I worked as a multimedia reporter at The Morning Sun, a daily newspaper in Mt. Pleasant, Mich. that covered stories in the counties Isabella, Gratiot and sometimes Clare. They gave me education as my beat, which made me responsible to cover Central Michigan University, schools in town and stories about education and/or development programs that affect young people in the state.
Some of those were a peer mentoring class starting at Mt. Pleasant High, a student exchange program, a CMU Greek organization working with the city to clean the streets after major events and a three-part science event for elementary school children held at the university.
One of the coolest stories I wrote related to CMU was the grand opening of their 3D printer. I filmed a short video showing the process of a small dinosaur being made by a MakerBot 3D replicator. I posted it later on the Facebook page for my blog The Writer’s Corner. For the story itself, I took a picture; even though it’s a shame that the newspaper didn’t have photographers, I liked taking my own photographs. It gave me the chance to work on a skill and I took great pride in my story overall even more then.
There were a number of stories about the Saginaw Chippewa Indian Tribe, coverage of fun events or charities during the weekends, and I attended the regular meetings for the Mt. Pleasant Board of Education. Most journalists will tell you that attending meetings is like watching paint dry, but I enjoyed the school board meetings from time to time. I met with the superintendent Mike Pung on several occasion to discuss policy changes, issues in the area, the goals the board wanted to achieve and possible changes they were considering, such as bringing in the balanced calendar and or common start time.
For a month or so, I also went to the city’s planning commission meetings, because Adrian Hedden, one of the interns at the paper, couldn’t go on those nights due to a class. City was originally going to be my beat, but Hedden mostly handled it. The most fascinating thing I experienced at City Hall was the special meeting between the planning commission and the downtown development board.
I thoroughly enjoyed my time at that paper. Met a load of interesting people, learned so much about journalism and fell deeper in love with reporting.
Here are 15 of the 53 stories I wrote for the Sun within a three-month period.
Model planes fly in for Toys for Tots – Nov. 28, 2015
Central Michigan University’s Finch Fieldhouse was buzzing from the many model airplanes and quad-copters flying around inside.
Mid-Michigan Radio Control Helicopter Association (MMRCHA) held their 5th annual Holiday Classic Benefiting the Toys for Tots Saturday.
The donated funds and toys go to the Marine Toys for Tots in Clare and Isabella County, according to club president Randy Gibson.
“We’re very fortunate to enjoy the modeling hobby and it breaks our hearts to think of a child waking up on Christmas Day with nothing under the tree,” Gibson said. “We like to do our part to help the kids in our community.”
Individualized Education workshop: The child’s needs come first – Nov. 18, 2015
When Sarah Cassavaugh decided to be a stay-at-home mom, it didn’t turn out as she had imagined.
Her son Sam wouldn’t communicate with her like a child would with his mother; instead he would throw chairs at her.
Several professionals told Cassavaugh over the years that there was nothing wrong with her son.
“He’s a boy. He’ll grow out of it,” they said.
It wasn’t until he began kindergarten that a teacher told them that something was indeed going on with him: Sam has autism spectrum disorder, a serious developmental disorder that impairs the ability to communicate and interact with other people.
Ladies’ Night Out lights up Downtown Mt. Pleasant – Nov. 15, 2015 (gallery included)
Katie Beck jumped out of her seat and screamed and waved her arm when her ticket number was announced.
She had won a gift certificate for Bucks Run Golf Club.
The Ashley resident had attended Downtown Mt. Pleasant’s Ladies’ Night Out for the last eight years, but this was the first time she had won something during the lottery draw.
This year she was in a group of seven; her mother, sister, aunts and cousins.
“It’s a good night out with the ladies,” Beck said. “Laughing, walking around downtown, having drinks, and I’ve never won before so I’m really excited. It’s also a great time to support the community and celebrate with friends, moms, sisters and aunts.”
Odyssey brings students to different learning path – Nov. 5, 2015
Mara O’Neil said she doesn’t know if she would have gotten her diploma on time.
When she was younger, she and her family moved around a lot, forcing her to switch schools.
From eighth till 10th grade, she missed so much in school she lost credit for her graduation requirements.
Generally, she started having anxiety about attending a big school.
Today, O’Neil is studying bio-chemistry at Central Michigan University and wants to apply to a PhD program so she can continue doing research in bio-chemistry or chem-biology.
O’Neil said at the age of 16, she attended Odyssey Alternative Middle/High School in the summer of 2007; two years later she graduated.
“I liked going to Odyssey a lot,” O’Neil said. “It was a good experience and it helped me grow as a person a lot and get me where I am.”
Paid actors help CMU’s future docs fine-tune skills – Nov. 4, 2015
By some accounts, Jim Kridler is in sad shape.
So is his wife Virginia.
With the dementia, depression, bum knees…
“We’re wrecks,” Kridler said.
Actually, they are not.
They just play wrecks for fun and cash – and to help make better physicians.
Both of the Kridlers are among a growing group of mid-Michigan area residents playing the part of patients for Central Michigan University’s College of Medicine.
With the enrollment of medical students growing, so is the need for mid-Michigan area residents willing to pretend being sick.
Medical school officials are accepting applications for more “standardized patients,” who must have flexible availability and be able to exactly follow a script.
Paralympic medalist Stephani Victor speaks at CMU – Oct. 30, 2015
Stephani Victor said she wasn’t going to let her diagnosis stop her from living.
The paralympic gold medalist co-presented at a workshop titled “Change and Transition: The dynamics of moving forward” at Central Michigan University Thursday afternoon.
She lost both of her legs when an out-of-control car veered into her driveway and pinned her against a car on Dec. 19, 1995.
For the next three years, Victor went through 12 constructive surgeries before trying out adaptive sports such as basketball, tennis and kayaking.
“Sports gave me freedom from the trauma at the hospital,” Victor said. “I just wanted to play.”
Harley Blake, manager of professional development programs, said Victor was visiting CMU to share her story in the context of change.
The workshop is one of seven sessions in the Leadership Excellence series, which serves to help people improve performance, time, and efficiency management.
Santa Claus Convention at reindeer farm – Oct. 25, 2015
4-year-old Trace Mandelstamn was all smiles when Randy Schneider put a red-and-green sticker on his hoodie that said, “I Met Santa Claus.”
On Saturday, the reindeer farm Rooftop Landing at 2706 E. Stevenson Lake Rd in Isabella County’s Vernon Township, held its third-annual Santa Claus convention.
Dave Aldrich, who runs the farm with his son Dan, said they were expecting over 50 Santas, plus a lot of Mrs. Claus’.
Almost all of them were from Michigan as well as MAPS, or the Michigan Association of Professional Santas. Others came from Indiana and Ohio and one had even come all the way from Virginia.
Schneider, who has been a Santa Claus for 16 years and even attended Midland’s Charles W. Howard Santa Claus School, said this event gives them a chance to mingle with all the reindeer and make sure they’re ready for flight.
CMU unveils new 3D printer labs – Oct. 23, 2015
There’s now a place where faculty and students can print items in 3D at Central Michigan University.
On Thursday, the university held its grand opening for the MakerBot Innovation Center, which features 33 MakerBot 3D replicator printers, in Wightman Hall.
Janet Hethorn, dean for college of communication and fine arts, said it’s a space for students and faculty to develop ideas and put them into action.
This large-scale 3D printing innovation center is the only one in the Midwest and one of the few in the U.S. with a focus on human services and arts, such as fashion design, according to Hethorn.
It’s a state of the art facility as well as a great example of what the university can do when the departments work together, she added.
Dale-Elizabeth Pehrsson, dean for college of education and human services, said they were in fact celebrating two completed projects during the event: The other one was for the merchandising lab in Wightman, where the grand opening ceremony took place.
Mt. Pleasant’s alternative education program opens doors – Oct. 21, 2015
About four years ago, Mt. Pleasant was at risk of having to shut down Oasis, its longtime alternative education program.
Superintendent Mike Pung said that the school district was lacking the state funds to cover the costs, each year running a $600,000 deficit – money that had to be taken from other programs.
The financial conundrum prohibited the district from serving as many students as officials wanted, and also made it difficult to do simple things like pay their staff or fund the staff’s health insurance and retirement.
Pung said the board recognized – and still recognizes – that alternative education fills a great need in the community for those with a wide variety of challenges to succeed in traditional classrooms.
CMU students hold suicide awareness workshop – Oct. 15, 2015
As two theater students shared their experiences with suicide with the people in the classroom, many sniffed and wiped their eyes.
On Monday afternoon, the Kappa Theta Cast of the theater fraternity Alpha Psi Omega (APO) held a suicide awareness workshop at Central Michigan University in Moore Hall.
Among those joining the talk were faculty co-adviser to APO Ann Dasen and two counselors from CMU’s counseling center, in case the discussion would emotionally trigger someone in the audience or if someone wanted to talk afterwards.
Dasen said APO are planning to hold more programs over the year, such as anti-bullying and social media workshops, in order to include different areas of interest and to give everyone a voice.
This following story is my all-time favorite. One, because it’s important, and two, I put over a week’s work into it, talking with state experts and reading various legal documents. It was definitely worth it.
Children poverty increase in Michigan after recession – Oct. 6, 2015
Since the recession, more children in Michigan live in poverty and/or have parents who lack secure employment.
Michigan ranks behind 32 other states, including every Midwest state, for overall child well-being, according to a biannual tally of living conditions facing children.
While the state’s unemployment rate is at its lowest since over a decade, many families are still struggling to take care of their children.
This year’s indicator places Michigan 33rd in economic well-being, 37th in education, 23rd in health and 29th in family and community. The latter category summarizes how many families are single-parent households, households with teen births and in how many homes have parents without high school diplomas.
Cameras keeps tabs on CMU campus – Oct. 4, 2015
If you’re in a public space on Central Michigan University’s campus, chances are a camera is watching you.
In all, CMU has 780 camera views looking around campus.
Campus police don’t count cameras, but views, said Detective Mike Sienkiewicz, which reflects that some cameras have a single lens with a single view, while others have up to four lenses to provide 360-degree views.
During the summer, they added 80 camera views in total.
A single-lens camera costs about $1,000 while a four-lens model can cost between $2,000-$2,500.
Police are only surveilling public places, not individual offices, bathrooms or other private areas, Sienkiewicz said, with a focus of covering busy places like Bovee University Center, the library, computer labs and the residence halls.
Tribe seeks to boot 233 Saginaw Chippewa members – Sept. 24, 2015
With the fresh approval of its appellate court, the Saginaw Chippewa Indian Tribe has reopened enrollment cases and notified 233 members – living and dead – that they now face disenrollment.
Attorney Paula Fisher, who has defended Tribal members facing removal in the past, said members have 30 days to request a hearing or face disenrollment.
The latest letters cap a lengthy legal battle in which the Tribe has sought to remove several families, including deceased ancestors, who trace their lineage to the original Tribal rolls through aunts, uncles and cousins and not through parents and grandparents.
According to the press release published on the same day the letters went out earlier this month, the Tribe now ask that the 233 appellants prove through lineal trace – through parents and grandparents – to prove they should remain on the Tribal rolls.
CMU business students ask for investment policy change – Sept. 23, 2015
By spring semester, Central Michigan University senior Troy Root hopes that business students can actively trade on the stock market and attract employers to campus.
Demands from his peers brought Root to the board of trustees’ finance and facilities committee meeting on Sept. 16 to ask for a policy change regarding the Segar Endowment Fund.
Awarded by Martha Segar in the early 1990s, the fund was created to help business students learn more about investment. The money was transferred to a brokerage account through which the students transacted their trades. While they had no transaction authority, they could provide recommendations and financial advice to their faculty adviser.
However, for the past three years, the student managed fund has remained obsolete.
Native American veteran gets headstone for Civil War service – Sept. 17, 2015
For 97 years, Pvt. Joseph A. Fisher has been buried in an unmarked grave in Woodland Cemetery in Rosebush.
On behalf of the Swartz Creek Area Historical Society, the Native American veteran has now received a Civil War headstone and will be recognized for his service in a grave dedication ceremony on Oct. 10 at 11 a.m.
A similar event took place in Chippewa Cemetery on June 11 for Joseph’s older brother, Madison, whose grave had also remained unmarked since 1906.
The historical society’s president, Len Thomas, said the issue came to their attention when members Kristie and Scott Potter, descendants of the Fisher brothers, pointed out that there were no official Civil War headstones in place.
“They’re veterans and they deserve to be honored,” Thomas said. “The emphasis is now on WWII veterans, because it’s more recent, but the Civil War veterans served our country too, and put themselves in harm’s way on our own soil.”