago from a 33-year career in the military which included several tours of duty, and he is clearly not content to just sit back and enjoy his retirement years! Alongside other trustees, officers, and longtime members, Caswell invests many hours weekly into helping out with all the various F.O.E. projects and fundraisers. In fact, it has become a lot like his second home! Caswell’s efforts are focused primarily on the Hazel Park F.O.E. and also on District #3 in general which consists of ten local clubs.

Even though the F.O.E. is essentially a social club, it runs a very tight ship in its structure and organization. Each club has a team of officers and from three to seven trustees to manage the administrative duties, plus a male and female President. The membership process involves a simple application, a $15 joining fee and two sponsors (who must be existing members).

Youth Camp for ages 6-18 is held in the third week of July every year at the Eagles Recreational Facility. “Steak Outs” are currently being held one Saturday each month, inside the club. This is a large spread of food, some of it made-to-order, for just $10/plate. The proceeds for both the steak outs go towards the Cystic Fibrosis Fund. Upcoming Auxiliary events include a ‘bunko night’ (dice game) in October and a ‘Drag Queen Bingo’ night.

The F.O.E. are a driven set of individuals who join forces to make a difference – and they have plenty of fun and camaraderie in the process.

248.548.7547 / www.FOE.com
22010 N. Chrysler Drive, Hazel Park.
www.facebook.com/Hazel-Park-Eagles-2449

BY Richard Robinson

HAZEL PARK’S HISTORICAL COMMISSION HAS BEEN BUSY FILLING THE OLD ERICKSON LIBRARY, ON 45 EAST PEARL, WITH ARTIFACTS THAT REFLECT THE HISTORY OF HAZEL PARK. The Commission, created in 1967, was allowed the use of the Erickson Library building through a unique partnership between the City of Hazel Park and the Hazel Park School District, to create the Hazel Park Historical Museum in that space. Donations of chairs and many other items from the Hazel Park District Library make the Museum a truly unique entity in the city, through the cooperative efforts of many.

The Hazel Park Historical Museum has exhibits that are reflective of the past, showing how the City was created, from its early days as a farming community through the years of growth and development. Businesses, schools, and people from Hazel Park are all well-represented. We have new acquisitions from the recently-closed Hazel Park Raceway, and we are planning more themed exhibits soon as time permits. We have scanned copies of yearbooks, from 1935 to almost the present day, available to look at on our computer, as well as some hard copies of yearbooks donated by patrons.

The Museum may be all about the past, but it is rooted in the present as well. Civic meetings have been held at the museum, such the 75th Anniversary City Council meeting, the 8 Mile Boulevard Association, and STEAM programming through the Hazel Park School District. Our Historical Museum is open on the first Sunday of the month, from 12:00 P.M. to 4:00 P.M., and on the third Thursday of the month from 6:00 P.M to 8:00 P.M. We also hold our Historical Commission meetings on that same third Thursday. We are also open by appointment as well.

The Hazel Park Historical Commission is always looking to the future as well. History never stops; it is continually being made daily. We are trying to collect artifacts from the past, of course, but always keeping an eye on the future. We are working toward digital collections of online repositories of news, if they are available, as hard copies of news articles are becoming increasingly scarce locally.

Our future needs for the Museum itself entail renovations of the building’s kitchen facilities, bathroom, and floors. We’ve received some donations for bathroom fixtures recently and would welcome help with facility development from the community.

Contacting the Commission is easy. Leave a message at (248) 397-4992, email us at hphistorical@gmail.com, or send a letter to 45 East Pearl, Hazel Park Michigan, 48030. We also have a Facebook page at www.facebook.com/hazelparkhistorical. We’d be happy to hear from you!

By Mary Meldrum

THE FORTHCOMING CANNABIS MUSEUM, on John R in Hazel Park is the creation of owner, Curtis Goure, who is also the owner of BDT Smoke Shop next door. Goure came up with the idea about six years ago, long before he really knew if the industry was going to be a viable business.

A long-time participant of the cannabis counter-culture, Goure began working at BDT Smoke Shop as a clerk many years ago.

“BDT started as a hippie head shop that sold roach clips, pipes, black light posters and, things of that nature,” Goure explains. After a few transitions and rubbing up against local, state and especially federal laws, BDTs Smoke Shop – and other head shops –have found more secure footing in a culture that is now less “counter.”

Medical marijuana is legal in Michigan, and legislators are watching states with legal recreational cannabis, like Colorado and California, with an eagle’s eye. A report from BDS Analytics, a cannabis industry research firm, estimates sales of cannabis to hit $3.7 billion by the end of 2018. Projections demonstrate that number will increase to $5.1 billion in 2019 as more dispensaries come online, making the marijuana industry bigger than beer in California. That’s big.

According to some expert projections, legalization of marijuana nationwide – medical as well as recreational – could conservatively create $132 billion in tax revenue and more than 1 million new jobs across the United States in the next decade.

These are not the numbers of a counter-culture. This is big business, and the growth is more like a wild fire. Legislators and regulators are working hard to keep up with the pressing demands the new industry is forcing on them.

AND IN LIGHT OF THE EXPLOSION OF THE CANNABIS INDUSTRY, all of a sudden, a Cannabis Museum is completely relevant and important.

Goure had formed a relationship with celebrity Tommy Chong, and developed a fascination for old hippie collectibles many years ago. He started collecting tickets, trinkets, memorabilia, old bongs, posters, roach clips and a myriad of other paraphernalia.

Goure thought it was important to have a venue, to educate people about the history of cannabis and hemp. He approached City Manager Ed Klobucher and the Director of Planning and Economic Development, Jeff Campbell, who were both open to the idea – a complete change from previous Hazel Park administrations.

Money is a big factor in the operation of a museum. Gaining a working knowledge of how to operate a museum has been a challenge for Goure, who enlisted the help of the U of M Museum Design group. They did some research, and found key people with museum director experience. They began the tedious tasks associated with categorizing, documenting, displaying and curating the collection, etc.

The Cannabis Museum is hoped one day to be a world-class tourist-attraction. It now has over 16 curatorial and research departments, including publications, films and artifacts. There are over 300 items in the museum’s collection, all carefully documented and illustrated to help the public understand all aspects of cannabis and hemp from a social, cultural, medical, legal, technological, historical and current perspective.

Visitors will be able to learn about the biochemistry of cannabis, chromosomes and genome, taxonomy, and its etymology. In addition, the museum examines the ancient and religious uses of cannabis; historical hemp, medical and recreational use through to present day.

The Cannabis Museum was set to open up in 2018, but Goure reveals that it all depends largely on funding and if Michigan votes to allow recreational cannabis.

BECAUSE OF THE RICH HISTORY OF CANNABIS, Goure would like to ensure that a certain part of the museum will be rotating displays.

“There was a lot of propaganda in the 1930s that demonized cannabis and eventually made it illegal; state-issued stamps, movies like “Reefer Madness,” news articles that demonized cannabis and took it out of circulation for accepted medicinal use,” Goure states. “Throughout the 1930s, ‘40s and beyond, news articles show how attitudes have changed. It was a socially-accepted medicinal item in the early 1900s, then persecuted in the 1930s. Right now, general public opinion of medicinal marijuana is polling in the high 70s, percentage-wise. That is a big change in perception.”

Many patients are looking for non-addicting pain and medicinal relief, asking physicians for scripts for cannabis rather than opioids. Doctors used to be against the use of cannabis, and that is changing. Information about the benefits of cannabis has been there for decades, but has been snuffed and squashed by competing interests.

All of this industry news results in an uptick for Curtis Goure, BDT Smoke Shops, and the Cannabis Museum, and demonstrates how Hazel Park’s forward-thinking will pay off in the near future.

By PETER WERBE

ACROSS THE CITIES SERVED BY FERNDALE FRIENDS, lawn signs are displayed welcoming immigrants to our communities. What they proclaim are an echo of he familiar words mounted on the base of the Statue of Liberty—“Give me your tired, your poor. . .”

In Ferndale, Oak Park and beyond, the signs on our lawns state in three languages, “No matter where you are from, we’re glad you’re our neighbor.” These public pronouncements define communities committed to diversity, tolerance, and a charity of heart.

The “mighty woman with a torch,” as the full poem reads, reaches 305 feet into the sky, calling out a welcome to the “huddled masses” and “wretched refuse” to our shores.

Wonderful words, but rarely honored as we are witnessing today at the U.S. southern border. American history wasn’t much better on welcoming immigrants to our country either. In fact, from the first wave of European migrants, the new arrivals were despised and discriminated against.

Other than those from Northern Europe, many of our ancestors were accused of being the source of crime, disease, and social unrest, much in the way those from Central and South America are today by some. Although, it is well-known that current immigrants commit less crime than those born here, this doesn’t stop right-wing politicians from whipping up frightened Americans with images of criminal gangs and job theft.

The lower crime rate is actually somewhat surprising. Earlier ethnic groups often were disproportionately represented in law-breaking. The Irish (part of my heritage) were the targets of great discrimination, giving rise to signs saying, “No Irish need apply” at job sites, leading to lives of poverty and high crime rates.

Following their mass migration here in the 1840s and ‘50s, so many poor Irishmen were hauled off to jail that the police vehicle employed was dubbed a Paddy Wagon, using the word which became an anti-Irish slur stemming from the nickname for Pádraig (Patrick when Anglicized). And, just as the racist stereotyping of all Muslims results from the actions of a tiny fraction of those of the faith, so too were Irish thought to be more loyal to the Pope in Rome than their new country.

This was reinforced during the 1846-48 U.S. ware against Mexico, when hundreds of newly arrived Irishmen were gang-pressed into the American army. Hundreds of Dubliners deserted from the U.S. war of aggression and fought on the Mexican side, organizing themselves as the St. Patrick’s Battalion. These “red-headed fighters” battled American troops alongside the Mexican army from Metamoros to San Diego, finally falling to “the cannons from Boston,” as David Rovics’ lyrics puts it in his song about the Battalion. (Available at DavidRovics.com.)

As an aside, when condemning Russia’s inexcusable annexation of Crimea and eastern Ukraine, we should consider the massive territory theft of Mexican territory—California, Arizona, New Mexico, and Texas. Putin’s moves are small change compared to that.

Other immigrating ethnic groups fared no better, being seen by the native born as people constantly under suspicion of crime and political radicalism. This included groups such as Jews (part of my heritage) and Italians, who upon arriving provided enough of their members involved in both to maintain stereotypes.

Although only an infinitesimal small number participated in criminal gangs, Italians in the Mafia and Jews in mobs like Detroit’s Purple Gang, they were often held to be representative of the entire nationality. For instance, in 1908, the New York City police commissioner claimed erroneously that half of the city’s criminals were Jewish.

Many Jewish immigrants were members of communist, socialist, and anarchist groups during the early years of the 20th Century, fueling anti-Semitism and a perception of disloyalty. Some recently arrived Italians were part of violent anarchist groups that carried out a string of bombings in the WWI era, including targeting Wall Street, and the homes of the U.S. Attorney General, and oil magnate, John D. Rockefeller.

Legislation such as the 1882 Chinese Exclusion Act and the Immigration Act of 1924 gave lie to the Lady of the Harbor’s call to “Send these, the homeless, tempest-tossed to me.”

PEOPLE NOT WELCOMED, HELD IN CONTEMPT, DISCRIMINATED AGAINST, and stereotyped, find it difficult to integrate into their new homeland – which is why the signs appearing on our lawns are so important. In the tumultuous days of the early 20th Century, there was no one to say, “We’re glad you’re our neighbor.”

The early immigration waves came as a result of wars, famine, and poverty, and it is no less so today with those crossing the border from South and Central America. Rather than erecting a wall as a ridiculous way to stem illegal immigration, how about enacting a hemisphere-wide minimum wage of $15? Workers from Detroit to Guadalajara would see a rise in their standard of living and the corporations which currently benefit from paying slave wages would pay for it.

This alone would go a long way towards staunching the poverty and violence that is endemic to poor regions and cities, and could end the tide of migration. The poverty and violence of a century ago and that of today is what impels waves of immigrants to flee their homeland.

A huge redistribution of wealth in the form of an increased wage might mean that Richie Rich Guy won’t be able to buy a second Maserati or own his own island, but prosperity for all is the key to having stable, livable cities and countries.

So, let’s keep those signs up until our brothers and sisters from the Middle East, Africa, and Latin America are allowed to take their place in our society in the same manner as were our forebears.

Peter Werbe is a member of the Fifth Estate magazine’s editorial collective www.FifthEstate.org.

 

By David Ryals

COMING OUT IS ALMOST NEVER EASY. Couple that with heavily Christian, highly conservative parents, and it can become nearly impossible. That’s why twins Michael and Zach Zakar, 24, fully intended on keeping it a secret from their family forever. But at 18 their mother asked if they were gay, and they decided to come out. And her reaction inspired them to turn their unique experience of being gay Arab twins to the public eye.

Zach gave Ferndale Friends an exclusive interview on their experiences, including what it was like to write their memoir called Pray The Gay Away: “It started with one simple event: we came out to our very religious mother and she threw holy water at us. I thought it was ‘interesting’ and, as two film students at the time, we wrote it on a sticky note to add it in a potential short film. Two weeks later, she tried to force feed us ‘holy grapes’ and you can say the book wrote itself. We had offers from publishing houses with horrible contracts, so we decided to self-publish to have more freedom in what we write and produce.

Their book, and YouTube videos, have made them local celebrities, appearing on Tosh. O and given loads of press from various national outlets. “After appearing on Tosh. O, we decided to slowly transition out of YouTube because it wasn’t necessarily fulfilling. We want to make bigger strides in the community and the world, so we dabbled in stand-up, speaking at LGBT events, etc.”

Honestly, I can guarantee that you’ll love our book. Yes, that sounds cocky, but it was written from the heart and we are proud of our little baby. Reviews have been equally as heartfelt. We’re glad people can relate to our story – gay or straight.”

Zach took time to reflect on being a double minority in America and how he and Michael’s aims have taken a more philanthropic angle.

“Honestly, coming out isn’t easy for anyone. Your life changes 100 percent once you come out, for better or worse. I thought, “We’re going to be those kids that took that ‘gay’ secret to the grave. I planned my whole life in the closet, but now we’re unique voices for the LGBT/Iraqi. Never thought we’d be the people to give advice to those same people. I am truly grateful to be gay, as I feel it gives me a more accepting view of the world and individuals. I am also truly blessed to have a twin by my side to share this journey with.”

As for their future Zach gave us a hint of upcoming projects they have in the works.

“There are two big (secret) projects coming up. Other than that, we are slowly going back to our roots. We want to go back to making short films, traveling the world and enjoy life! Pray the Gay Away has huge plans in 2019.

Follow them on social media:
Instagram: @zakartwins
www.zakartwins.com
zakartwins@gmail.com
Purchase Pray the Gay Away on Amazon.com

Stories by Sara E. Teller
Photos by Bernie Laframboise

Statement from the Superintendent
Dr. Daveda Colbert

The City of Oak Park is a great place to live, eat, and work. It also provides amazing learning opportunities for students of all ages. Oak Park schools truly provide a great educational experience for students with various abilities. The goal is for all students to reach their full potential. We are closing the opportunity gap. We are working daily to increase student achievement while providing exposure and opportunity that removes barriers that hinder success. Oak Park schools has a caring and committed workforce, as well as very dedicated employee partners. We also have a very supportive resident and business community.

As a resident of Oak Park since 2003 and the proud Superintendent since December 2010, Oak Park is the place I call home. Here are a few of our accomplishments throughout my tenure:

■ Increased enrollment from 3,100 to 5,100 students from December 2010
to December 2017.
■ Inherited a $8 million deficit in December 2010, and as of the June 2017 audit, the district has a $14 million surplus.
■ Passed Sinking Fund Renewal for 20 Years.
■ Award-winning marching band, drum line, and step team which includes students involved in these activities at elementary, middle, and high school levels.
■ Award-winning choral programs at each level with stand-out performances from Pepper Choir, Oak Park Voices of Inspiration, and Oak Park High School Choir.
■ Award-winning underwater robotics at all schools (elementary, middle, and high school).
■ “Three-Peat” State Championship Division I Girls Track & Field Team, also national champions.
■ State Championship Division I Boys Track & Field Team, also national champions.
■ Infused technology at all levels to establish 21st Century Learning Environments at elementary, middle, and high school level.
■ Partnership with St. Johns Providence Health Systems and opened a school-based health clinic in OPHS.
■ GSRP (Great Start Readiness Programs — Pre-School for four-year-olds) in all three elementary schools.
■ Two Alternative Learning Programs and One Virtual Program – Options for all students, which includes a career-based high school program, a second-chance program, and an online program to meet the needs of all students.
■ A number of Wade McCree Scholars and Gates Millennium Scholarship finalists and winners.
■ A number of students taking Advanced Placement classes at Oak Park High School and CASA (Center for Advanced Studies and the Arts).
■ Great partnership that works with the City of Oak Park (Mayor Marian McClellan, City Manager Erik Tungate, Oak Park Public Safety Director Steve Cooper, and many more elected officials and department heads).

Notable District Highlights
Oak Park Preparatory Academy Students Share Their Poetry

On Wednesday, June 7, 2017, Oak Park Preparatory Academy (OPPA) released their fourth volume of poetry, entitled, “Words Ain’t No Walk in the Park.” The book was written entirely by OPPA students, and published by the InsideOut Literary Arts Project. InsideOut is Detroit’s largest literary arts non-profit and Oak Park Schools has had the honor of working with the non-profit for four consecutive years. Since 1995, InsideOut has helped more than 50,000 Detroit youth express themselves through the written word. The InsideOut Poetry Gala featured OPPA students reciting their work, and staff sharing some of their favorite selections from the book.

Elementary School Students Help to Feed the Hungry
Einstein Elementary and Key Elementary students recently participated in the “Change the World with Onigiri Project” under the guidance of world language teacher, Ms. Yukliko Fujiwara.

The program was coordinated by Table for Two (TFT), which originated in Japan. TFT is an international non-profit organization that aims to solve the program of unbalanced food distribution between the U.S. and development countries. Each year, TFT spearheads the World Food Day campaign with the goal to deliver one million meals to children in need. Oak Park elementary school students helped to feed children in Africa by making onigiri, a rice ball, which is considered a traditional, healthy snack in Japan. Photos of the onigiri made by students were posted to TFT’s website. For every photo posted, the sponsor companies donated five hot meals to a child in Africa.

21st Century Learning: Pepper, Key & Einstein Elementary Schools and Preparatory Academy
Pepper, Key and Einstein Elementary Students, as well as those at Oak Park Preparatory Academy will find their classrooms fully equipped with 21st Century learning tools when they return on Tuesday, August 29, 2018. Interactive projection screens called Promethean Boards, and laptop carts will be available. These tools are designed to keep students engaged while enhancing their technology skills and overall learning environments.

Alternative Education Center Students Gain Real World Experience
The Oak Park Alternative Education Center is open to students ages 15 to 21 who are seeking a high school diploma. Basic vocational skills are also offered to prepare students for a future career path. Enrollment is Monday- Friday from 8:00 A.M. to 3:00 P.M., and is offered throughout the entire school year. All academic courses are facilitated by certified teachers. Some recent student initiatives include:

Staff Lunch Project
Alternative Education Center Culinary Arts students launched a Staff Lunch project. The project is designed to help the students gather important information about starting their own business. Students go to each staff member and present a menu for the day. Each student rotates to the lead cook position weekly. The lead cook directs the flow of the kitchen and assigns the job responsibilities to others. After the meals are prepared, a select number of students deliver them to the staff. The goal is to teach students basic catering techniques.

Video/Music Production Students: Interactive Video Project
The Video/Music Production students teamed up with Everest Institute of Southfield to create an interactive video. Three students were selected to go to the campus with camera equipment. The final product will allow potential Everest students to take a virtual tour through the campus.

Building Trades Students Given Hands-On Training
Building Trades students are working on a project that allows them the opportunity to use the tools of each trade to find what he or she has a natural inclination towards pursuing. The joining of each component that brings the units together gives the students hands-on experience producing a functional product. The Building Trades students also visited the Detroit Electrical Industrial Center. The center provides a paid on-site apprenticeship program and classroom training. Student Khalil Brown, who was identified as qualified for the program, stated this is the most fun in school he has ever had.

Oak Park Schools, a school-of-choice district, has more than 5,000 students. Oak Park is a school-of-choice district. Students must be a resident of Oakland, Macomb, or Wayne Counties, between the grades of Pre-K-12, to attend.
• Einstein Elementary School (Pre-K-5) 14001 Northend St 248-336-7640
• Key Elementary School (Pre-K-5) 23400 Jerome Street 248-336-7610
• Pepper Elementary School (Pre-K-5) 24301 Church Street 248-336-7680
• Oak Park Preparatory Academy (6-8) 23261 Scotia Street 248-336-7620
• Oak Park Freshman Institute (9th Grade only) 22180 Parklawn St 248-336-7780
• Oak Park High School (10-12) 13701 Oak Park Blvd. 248-336-7740
• OP Alternative Education Center (Ages 15-21) 12901 Albany Street 248-291-6722

Story by Sara E. Teller
Photo by Bernie Laframboise

Oak Park High School is a secondary learning environment nestled in the heart of the City of Oak Park. A community of educators proudly serves the diverse needs of the student body and functions as a professional
learning community with data teams as our nucleus,” said High School Principal Charity Jones.

Oak Park High has received its fair share of notable recognition and awards. In 2017, the high school was recognized as a model . Only approximately 200 schools nationwide and in Canada receive this honor. “PLCs are schools and districts in which educators recognize the key to improved learning for students is on-going, job-embedded learning for the adults who serve those students,” Jones explained. Educators focus on learning, build a collaborative culture, and create a results orientation.

“By functioning as a professional learning community, implementing the data team process, and focusing on continuous school improvements over the next few years we will have a data-driven culture that focuses on meeting students’ individual learning needs,” Jones said. “It is our goal to build positive relationships, to cultivate a healthy and safe learning environment where all faculty and staff are using data to inform decisions and exercise accountability across the board to ensure increased student achievement for all.”

As the high school evolves to meet the expectations of a professional learning community, faculty and staff will prepare fully connected, college, career, and global-ready graduates that will successfully pursue and attain their post-secondary aspirations. Graduates will be fully college and career-ready when their high school experience culminates.

“It is our unique school structure, college preparatory education, fine and performing arts, co-curricular and athletic opportunities that build community and lead our students on a pathway to excellence,” Jones added. “Our students also have the opportunity to pursue coursework at Oakland Schools Technical Campus and the Center for Advanced Studies and the Arts. They participate in cooperative internships at William Beaumont Hospital, participate in work-based programs in the community, engage in career days, network with professionals in the Detroit Economic Club Academy and the Women of Tomorrow program. They also obtain technical training in robotics, engineering, health occupations, forensic science, theatre production, music, art, choir, band, Wayne State University C2 Pipeline, etc., to strengthen skills, cultivate talents, and engage in deep learning.”

In addition to relevant content material and extended learning opportunities, students will experience the rigor of curriculum aligned with the common core standards, advanced placement courses, honor classes, dual enrollment, test preparation for state and national examinations, and character education. “Our fundamental purpose is to ensure that all students learn at high levels and develop academic and social skills to prepare them for college or a career,” Jones explained.
Oak Park High has a uniform set of values that educators abide by. These include:

– Building Relationships and Community
– Prioritizing Learning with High Expectations
– Taking Ownership and Being Accountable

“To accomplish our purpose, we focus on capturing kids’ hearts, while functioning as a PLC with data teams as our nucleus. We believe that consistency and intentional efforts to uphold the shared values will help us accomplish our purpose,” Jones said.

The Knights in Shining Armor – Oak Park High Athletics
The Oak Park High School Knights are co-champions of the Oakland Activities Football Association White Division, along with Farmington Harrison and Birmingham Groves. They are also 2017 MHSAA District Champions. Coach Greg Carter and the athletic staff led the students to victory.

Oak Park High School’s Boys and Girls Track Teams are defending Division I State Champions and demonstrated that on May 11, 2017, at the OAA Gold Championship held at Oak Park High. The girls track team were finalists in the Division I State Championship. Four Oak Park High School All American Track Student Athletes signed letters of intent on college signing day: Cameron Cooper; Louisiana State University. Tamea McKelvy; University of Texas. Bryce Pickett; University of Michigan. Carlita Taylor; Columbia University.

Marching Band Making Its Mark
Oak Park Schools Marching Legion was the big winner at Flint Hamady High School’s “Battle of the Bands” competition on September 23, 2017, claiming victory over marching bands from six schools in the State of Michigan. The Marching Legion swept all six major categories, winning first place trophies in Overall Auxiliary, Overall Drum Major, Overall Drumline, Overall Music, Class A Band, and Overall Grand Champions. “The band’s motto is ‘Enthusiasm is the Key.’ When we are performing, we must always be enthusiastic about it. We believe that by embracing our motto we are able to offer performances everyone can enjoy and appreciate wholeheartedly,” said Mr. Virgil Goodwine, Band Director of the Marching Legion.

Notable Staff Achievement
Ms. Kathryn Locano, Oak Park High’s ELA Curriculum Coordinator; Young, Optimistic, and United student organization (Y.O.U.) sponsor; and teacher leader, was presented with the prestigious ‘Power of One’ Award at the Tri-Community Coalition’s 19th annual Leadership Breakfast held on December 8, 2017.

The non-profit Coalition’s mission is to prevent substance abuse in the surrounding cities. Locano was recognized for her commitment to excellence in education, for being an impactful, caring and servant leader, and a long-time sponsor of Y.O.U. Y.O.U. is a student-led club that discusses and addresses issues students face in the school, including mental health difficulties, drugs, bullying, and distracted driving, among others.

Mayor Marian McClellan Visits Oak Park High
Oak Park High School students recently engaged in STEM-based fun during C2 Pipeline’s Lights on After-school Event. Wayne State University’s C2 Pipeline is an afterschool program that is funded through the Michigan Department of Education to be a 21st Century Community Learning Center.

C2 Pipeline has been shown to boost students’ grades in math and English a quarter higher by the end of the school year. All high school students are eligible to participate in the program. C2 Pipeline’s Lights on Afterschool Event takes place annually, and offers a way for students to showcase to the Oak Park community how the program truly enriches their learning. Oak Park Mayor Marian McClellan participated to show her support of the students.

Ascension St. John Providence Provides In-School Student Care
Ascension St. John Providence has partnered with Oak Park School District to improve access to healthcare for the students and Oak Park community at large. The school-based health center services students ages 5-21 years irrespective of insurance coverage. The health center is staffed with Board-Certified Family Nurse Practitioner Tammie S. Williams, Registered Medical Assistant Krystal Williams, and Licensed Mental Health Counselor Darryl Allen.

Students receive a multitude of health services, including yearly physical exams, sports physicals, vaccines, acute care visits, minor sports injury care, vision and hearing screens and screening for sexually transmitted infections. Also available are programs for health promotion and risk reduction, and mental health counseling including substance abuse and behavior therapy for individuals and groups. Written parental consent is needed for all students under the age of 18. The center hours are 7:30 A.M. to 4:00 P.M. Walk-ins are accepted but appointments are preferred.

Story by Sara E. Teller

The Berkley School District includes all of Berkley, Huntington Woods and a portion of Oak Park. The District schools inside of Oak Park city limits are Norup International School, a K-8 school, and Berkley Building Blocks childcare centers (Avery and Tyndall). “Children in the Berkley School District boundaries attend neighborhood schools.

Norup serves students who live in Oak Park, and some Schools of Choice students, for elementary school,” explained Berkley Schools Communications Director Jessica Stilger. She added, “Its middle school, which includes grades 6 through 8, combines Oak Park residents with those from Huntington Woods. This school is very diverse in its student body socio-economically, racially, and religiously. The school is a current International Baccalaureate school.”

Norup is known for reaching all learners, and the District has a goal overall to create pathways for students to achieve their personal best, whatever that looks like for each student.

“In elementary school, students excel at their own level using Cultures of Thinking and Reading and Writing Workshop models to enhance their literacy skills to improve comprehension in all subjects,” Stilger said. “Students are exposed to weekly art, vocal music, technology, physical education. And in 5th grade students have the option to participate in instrumental music, and attend camp with all other 5th-graders in the District.”

When they reach middle school, Stilger said “students can explore robotics, foreign languages, journalism, and various music options, just to name a few. In addition, many students complete high school credits while attending Norup, and 8th-grade students complete a year-long, in-depth community research project. Middle school students can participate in an extensive list of athletics and clubs like swimming, football, cross country, basketball, skiing, tennis, track and field, book club, student newspaper and more.”

THERE ARE ALSO EARLY CHILDHOOD DEVELOPMENT CENTERS designed to cater to families in Berkley as well as surrounding neighborhoods, including those in Oak Park. “Berkley Building Blocks serves students six-weeks-old through age five. The two centers collectively have infant, toddler and preschool classrooms that run both school-year and year-round schedules. The center houses state and federally funded preschool classrooms, including Great Start Readiness Program (GSRP) and Head Start. Enrollment for Building Blocks is not limited to Berkley School District boundaries. In Fall 2018, the two buildings will combine into one childcare center at Avery, after extensive work completes over the summer due to a 2015 Bond passage,” Stilger said.

Over 300 students in total enroll in the various Berkley Building Blocks programs each year. “Our centers are known for being high-quality, accredited care centers, dedicated to nurturing, growing and loving each student,” Stilger explained. “Building Blocks forms strong family connections, encourages family involvement, hosts three parent/teacher conference sessions each year with all age levels and brings in-house field trips in many times each year to bring the outside world in.”

Last year, a Norup student robotics team placed first in the state for their pothole-fixing robot. The students went on to participate in the World competition and placed 4th. A Building Blocks staff member also presented at a national early childhood conference this past Fall.

The biggest charitable initiative Berkley schools are involved in is the Caring & Sharing program run by the Berkley Area PTSA Council. This program is in its 37th year, and each school, including Norup, Avery and Tyndall, work together to collect breakfast foods, canned goods, peanut butter and jelly and any monetary donations. Food and money collection starts in November and wraps in December with hundreds of district families receiving food for the holiday season.

“Berkley School District schools are always giving back to the community,” said Stilger.

Story by Sara E. Teller

Ferndale Public Schools is made up of portions of four communities – Ferndale, Oak Park, Pleasant Ridge, and Royal Oak Township,” explains Bill Good, Director of Communications and Pupil Services. “For many Oak Park residents, Ferndale Schools is actually their home district – many Oak Park residents don’t realize this.” As a ‘Schools of Choice’ district, Ferndale also welcomes students from Oak Park who are not assigned but wish to attend.

Ferndale Schools offers an intimate, interconnected environment for its educators, students, and families. “Ferndale offers a hometown, small school atmosphere that gives parents, students, and teachers, and community an opportunity to really get to know one another,” Good said. “The district is large enough to provide a wide range of curricular and extra-curricular offerings, but small enough to maximize student participation and maintain a community feel.”

Ferndale Schools has created a curriculum and school culture centered around each child’s age, developmental milestones, and specific needs. “It is a focused approach on the whole child that facilitates growth academically, emotionally, socially, and physically,” Good explains, adding, “Collaboration between children, teachers, parents, and community members creates a community of learners and a purposeful learning environment.”

The District uses social and emotional learning (SEL), the process through which both children and adults acquire and effectively apply the knowledge, attitudes, and skills necessary to understand and manage emotions; set and achieve positive goals; feel and show empathy for others; establish and maintain positive relationships; and make responsible decisions. This concept that is rooted in the schools’ ‘whole-child’ philosophy has been recognized at both the state and national levels, and has been adapted by other districts.

Good poses the question, “What do we mean when we say educating the whole child? We recognize that learning is about more than reading, writing, and arithmetic. We are dedicated to educating and nurturing the entire child, so each student grows into a purposeful, lifelong learner. Our talented educators have developed a guiding framework that is integrated into the classroom every day which teaches social and emotional development skills and the benefits are clear – academic achievement increases, students feel more confident, and teachers have more time to teach.”

FERNDALE IS ALSO KNOWN FOR ITS HIGH SCHOOL IMPI ROBOTICS TEAM, which has qualified for the national championships the past two years. The Impi Warriors recently took it upon themselves to help spread STEM education across the globe, fundraising for the development of a new robotics team in Ghana. The FHS Football Team also made the playoffs for the second straight year in a row.

High school senior Jacob Keener recently received notoriety as one of just a handful of students nationwide who achieved a perfect score on both the ACT and SAT test, and senior Matt Ballard and Junior Donovan Pitts-Reed qualified for the state championship wrestling meet. Student athletes Jacob Keener and John Stellard were selected from a pool of more than 4,200 nominees to be among 16 finalists awarded the Michigan High School Athletic Association Scholar Athlete (MHSAA) award. Students continue to excel at sports, academics, and extra-curriculars each school year.

The District also has some innovative plans in the making to promote educational growth. “With the explosive growth in technology the days of the traditional ‘library’ or ‘media center’ are past,” Good explains. “Last year, Ferndale Schools began our transition away from the old model and transformed half of the FHS Media Center into ‘The Nest’.” The Nest is a flexible learning space that teachers can reserve for small group projects and instruction. The tables and chairs in The Nest are all on wheels and can be moved and reconfigured to fit the needs of the teacher or groups of students. The Nest is also home to a mobile smart board which allows students or teachers to plug in their devices and share their display. The project was funded by a generous donation of ‘The Profit’ Marcus Lemonis and NBC/Universal who visited Ferndale Schools last year.

For an illustration of school assignments by area, please visit FerndaleSchools.org and click on the district map. Residents interested in joining Ferndale Schools through the Schools of Choice program can apply from March 13 to August 3 by calling 248-586-8686.