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C onnection The Portage Portage Public Schools Alumni E-Magazine

May 2011 • Volume 1 • No. 2

Shelagh Brown Northern, ‘02

What’s Inside Feature stories including WKZO’s Lori Moore Sock Hop tribute to PC Campus scene at PN & PC Class notes

C onnection The Portage

On the Cover Shelagh Brown, 2002 Northern graduate, won a national radio contest to record a duet with country star and Michigan native Josh Gracin on his upcoming album. Brown graduated from Western Michigan University and is a country singer, songwriter and performer.

Portage Schools Proud

1 49

Top School Library During the summer of 2010, Northern High School’s Media Center was selected as the top school library in Michigan, and among the top 35 nationwide by the American Association of School Libraries.

State Championships Since 1932, varsity teams at Portage Central and Portage Northern have captured an impressive 49 state titles in athletics, debate and forensics, and this extradordinary legacy of state champions continues to grow.

Photo by Dean Schreuder

Spring Issue

May 2011 • Volume 1 • No. 2 The Portage Connection is published for Alumni, Friends and Parents of Portage Public Schools by the Office of Community Relations. The publication includes information on graduates from Portage Northern, Central and Community high schools. We would greatly appreciate your assistance in our efforts to reach out to alumni by forwarding this e-magazine.


Kyle Herm District Information Coordinator

Contributing Writer Molli Templin Communications Specialist


Nationally Recognized Central and Northern High Schools made Newsweek’s “2010 Best High Schools” ranking, placing both schools in the top 6% nationwide.


Faculty with M.A.


Parent satisfaction


The Portage Connection

More than 70% of Portage Schools faculty hold graduate degrees.

In a survey given to Portage Schools parents, 95% rated they were highly satisfied with the District.

Contributing Photographer Spencer Bridges

Special Thanks

Northwestern University athletics University of Michigan athletics

Questions or Comments

Please direct questions or comments to Kyle Herm at

Portage Public Schools 8111 South Westnedge Ave. Portage, MI 49002 phone: (269) 323-5165 fax: (269) 323-5001

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Portage Schools Proud

Campus Scene Portage Central High

Campus Scene Portage Northern High

Reunions / Tributes

Mustang Corral

Huskie Den

Class Notes


Dean Schreuder

Farewell to PCHS

Cover Story


4 5-6 7

Kailin VanDeVelde – Northern, ‘06

Rob Grainger and Keith Wester – Central, ‘81


Lori Moore – Northern, ‘77

May 2011


Portage Alumni...

Kailin VanDeVelde - Northern, ‘06 Young alum begins budding career in television with The Oprah Winfrey Show & Winter Olympics


onventional wisdom normally states, “Good things come, to those who wait,” but 2006 Northern graduate Kailin VanDeVelde has not waited long for good things to come in her early television entertainment career. Since last summer, VanDeVelde has worked as a talent booking agent and production assistant with The Oprah Winfrey Show in Chicago, Ill. She communicates with prospective guests and writes pitches for show topics. “In talent booking we work with the production team to serve as a liaison between them and the talent.” said VanDeVelde. “So if we were booking a documentary on the show, we would work with the documentary’s production team.” VanDeVelde said the experience has been incredible and found it hard to single out one moment that has been her favorite in the job. “There’s been so many great things with the job, but I worked Oprah’s favorite things show, which was really cool,” she said. ”That show actually was amazing because of the giveaways to people and the Black Eyed Peas came and I was able to work with them. Just to see the way people reacted, and to do something good for the heroes who were in the audience. They were all deserving people to receive something and they were all appreciative at the same time.” As if working for such an exciting show like Oprah’s is not enough, the route VanDeVelde took to get to her current role is equally impressive. In February 2010, during her final semester of college at Syracuse University, she was selected to participate in a five-week internship with NBC Sports coverage of the 2010 Winter Olympics


The Portage Connection

in Vancouver, Canada. She coordinated athlete interviews across different NBC entities and assisted in the control room for NBC Prime Time Coverage. VanDeVelde worked alongside NBC’s producers and each athletes’ agent to make sure they were on time for their respective interview. “I pretty much met all the Olympians,” she said. “It was my job to get them and pick them up for interviews. I had to stay with them in our compound so they didn’t get lost.” One of the most interesting athletes she had to watch over she said was USA Snowboarder Shawn White. “Meeting Shawn White was one of the coolest experiences,” she explained. “He was the type of person you would expect him to be, with his laid back attitude. He had his own house in Vancouver and I had to go there to pick him up and the rest of the snowboarding team. They were all playing hockey in the driveway and that was a neat experience.” VanDeVelde is one of many former Northern students to go on to successful careers after participating in the excellent forensics program. “I was involved with Forensics at North-

ern and it definitely gave me a great taste of things like speaking in public, getting out of your comfort zone and dealing with people,” she said. “When you meet people who have celebrity status it’s important to not have any inhibitions and just be able to tailor yourself to what they need.” She was also actively involved with the daily morning announcements, which she said added to her great high school experience. “Reading the morning announcements over the PA system was a lot of fun and we tried to make it professional like a news network,” VanDeVelde said. “All the teachers at Northern were great. I had a very good high school experience. My guidance counselor was also so helpful. I didn’t know where to go to school and she really helped me figure things out.” In November of 2009, Oprah Winfrey announced she would end her show in September of 2011 to serve as the CEO of the newly formed Oprah Winfrey Network (OWN). Despite the end of show, it is certain VanDeVelde will not have to wait long for more good things to come along.

Kailin VanDeVelde interned with NBC during the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver, Canada. Pictured below is Vandevelde and other interns with NBC Sports anchor Bob Costas.

...Work on the Oprah show

Portage Alumni...

Rob Grainger & Keith Wester - Central, ‘81 Former Central High basketball stars team up on Wish-A-Mile 300 bicycle tour


ob Grainger and Dr. Keith Wester started as basketball opponents at West and Central Middle School, but emerged as teammates and life-long friends from their years at Portage Central High.

Back then, high school consisted of 10th, 11th and 12th grades, so the two standout athletes battled against each other on the hardwood until joining forces as sophomores. By the time their senior year rolled around in 1980-81, they had the Mustangs in full stride, leading to one of the program’s most successful seasons. That year, PC basketball went 17-3 and contended in one of the most difficult district tournaments in the region. “Believe it or not, with as good as that season was, we had the third-best record in the district,” Wester said. “Unfortunately we didn’t make it out, but it was a good season.” Central High Hall of Famer Rob Grainger (41)

Rob Grainger (40) and Keith Wester (22) were selected to the ‘81 Big Eight All-Conference team Grainger also remembers how competitive that year’s district was, but can joke about it now for another reason. “Keith (Wester) and I go way back, and I remember he fouled out in our final game in the district,” he said. “I still remind him about that when it comes up.” Despite not making it out of the district tournament, the two earned All Big-Eight Conference honors that season. In addition to basketball, the two also starred in other sports. Grainger played football and ran track and Wester was a member of the golf and baseball teams. “Basketball was always my main sport, but Rob could do anything,” Wester explained. “In my opinion he’s the best all-around athlete to ever play at Portage Central.” Grainger, who was inducted into the charter class of the school’s athletic hall of fame in 2008, might be best known for his track records that still stand today. In the spring of 1981, he set the school record for the 400-meter dash and was the state champion with a time of 47.15 seconds. The mark is the longest-standing track record up on the board in the high school’s gymnasium. He was also a member of the 1600-meter record-setting relay team. “It’s pretty cool to still have your name

on the record board after all these years,” Grainger said. “But I’m rooting for someone to break it. That would mean good things for that individual and would be an exciting accomplishment.” Grainger went on to run track at the University of Michigan and helped the Wolverines to three Big Ten track championships. Wester graduated and attended Indiana University. “Even though we went our separate ways, we remained close still in college,” Wester said. “We’d come back and play pick up basketball when we were home, and had a lasting friendship in place even if we didn’t see each other often.” After college the two returned to the Portage area to raise families and build careers. Grainger now works for Kellogg’s and Wester is a dentist and owner of Wester Dental Care, PC. Team Taylor Grainger and Wester continued to play local recreation league basketball, however as age crept up on them, they slowly had to trade in their sneakers for other activities. Wester continued to play golf, and Grainger got involved in cycling, yet he did not know the magnitude it would play in his life and the future benefit for others.

...are teammates for life May 2011


On May 14, 2007 Grainger’s oldest “People come from all over the state and “It’s a great fundraiser and just a great daughter Taylor passed away at the age as many as four different states to particievent,” said Wester. “You get to be with of 14 from a condition called proteinpate,” said Grainger. “There’s been some your friends and hear stories from other losing enteropathy (PLE). She had been good and bad times together, but the long riding teams. Make-A-Wish does such a born with a heart defect that required lasting friendships I have with everyone great job with it.” three surgeries. who comes back is really special.” Grainger and Wester have equally done After her death, Grainger began cyIn 2009 Wester and his son rode in the a great job, not only in their dedication to cling more frequently and joined a small event and this year, between 105 and 110 helping a great cause, but also showing group riding in the Make-A-Wish Founpeople are scheduled to make the trip July us an example what it means to be a true, dation’s Wish-A-Mile three-day bike tour 28-31. life-long friend. in July. The roughly 300-mile ride starts “It’s amazing how the group has grown in Traverse City and finishes in Chelsea. in such a short time,” said Wester. “There Team Taylor The participants raised money for the are friends of friends involved so we don’t A cycling team in honor of Central foundation and even know paid tribute to everyone “I was pretty used to being on a High alum Rob Grainger’s daughter the children riding, but Taylor. bike because I had done triathlons, the foundait’s great tion supports. to meet the but I had to convince Keith that it When Taylor’s new people Learn more health began to was social like golfing, but healthier.” and we’re all Find out more about Team Taylor and deteriorate, she there to help the Wish-A-Mile fundraiser. was awarded a wish by the Make-A-Wish others.” Foundation of Michigan, but passed Team Taylor has their own jerseys and is When: Thursday-Sunday, July 28-31 away before the wish could be granted. now the largest team riding in the Wish-AWhere: Traverse City to Chelsea The following year, Grainger started Mile fundraiser. Collectively the group has his own team in honor of Taylor. He raised nearly $350,000 for the charity. rounded up 20 friends to make the ride, In the spring, local members of the To Donate and Team Taylor was born. group start training for the event together, • starting at Asiagos Bakery and Deli at • Helping Others Texas Corners in Kalamazoo. Since the team’s founding in 2008, the group has grown each year. In 2009 there Rob Grainger (left) and Dr. Keith Wester (right) riding in the 300-mile Wish-A-Mile bike tour were 65 members that raised more than benefiting the Make-A-Wish Foundation in 2009. The two competed against each other in $158,000, and last year 93 riders raised junior high, were teammates at Portage Central and now ride together in the fundraiser to another $152,000. Grainger, along with help raise money to grant children’s wishes. support from family and friends, collected a little more than $19,000, which was the third-most out of about 900 participants in the state. Among those riding with the team is Wester, who joined in 2008 with the first group. “I had never been on a bike in my life,” Wester said. “Rob came to me and said we’re getting too old to play basketball and run anymore, so you’re going to ride in this thing with me. I told him to find me a bike and I’d be in.” Soon after, Grainger found a bike online for Wester during spring break and the two began training for the event. “I was pretty use to being on a bike because I had done triathlons,” said Grainger. “But I had to convince Keith that it was social like golfing, but healthier.” In addition to Wester, roughly 20 former class mates and alumni from both Portage Central and Northern returned to ride with Team Taylor the last few years.


The Portage Connection

Portage Alumni...

Lori Moore - Northern, ‘77

WKZO-AM morning drive radio host helps the local community with a variety of charity events


ith an outpouring of charitable giving and a successful career in radio, Lori Moore is without a doubt one of the more influential figures in the Kalamazoo and Portage community.

Moore graduated from Portage Northern in 1977, and has gone on to have one of the most successful broadcasting careers in the state and region. She began hosting WKZO’s morning show in 1995, however radio was not her initial career choice coming out of Hope College. “I studied television news at Hope and radio never occurred to me because at the time you didn’t hear women on the radio,” Moore said.” I was home after graduating and a friend got me a news stringer job at WKMI radio and I never left. I really didn’t know I wanted to do radio until I did it.” Moore was the first female morning drive host in Kalamazoo, and in 2006 former Governor Granholm declared

Nov. 14 as Lori Moore Day in Michigan to honor her 25th anniversary in radio. The foundation for Moore’s successful career started at Northern, where she said her teachers, and experiences in forensics and theatre gave her opportunities to excel. “It would be impossible to fully describe how much I learned from the wonderful teachers I had at Portage Northern,” she said. “My first year at Northern I went with a friend to auditions for ‘Auntie Mame’ and was cast as the worldly 15-year-old Auntie Mame. I was also in forensics all four years and absolutely loved the competitiveness.” Moore was a State Champion in forensics and lent her skills as a volunteer coach at Northern for ten years. “It was very cool seeing how

much the program had grown since I was in it,” Moore said. “ We only had a few events for the art and brainy kids. Now there are so many more events and the great success of the program has it bursting at the seams.” In addition to giving back to her alma mater, Moore has also given back to the local community throughout the years with charitable events and programs, one of which came about by accident. “A Holiday Dish to Pass” annual cookbook started by Moore has raised more than $500,000 for Kalamazoo Loaves and Fishes, area schools and numerous other non-profit organizations. “The cookbook promotion started as a fluke,” she said. “I had to work 4th of July and had to go to a party when I got off the air. I asked people what I should bring and the phone rang off the hook for four hours. I jotted down their recipes and turned them into a cookbook at the holidays. Our goal was to raise $2,000, but we ended up raising $30,000, much to our shock. On the last day of our ninth year, we raised more than $32,000 in two hours.” For her efforts to give back to the community, Moore earned the distinguished Philip S. Denenfeld Award by the Southwest Michigan American Civil Liberties Union as “A person who has particularly contributed to preserving civil liberties in Southwest Michigan over the years.” She has also won the Michigan Association of Broadcasters Community Involvement Award three times. “It’s really rewarding that people respond to what we’re doing in the community,” she said. “We were trying to exceed the $500,000 mark for the cookbook and there was a line out the door with people wanting to help us reach the goal to feed the hungry. That’s an awesome feeling.” So while it may be easy to label Moore an influential community figure from her vast career achievements, it is also her charitable giving and local connection to Portage Schools that adds a greater depth to that title.

...Support our community May 2011


Campus Scene

Portage Central As the school year comes to a close for 2010-11, boxes can be found in almost every classroom as teachers begin packing for the move to the new high school this summer. The winter and spring have flown by, but not without a plethora of school and student accomplishments to conclude a near 60-year historic run for the high school building opened in 1953. For more information abut the last large gathering of alumni, former faculty and community members, take a look at page 17, which includes photos and a recap of the Sock Hop event held on Saturday, April 16.

Tony Award-winning Broadway director Jack O’Brien visits “Hairspray” cast

On Friday, Dec. 17 Tony Award-winning Broadway Director Jack O’Brien met with the cast of “Hairspray” to share insight and advice with the students. O’Brien was in Kalamazoo to visit family and presented a master class to the 62 students cast in the production in February at Portage Northern’s auditorium. “I was flabbergasted when I received the email asking if I’d be interested in having Jack O’Brien visit with the students,” said performing arts director Kathy Mulay. “Who better to serve as an adviser than the man who won the Tony and Drama Desk Award for his direction of the show?” O’Brien stood alone on the empty stage and shared his experiences with the show on Broadway, and answered questions for the student performers. “O’Brien’s direction is nothing short of genius,” Mulay said. “He is a humorous and gifted man who is generous with his

Construction of the new high school is nearly complete. Pictured above is the 200 hallway. time and mentorship. I met him several years ago at a director’s conference in New York City. He was an inspiration to me then and continues to be.”

Girls bowling team takes fourth at state tournament – Junior Tori Ferris wins Division I state championship In March, the girls bowling team captured a fourth-place finish in the Class A State Bowling finals in Battle Creek. The team was led by Tori Ferris, who was the overall individual champion for Division I. She defeated Howell, 454-369, in the semi-finals and Lake Orion, 457-395, bowling her highest (242) of the day in the final game, which was her 14th game of the day.

The cast of “Hairspray” poses with Broadway director Jack O’Brien at Portage Northern’s auditorium


The Portage Connection

Two seniors receive prestigious National Merit Finalist honor

Jarred Bassett and Fatima Mirza earned National Merit Finalist recognition at the end of March by The National Merit Scholarship Program. Bassett, a senior, is a four-year member of both the lacrosse and football teams, and is the lacrosse team’s captain this season. He was also the manager of the hockey team, and is the business manager for the Central Stampede school newspaper. Fatima, also a senior, attends the Kalamazoo Area Math and Science Center and is on the Kalamazoo Gazette Young Editorial Staff (YES). She is involved in debate, forensics and the science olympiad program and is also the head coach for West Middle School’s science olympiad team. Fatima is also the President of the Kalamazoo Muslim Youth Group, on the Portage City Hall Youth Board and received a Star Award last year for volunteering more than 200 hours at several Kalamazoo charities. She will attend Harvard University next year and plans to major in Dermatology.

Merit Finalists Jarred Bassett and Fatima Mirza

Portage Central Football alumni Please join us at this year’s homecoming game against Benton Harbor on Sept. 30 for an evening of food, fun, tours of the new school and of course some great football. More details to come. Stay tuned to PC’s website chs. In the meantime, please forward your contact information to: Amy Knapp 7458 Morganshire Court Kalamazoo, MI 49009 (269)217-3205

The new state-of-the art media center, pictured above in late March, will have a coffee shop in the entrance.

The official grand opening of the new Portage Central High will take place Friday August 26, 2011 Please join us for this historic day! For times stay tuned to the PCHS website. Portage women’s basketball “Pink Game” raises money for American Cancer Society

The first ever Portage Women’s Basketball Coaches vs. Cancer “Pink Game” on Friday, Dec. 17 was a great success. Following t-shirt and ticket sales, rememberance cards, and donations, the event raised more than $4,000 for the Southwest Michigan chapter of the American Cancer Society. Central wore white jerseys with pink trim and Northern sported pink socks and arm bands. The game also received state-wide recognition as the www.Mlive. com Game of the Week. Pictured below right are PC girls basketball players Reinie Thomas and Becca Shemberger, who helped present the check to the American Cancer Society, with Northern’s Ashley Wilson and Laura Glass.

PC’s Reinie Thomas and Becca Shemberger and PN’s Ashley Wilson and Laura Glass present a check to the American Cancer Society for the community’s first Coaches vs. Cancer Pink Game May 2011


Campus Scene

Portage Northern Huskie Forensics wins 10th straight State Championship The forensics team won its 10th straight first place in Class A at the Michigan Interscholastic Forensic Association State Finals tournament held at Oakland University May 6-7. This is not only Northern’s 10th straight state title, but the 13th in the program’s 46 year history, more than any other Class A school in Michigan. Nearly 80 schools and more than 800 students from across the state participated. Northern dominated the Class A division, qualifying the maximum 28 entries to the tournament (44 students), all 28 entries to semifinals, and an amazing 25 entries to the final round competition. Northern defeated second place Portage Central and third place Birmingham Seaholm.

Braganini served as the high school’s Breadlift coordinator, and helped lead more than 300 classmates for this year’s program, which raised more than $10,000 to improve the health of babies. “For several years running, Portage Northern High has been the Gold Standard and ‘the school to beat’ when it comes to raising money for the March of Dimes during our annual Breadlift campaign,” said March of Dimes Kalamazoo Chapter director Dana DeLuca. During their 40-plus years of participation, Northern has raised more than $300,000 for the March of Dimes by going door-to-door, soliciting donations in exchange for a loaf of bread. Braganini is also an International Baccalaureate Diploma candidate and serves as the student senate co-secretary.

Northern policy debate finishes second in the state

Portage Northern varsity policy debate team took second place in tier 2 of the 94th Michigan Interscholastic Forensic Association State Tournament on Saturday, Jan. 8 at P-Northern High School. Northern’s Suneed Shaikh and Colette Royal, a sophomore and junior, made it to the final round of competition, but fell short against Midland HH Dow High School, which was awarded the Ziegelmueller Award for overall excellence in debate.

The 2010-11 Portage Northern High School state championship forensics team.

Senior Julia Braganini earns Outstanding Youth Volunteer award Senior student senate member Julia Braganini was selected as the 2010 Outstanding Youth Volunteer by the March of Dimes for her leadership of the 50th annual Breadlift campaign.


The Portage Connection

1979-80 Boys basketball team honored

On Friday, February 11, Northern’s 1979-80 boys basketball team was honored at half time of the varsity boys game on. The 1979-80 team exceeded everyone’s expectations for success with a 23-2 record, which is still greatest in the school’s his-

Colette Royal (left) and Suneed Shaikh (right) show off the runner-up trophy for the state debate tournament

tory, as well as the city of Portage. The group truly defined the word team and with every member willing to put the team first before self. Their exceptional teamwork, dedication to hard work and commitment to team goals were the driving forces of their success. They were described as “basketball gym-rats.” They loved the game and put the time in, especially during the off-season, to develop skills necessary to be successful. Huskie fans and local spectators that observed this team perform over that season, were frequently awed by their defensive tenacity, ball movement on offense, and their intense “will to win,” regardless of the competition. These factors resulted in 19 straight wins to open the season, three convincing district wins (over Portage Central, Benton Harbor, and Kalamazoo Central), and a dominant performance in the first round of the regional tournament at WMU against Ann Arbor Pioneer. The team was Big Eight League Champions, Kalamazoo City Class A Champions, Class A District Champions, and Regional Finalist, losing only to eventual Class A State Champion, Lansing Eastern, in a tight game decided in the last minute of play. They are also the only Portage basketball team to win a Class A Regional game.

Campus Scene

Members of the 1979-80 Huskie boys basketball team were honored at half time of the boys varsity game on Friday, February 11. The ‘79-80 team is regarded as the best ever in Portage basketball history for both their season accomplishments and tenatious work ethic throughout the year.

Two named National Merit Finalists

Portage Northern’s Philip Mulder and Madeline Price were selected National Merit Finalists by The National Merit Scholarship Program. Mulder is the defending forensics state champion in extemporaneous speaking and has been to the forensic nationals twice. He attends KAMSC and is the editor of the math and science center’s student newspaper. Mulder is also a member of The National Honor Society, edits the school’s literary magazine and is a fouryear member of the band. He plans on majoring in economics or math. Maddy Price is a senior and attends KAMSC, where she is a member of both the computer science and research teams.

Northern’s Merit Finalists, Maddy Price (left) and Philip Mulder (right) in the commons at NHS.

Price sings in the songleaders chorale and is a four-year participant in the school’s musicals. She also competes in forensics in oratory speech and is a member of The National Honor Society. Price expects to major in computer science in college. The two scored in the top 1 percent on the PSAT, which is given to more than 1.5 million high school juniors.

Old yearbooks available for purchase Did you lose your old high school yearbook? Northern High’s yearbook advisor, Aimee Wendland, has copies of old yearbooks dating back to 1970 for sale. If you would like to purchase a yearbook, or need more information, please contact Wendland at

Northern High reassembled an art project this past spring which depicts many alumni who have gone on to serve in the armed forces. Jayson Spade (page 21), Sean Greenleaf (page 21) and Aaron Stark (December 2010 issue page 6) are included in the mural now located in the upper commons next to the Igloo’s entrance. May 2011


Passion Cover Story

2002 Northern High graduate Shelagh Brown won a national radio competition to record a duet with country star Josh Gracin for his up coming album due out this year.

for Music By Kyle Herm


ou might not have heard of her yet, but after listening to her sing once, you’ll want to hear more of 2002 Northern High graduate Shelagh (Shay-La) Brown; a charming and humble young country singer and songwriter whose stunning vocal talent and tenacity landed her a career changing opportunity.

The Call

During the fall of 2010, Brown noticed a contest advertised on the Grand Rapids country radio station B93’s website. The

contest included radio stations all across the nation and asked listeners to record a video of themselves singing country music star Josh Gracin’s new song, “Only When it Rains.” Brown quickly submitted an entry, due by the end of December, and waited patiently for the results. “I knew opportunities and contests like this would come, but you can’t stop moving forward with what you want to accomplish,” said Brown. “You almost have to forget about it.”

Northern High graduate and country music singer and songwriter Shelagh Brown.


The Portage Connection

On Friday, January 14, B93 called her into the studio for a “disguised” interview about some of her upcoming local performances, however during the interview they opened the telephone line with a caller, Josh Gracin, who personally congratulated her on live radio for winning the national contest among hundreds of entries. “It was an incredible feeling and surreal,” she said. “I was so surprised and couldn’t believe it was happening.” Gracin and his record label, Average Joes Entertainment, selected Brown to record “Only When it Rains” with him on his new album Redemption, which will come out later this year. Shortly after the life-changing news, she flew down to Nashville, Tenn. on Jan. 24 to record the song at The Tracking Room, one of the top recording studios in the country. “The studio was so beautiful and so many famous people have recorded there,” she said. “It was such a great experience all around. The people I met were wonderful from Average Joes and Josh was very helpful. He knew what he wanted and was like, well, let’s try it out.” Despite only performing regularly for the last year, she had recording experience, but nothing quite like what she learned from her time with Gracin. “Sometimes it takes a lot of time (to record a song), but that’s what the studio is for – to get that perfect sound,” she said. “It was just a lot of fun and I’m really looking forward to hearing it when it’s finished.” Gracin, also from Michigan, was a top finisher in the second season of American Idol in 2003 and wanted to help bring an undiscovered artist into the spotlight, simi-

Country music star Josh Gracin (left) with Brown and studio engineer Aaron Cmielewski (right) during the recording session at The Tracking Room in Nashville, Tenn. for “Only When It Rains,” a song on Gracin’s new album due out this summer.

lar to how he started his music career from appearing on the American Idol contest. “I’m very fortunate to have had this opportunity and excited to see where it will take me in my career,” said Brown. “I’m so grateful to Josh.”

Early Vocal Talent

Brown grew up surrounded by music. Her parents performed in a group called “Up With People” and ran Brown & Brown Recording Studio. They were very in tune with music and naturally got Brown involved at a young age. “My parents’ recording studio was in the basement, so I could always hear music coming up through the floor,” she said. “I’d also be in the audience when they performed at restaurants. Music just made sense.” She earned a spot in the competitive Kalamazoo Children’s Chorus and performed with the group from third until seventh

grade, although she started singing well before. Many of the former members of the children’s chorus have gone on to music careers, like 2000 Portage Central alum Blake Whyte – who was a member with Brown – and is now performing on Broadway. Upon entering high school, Brown continued her involvement with music – performing in musicals, as well as choir

ern who is now an assistant professor of music at the University of Michigan, said Brown always had the necessary components for success. “Shelagh has always had an impeccable sense of musicianship and style” said Adams. “I’m not at all surprised that she continues to blossom both as a composer and as a performer. I’m thrilled to have been a part of her formative years musically and continue to enjoy our friendship today.” Brown’s guidance from faculty such as Adams inspired her to continue music as a life-long endeavor. “Ms. Adams is amazing,” she said. “The teachers at Northern were so knowledgeable and professional, yet, friendly and absolutely supportive of students’ interests in music and pursing it. The music program is such a great community and I really bonded with those I had class with.”

“I’m very fortunate to have had this opportunity and excited to see where it will take me in my career.” and band concerts. “If it had to do with music, you name it and I was involved,” explained Brown. “I was in women’s ensemble, concert choir and a percussionist in band from sixth grade through high school. I just loved it.” The faculty loved having Brown involved just as much as she enjoyed participating. Catherine Walker Adams, the former music and choir director at North-

Continued on page 14 May 2011


Cover Story After Northern

Following graduation from Northern, Brown attended Michigan State University but was undecided on a major. “I thought about going into veterinary science, because I love animals,” she said. “I’ve always felt that if you dedicate yourself to something you want to do and put yourself into it one hundred percent, you can succeed in that area. For me, it was just trying figure out what that area was.” While music was her passion, those close to her advised that music as a career was not always a guaranteed money-maker. “I knew music would always be a part of my life, whether I studied it in college or not,” she said. “Music is an art, but as far as making it a career, that’s a little more uneasy.” In her first year at MSU, Brown joined an acapella group to stay connected to her love of music. Rehearsals took place in the music school, and since she was continually surrounded by other music majors – Brown decided she could not shy away from her true passion. “Seeing other people choosing it as their major made me realize, if they could do

it, why couldn’t I, and that I shouldn’t be holding myself back,” she said. During her second semester she auditioned and was accepted into the music education program, and eventually transferred to Western Michigan University, where she earned a degree in musical theatre performance.

Peppers Songwriting Club and is also a member of the Nashville Songwriters Association International. During previous trips, Brown recorded singles such as, “Sunflower” and “Are There Any More at Home Like You” and networked with other professionals in the business. “When you’re in Nashville it’s easy to see how competitive the industry is, but it’s also exciting at the same time,” said Brown. “I’m just fortunate to have had this opportunity that others might not get.” Brown has taken full advantage of her opportunity and continues to build her online music repertoire, while eagerly awaiting the release of Gracin’s Redemption this year. In the meantime, music connoisseurs can familiarize themselves with Brown’s music online and in person – and after hearing her, will surely wonder, “Where can I find more?”

“The teachers at Northern were so knowledgeable and professional, yet, friendly and absolutely supportive of students’ interests in music and pursing it. The music program is such a great community and I really bonded with those I had class with.”


The Portage Connection

Performing career

Although it was Brown’s parents who got her interested in music, it took time for her love of country music to take shape. “Growing up I listened to the music my parents had,” she said. “There was a little bit of country around, but not a whole lot. I really started to love it while listening to the radio in the car in college. Once I fully discovered country, my world was transformed.” Brown now transforms other people’s worlds while singing everywhere she can. Early on she performed at open-mic nights, summer festivals and backup roles, but has now clearly made a name for herself among the local music scene. In December 2008 she opened for her friend and Battle Creek native Frankie Ballard during his Country Christmas concert at the State Theatre in Kalamazoo. Ballard won Kenny Chesney’s “Next Big Star” competition and will open for Taylor Swift for nine dates this summer during the North American leg of her “Speak Now” world tour. This past March, Brown opened for The Band Perry, which won the 2011 Academy of Country Music Award for Top New Vocal Duo or Group, at the Intersection in Grand Rapids and has a large list of performances scheduled for this summer. “As far as being a musician, I wouldn’t be able to make it without the support from people,” she said. “Anyone who comes out to a show, or small local performance, even if it’s one person, it’s still a huge deal to me and it makes all the difference.” Coupled with performing, Brown has also made several trips to Nashville, to ingrain herself in country music’s hub. She travels with members of the local Chili

Shelagh Brown

Singing with Josh Gracin in “Only When It Rains,” a song on his new album due out this year.

Get Connected

Find Shelagh Brown news, information and music at these online resources. • • • • • •

Summer Performances

5/13 Detroit Downtown Hoedown (River Stage, 5 p.m.) 6/3 Bayview Gardens (Richland 9p-1am) 6/16 Live on WCYD 99.5 (“Thursday Night Live”) TBA 7/1 Wild Bull Saloon (Kzoo) 9p-12am 7/8 & 9 Cowboy Up (Mendon, MI) at 9 p.m. 7/16 Cowjam Music Fest (Mendon, MI) 7/24 Kindleberger Summer Concert (Parchment, MI at 6:30 p.m.) 7/30 Countrypalooza (Grand Rapids, MI) John Ball Park 8/12 Shiawassee County Fair (Corunna, MI)


Portage Education Foundation helps Portage students


n response to community feedback on how to address the school-funding crisis, PEF: Now was established in 2010. Its steering committee is made up of representatives from each school, members of the community and local business leaders. Company Overview It is no secret that school systems across Michigan - including Portage - are at a crossroads; state funding continues to decrease while demands on public school systems increase. When Lansing passed

Proposal A in 1994, funding for public education changed drastically in Michigan. Proposal A took away local control of our schools, shifting that control to the state. In response to our community’s request to seek alternative, private funding, the Portage Education Foundation has created Protecting Education’s Future: Now (PEF: Now). Our goal is to raise 1.4 million dollars by June 2011. With your help, we know this is possible! Products Contributions to PEF: Now are tax deductible.

Your investment in action

Make a donation at

When a community believes in education and is willing to rally, powerful things will happen. About the PEF

The PEF, established in 1990, is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit and has awarded more than $390,000 in support of students, staff, and district initiatives throughout Portage Schools. The PEF has assisted hundreds of students and faculty with grants covering a variety of costs not typically covered by District or individual school budgets.


The Mission of the Foundation is to develop, provide, and enhance the educational opportunities for the largest number of students, staff, and community members possible and allocate funds where they provide the greatest benefit. The Foundation strives to provide funding to those areas of the school district that would not otherwise receive district funding.

Alumni sponsored scholarship

Portage Central alumna Robyn Roberts started the Sue Nelmes Scholarship to honor high school social studies teacher Sue Nelmes. Roberts graciously supports the scholarship with a $1,000 donation each year, which is awarded to a female senior at Central High who will major or minor in history at a four year university. Do you have interest in starting a scholarship, or contributing to one of the eight existing PEF scholarships? If so, contact the PEF at (269) 323-5167.


This is your alma mater...your legacy! Many of you still live, work, and play in the Southwest Michigan region. Everyone has either family members or friends that are still dependent on the success of this community. Please consider a donation to give the current students the same opportunity that you had! May 2011


Reunions / Tributes

Honor graduates, May 28, 1965

Central and Northern class of 1966 to hold 45th reunion On Saturday, August 6 the graduating class of 1966 will hold its 45th reunion at The Beacon Club in Portage from noon until 4 p.m. The event costs $30 per person and includes sandwich trays and heavy appetizers along with a cash bar. For more information about the event please contact Karen Mahoney at kjmca@ or (951) 922-6695. If you are in the process of planning a class reunion, submit the information to The Portage Connection to reach out to your classmates.


The Portage Connection

50th reunion for the class of ‘61 The time is drawing near for the class of ‘61’s 50th celebration. This is what the reunion committee has established so far: The Class of ‘61 will hold its 50th reunion on Saturday, Sept. 24, 2011 at The Birches in Kalamazoo beginning at 6 p.m. If you are interested in attending please contact Sue Horsfall Ray at (269) 628-2098

or e-mail Contact information is needed for all those attending in order to communicate with everyone regarding this event. The committee continues to plan this event and is open to suggestions from fellow classmates. Please pass this information along to those you remain in contact with.

Submit a tribute to Portage Schools new blog Portage Schools launched a new Teacher and Staff Tributes blog in January to honor the many educators who have positively impacted Portage students throughout the years. The District’s first blog allows alumni to submit a tribute about a teacher, staff member or coach from an elementary, middle school or high school, and tell how they were inspired because of them.

Alumni from any year may submit an entry to the blog. The idea is to generate discussion about how teachers and staff members, past and present, have helped Portage students throughout the years. To view the blog please visit the website, To submit a tribute about a teacher or staff member, please e-mail Kyle Herm at

Central High Sock Hop

A Final farewell to

Portage Central High School

On Saturday, April 16 Portage Central hosted a communitywide Sock Hop event to honor the memories of the current high school building. Alumni, former faculty members and current students and parents gathered to share their experiences within the walls of the school built beginning in 1949. Those in attendance were able to bid on athletic conference championship photos and other school memorabilia. Johnny Apollo and the Saturn Seven band performed on the stage in the gymnasium and memory tours signifying certain moments were set up throughout the

school. Former Portage Schools superintendent (1947-1970), 95-year-old Varl Wilkinson, attended the event and gave a speech about the amount of work that went into creating the high school. Back then, they could only build as much as they could pay for, so the school started with classrooms, and over the years the gym, auditorium and additional hallways were added on. The Sock Hop was a great success. Although the bricks and walls will be taken down this summer, the memories created will live on.


Above: 95-year-old Varl Wilkinson, Portage superintendent from 1947-1970, speaking during the dinner portion of the sock hop.

Below: Members of the class of ‘64 posing outside the entrance to the main office at Portage Central. The sock hop event had members from many different graduating classes.

People shared memories and walked the halls for the last time at the current high school building that will be taken down this summer.

May 2011


Mustang Corral


The Portage Connection

Mail order form to: Greg Chambers; 8135 S. Westnedge Ave.; Portage, MI 49002 or e-mail Greg Chambers at

Mail order form to: Jeanine Patterson; 1000 Idaho Ave.; Portage, MI 49024 or e-mail Jeanine Patterson at

Huskie Den

May 2011


Class notes News and information for class notes is compiled by Kyle Herm. In addition to featuring information provided directly by alumni, this section includes news gathered from a variety of public sources and included here to keep members of the Portage family up-to-date and connected. News and information should be e-mailed to Herm at kherm@portageps. org, or mailed to: Alumni News, Kyle Herm, Portage Public Schools, 8111 South Westnedge Ave., Portage, MI, 49002. All submissions received by the Office of Community Relations by May 1 have been included in this issue. We welcome your news and information so that we may include you in the next issue.

Former Faculty

Where are they now? Catherine Walker Adams Northern High

Catherine Walker Adams taught music at Northern High for 13 years from 1984-2007 and is now an assistant professor of music at the University of Michigan. Adams joined U-M’s School of Music, Theatre and Dance in the fall of 2007 and serves as accompanist/vocal coach and Musical Director for the school. She co-teaches a senior performance class, and ensemble techniques for freshmen. She also produces shows for the school. Adams directed Northern’s musical productions and many others at the Kalamazoo Civic, Barn Theatre and Farmer’s Alley Theatre. She received a bachelor of music education from Capital University Conservatory of Music, and a master of music in choral conducting from Western Michigan University School of Music. Although now in Ann Arbor, Adams still returns to Kalamazoo to work on local performances for area theaters with current Portage Central High music director Kathy Mulay. This summer she will work with Mulay on Blood Brothers at the Farmer’s Alley Theatre.


The Portage Connection

70s Erin Brown Conroy (PC, ‘77) has four non-fiction books on parenting published (see at www. erinbrownconroy. com -- all available on Amazon) and a chapter book for kids that only uses “soundoutable” words called Matt’s Pup. Conroy has been speaking on parenting since the early 80s. She and her husband have 13 children-- three birth children, two stepsons, and eight adopted internationally. Brown has taught at the college level for 12 years, the last five year as an instructor for Patrick Henry College in writing and research. Also during the last 17 years, she has written a reading program for kids called True North Reading: The Complete Mastery Reading & Spelling Program that is multi-sensory in its approach, decoding all of the English language in a new system, beyond what it has been decoded before ( There are certified teachers that teach and tutor the method in Kalamazoo and across the US. This summer, two more nonfiction books of hers will be published: “Simplified Writing 101: Top Secrets to College Success”, and a vocabulary guide for use with AP English Language and Composition.

Pete Metzelaars (PC, ‘78) will be inducted into the Capital One Academic All-America® Hall of Fame as selected by the College Sports Information Directors of America (CoSIDA) on June 28. Metzelaars, one of the Mustangs more accomplished student-athletes and charterclass member of the school’s Athletic Hall of Fame, led PC to the State Finals in football, and their first basketball conference championship in over 40 years. He continued his two sport excellence in college where he earned All-American honors in football & basketball and won a National championship in basketball at Wabash University. Metzelaars was also named to the 1981-92 Academic All-America team. After being drafted by the NFL, he enjoyed a 16-year pro-career and played in four Super bowls with the Buffalo Bills. He is now an assistant offensive line coach with the Indianapolis Colts. Tim Brown (PC, ‘78) graduated from WMU in 1983 with a broadcasting communications degree, and spent the next 15 years in radio as an on-air announcer, and in-demand voiceover talent nationwide. Today, he and his wife Julie, who is also an announcer, live in Portage and put their broadcasting skills to work at their company, Easy On Hold. The company is located in Portage, and employs eight people in creating music and messaging on hold for companies across America, including Norwegian Cruise Lines, Shaw Flooring, Ashley Furniture HomeStore and thousands of other companies—including Portage Public Schools. They have 2 children who attend Portage schools, Keegan and Evan, both at Portage North Middle.

Class notes Bob Klose (PC, ‘79) and Becky (Pochyla) Klose (PC, ‘79), along with their son Elliot and daughter Marah are all represented in PC athletic conference championship photos. Bob and Becky were in the 1977-78 swimming and diving photo. Then in the fall 2008 girls golf SMAC Central championship photo, Becky is included as assistant coach with Marah as a member of the team. Their son Elliott is in the Boys Cross Country Conference Championship photo from 2008, 2009 and 2010 as well as Track & Field from 2009. Marah and Elliott are third generation graduates of PC following in the footsteps of both parents and their Grandmother, Inez Rowe Pochyla (PC, ’51). David G. Monette (PC, ‘74) lives in Portland, Ore. and is an American craftsman who designs and builds custom-built brass instruments and mouthpieces for musicians. Since the first mouthpieces reached the market in 1985, Monette has made mouthpieces for tuba, trombone, E flat trumpet, and A and B flat piccolo trumpet. He has designed mouthpieces for worldfamous musicians and has an extensive list of performers who use his mouthpieces and custom-made instruments. To learn more about the Monette mouthpieces and watch videos of his instruments in action, visit He is also on Facebook at

80s Jayson M. Spade (PN, ’83) was promoted to the rank of Colonel in the United States Army last fall. In the 23 years of service to our country, Col. Spade has completed military tours in Panama, Saudi Arabia, Korea, Yemen, Iraq and Afghanistan. Marlon Manty (PC, ’89) is the executive chef at Martini’s restaurant in Kalamazoo. He has worked in 12 different restaurants in San Francisco, New York, Kansas City and other cities. Karin Milko (PC, ‘88), graduated from Randolph-Macon Woman’s College in Virginia and works at Gran Thornton in Washington DC in commercial and government contracting. Prior to her current role she became a registered nurse, working for awhile in a level 1 trauma O.R. She is now married and has two happy children of four and one years old.

90s Sean R. Greenleaf (PN, ’92) received a Bronze Star on Dec. 1, 2010 for “meritorious achievement in connection with combat operations involving conflict with an opposing force while serving as 1st Sgt. Of Co. B, 1st Bn, 3rd Marines, Regimental Combat Team 7, 2nd Marine Expeditionary Brigade – Helmand Province, Afghanistan, from Nov. 2009 to June 2010.” He has served 18 years active-duty in the U.S. Marine Corps. Corey McNeal (PC, ‘93) has taught physical education and health and coached the boys varsity basketball team at Portage Central for five years. McNeal played basketball at Aquinas College (93-97) and for the Grand Rapids Flight semi-pro team in 2004. He also was the head coach for Davenport University from 2001-04. Larry Chao (PC, ‘94) currently lives in the San Francisco Bay Area and has been there since attending Stanford University for his PhD in mechanical engineering over a decade ago. Currently Chao is the tablet marketing manager at Intel Corporation, driving the strategy and programs in the emerging markets. He has been with Intel for the past five years, and his last role was program manager to the President and CEO of Intel, Paul Otellini.


B.J. Snow (PC, ‘95) was named UCLA women’s soccer head coach this year on Jan. 6. Snow became the fourth head coach in the program’s history and had been the team’s assistant coach for the last five seasons. This past year, Snow helped lead the Bruins to the sweet-16 of the NCAA Division-I Tournament. He was a standout player at Indiana University (96-99) and coached the PC varsity boy’s soccer team for four years (02-05). Demarra Gardner (Community High ‘97) is president and founder of Change Agent Consulting, which specializes in social justice and not-for-profit development. Her journey started while serving in the Americorps civilian program for a not-for-

profit housing organization. Much of her work began in the field as a community organizer assisting residents with a plethora of neighborhood-based needs. She also co-founded the Children’s Defense Fund Freedom Schools® summer program in Kalamazoo in 2007 where she serves as the Director. She has a BA in Family Life Education from Spring Arbor University and completed a master’s degree in Clinical Mental Health at Western Michigan University in December 2010 as a Thurgood Marshall Fellow. Gardner currently lives in the Kalamazoo area with her husband and daughter. Beth Houtrow (PN, ‘97) is now working as a Professor of Practical English Writing at Soongsil University in Seoul, South Korea. She primarily teaches essay writing to college sophomores, and is also a board member of the Korea Ultimate Players Association, as well as a tournament director for the International Jeju Ultimate Tournament. Jennifer Sarantos (PN, ‘92) graduated from University of Michigan with a B.S. in Biology in 1996 and then U of M’s School of Dentistry in 2001 and is now a dentist at Wester Dental Care in Portage, working for Keith Wester (PC, ‘81) since 2005. She married Curtis Pierce (PC, ‘91), who stays at home with their two boys and is pursuing degrees from WMU in Biomedical Sciences and Chemistry. Jennifer’s oldest brother, Peter Sarantos (PN, ‘96) graduated from Yale University in 2000. He was a four-year letterwinner for the Bulldogs as a standout defensive end. After his senior campaign, he was voted All-Ivy League, All-New England, and Academic All-American. He went on to play a year of professional football in the Austrian Football League. In 2010 he was finally able to play football with his two younger brothers, Joey and Paul, with the Carson Ragin’ Bulls in California. They went 13-0 and won the championship in their semi-pro league (see photo on page 22). Peter currently lives with his wife Casey in Redondo Beach, Calif. and works in medical equipment sales. See information on Joey and Paul on page 22. May 2011


Class notes University men’s tennis team and served as captain during his junior and senior years. He also was a field organizer for the Barack Obama Campaign For Change in Southern New Mexico and managed voter turnout in more than 25 precincts.

00s Josh Bartz (PN, ‘00) did his undergraduate work at Indiana University of Pennsylvania and completed his masters in wind conducting work at Sam Houston State via the American Band College in 2010. He is now finishing up his first year as the Director of Bands for North Middle School and Northern High School. He and his wife (also a PN ‘00 alumnus) live in Portage and have two daughters (Annabelle 4 and Elizabeth 2, and a baby boy on the way). Joey Sarantos (PN, ’01) played linebacker for four seasons at the University of Michigan, earning Academic All-Big Ten in 2002. He also threw shot put and discus on the indoor and outdoor Track and Field team, and qualified for the National Regional Meet in discus in 2005. After graduating, he played one season of football as a middle linebacker in 2006 for the Prague Lions in Prague, Czech Republic and also coached. He led the team in interceptions and tackles and won the Czech Republic National Championship. He has lived in Hermosa Beach, Calif. since 2007 and worked as a medical sales representative and is currently employed by Entellus Medical Inc, selling sinus balloons used in sinus surgery. Paul Sarantos (PN, ‘02) also played football at U-M and was part of two Big Ten Championship and Rose Bowl teams along with brother, Joey. In 2005, Paul was awarded the Arthur D. Robinson award for highest senior GPA on the team. Paul also joined his brother as a thrower on Michigan’s track and field team (2004-2007). He competed in the National Regional meet

The Sarantos brothers. Paul (57), Peter (55) and Joey (59) played for the Carson Ragin’ Bulls in California.


The Portage Connection

in the shot put and earned Academic AllAmerican honors (2006). After graduating with a B.S. in Mechanical Engineering, Paul moved to Hermosa Beach, Calif. to live with his older brothers. He worked as a design engineer for three years at Northrop Grumman Aerospace Systems in Redondo Beach. He worked primarily on the development of electro-mechanical actuator assemblies used for on-orbit deployment of satellite sub-structures. Lindsay Tarpley (PC, ‘02) made her first international start since July 2009 and netted a goal to help lift the U.S. women’s national team to a 2-0 victory against Norway in the semifinals of the Algarve Cup in Vila Real de San Antonio, Portugal on March 3. The goal moved Tarpley into sole possession of 14th place all-time in U.S. women’s nation team scoring. The U.S. went on to with the Algarve Cup and Tarpley will help lead the team during the 2011 Women’s World Cup in Germany June 26-July 17. Teresa Weakley (PN, ‘02) has been the co-anchor for WKBN-TV, the CBS affiliate in Youngstown, Ohio since September of 2010. Weakley attended New York University and was the live morning reporter and fill-in anchor for WKRN in Nashville, Tenn. from 2005-2010. Daniel Balke (PN, ‘03) is an International Economist in the Western Hemisphere Office of the U.S. Department of the Treasury, analyzing the economies of the Andean Region (Colombia, Peru, Ecuador, and Bolivia), as well as Chile, Uruguay, Paraguay and Cuba. He is also a master’s candidate in Latin American Studies at Georgetown University and will graduate in May. Balke was a four-year member of the NCAA Division 1 George Washington

Rebekah Glass (PC, ‘03) received a bachelor’s degree in exercise and sports science from Spring Arbor University in 2007, and was a 2006 All-American for the university’s volleyball team. She recently earned a doctorate in physical therapy from Grand Valley State University in 2010 and had a systematic review published in the North American Journal of Sports Physical Therapy. Glass is currently working at Borgess Health and Fitness Center as a physical therapist. It is an outpatient orthopedic clinic where she sees all ages of people, athletes/non-athletes, with a variety of diagnoses (post-surgical, back pain, hip pain, shoulder pain, etc). Katie Novaria (PN, ‘03), pictured above with Senator John McCain, graduated from University of Michigan in 2007 and has established a strong career in Washington DC. Novaria previously worked for Congressman Joe Knollenberg (2007-2009) and Congressman Fred Upton (2009-2011), and is now working as a Legislative Clerk for the House of Representatives Energy and Commerce Committee. She is also the President of the Washington DC Delta Gamma Alumnae.


Brandon Ridenour (PN, ‘03) traveled to China with the Canadian Brass earlier this year and performed on a national television show for the Chinese New Year. The show reached an estimated half billion people and included Chinese pop groups, dance troupes, acrobats and other wellknown singers from all over the world. He has been a member of the group since ‘06.

Class notes Aubrey Sharp (PC, ’00) is an Assistant Prosecuting Attorney for Kalamazoo County (Since October 2008). Sister, Tara Sharp (PC, ’02), is an attorney for the employment and labor law firm, McCarthy Smith Law Group in Portage. She is also on the Board of Directors for Gryphon Place and SPCA of SW Michigan and does estate planning. Brothers Matt Richmond (PC, ‘09) and Ryan Richmond (PC, ‘10), who helped Portage Central win the 2007 State Tennis Championship, are both playing collegiate tennis this year. Matt is in his second season at the United State Naval Academy and Ryan is in his first year at Michigan State. Scott Oudsema (PN, ‘05) is in his second year as a volunteer assistant coach with The University of Michigan men’s tennis program. After competing professionally from 2005-2009, Oudsema left the pro tour to pursue an undergraduate degree from U-M’s Ross School of Business and to assist with the tennis team in 2009. Oudsema achieved career-high ATP world rankings of No. 151 in doubles and No. 255 in singles in 2007. He is currently preparing for his second season in the Advanta World TeamTennis (WTT) Pro League.

Katie Rohwer (PN, ‘04) is currently teaching 8th through 12th grade choir and music theory at Lakeshore Middle and High School. Under her direction, the choirs have received superiors at District Choral Festival and the Chamber ensemble received division 1 ratings at solo/ensemble district and state levels. Rohwer has been the musical director for a musical theater revue Cabaret and for a production of “Footloose.” She also sings with the Citadel Symphony Chorus, as a soloist with the Southwest Michigan Symphony Orchestra, and as a member of the World Youth Choir (which includes a month-long tour of Argentina and Uruguay this summer and a performance at the 9th World Choral Symposium). Lauren Buckstaff (PC, ‘06) attended Indiana University’s business school and is now a financial analyst for Stryker’s Corporate office. She is also getting married this July. Cailtin Buckstaff (PC, ‘07) recently graduated in April from the University of Michigan and will attend law school next year at Vanderbilt University. Youngest sister Kelsey Buckstaff (PC, ‘09) attends the University of Michigan in the School of Kinesiology. Barry Beranek (PC, ‘08) is currently attending Ithaca College in central New York working towards a pre-medical undergraduate degree and playing on the men’s lacrosse team. He also is enlisted in the Army and serves in the National Guard out of Aurburn, NY and is enrolled in the Cornell University ROTC.

10s Jack Livingston (PN, ‘10) is off to a solid start in his collegiate baseball career at Northwestern University. The 2010 Michigan Gatorade Player of the Year has started half of the team’s games and hit more than .300 this season. He hit his first career home run on Feb. 27 against Towson and his first collegiate hit was a double a week earlier on Feb. 20 at Texas Tech. Tony Beranek (PC, ‘10) is finishing his first year at the United States Merchant Marine Academy in Kings Point Long Island. He is majoring in Logistics and Intermodal Transportation in the Maritime Industry and will be going out on a commercial ship for approximately 100+ days beginning in early June. This “internship” is part of the schooling at the academy. During his four years, he will spend a total of approximately one year at sea. ….100 days between 4th and 3rd class (Freshmen and Sophomore) year and 200 days between our 3rd and 2nd class year. Beranek is also currently playing on the Varsity Lacrosse team.


The Portage


One Community with thousands of stories... what’s yours? Send your updates to: or mail to: Kyle Herm 8111 S. Westnedge Ave. Portage, MI 49002 May 2011


Portage Athletic Foundation 2011 annual golf outing – Monday, August 15

Help support Portage athletics during the 2011 PAF Golf Outing Monday, August 15, 2011 at The Moors Golf Club in Portage! Visit for more details.

The Portage Connection May 2011  
The Portage Connection May 2011  

The May 2011 issue of Portage Schools alumni magazine, The Portage Connection