Here is our weekly salute to the people, places and organizations that make Northern Michigan a special place to live.
Dennis Jessick of Harbor Springs and Rick Hoig of Pellston bring the underwater crucifix in Little Traverse Bay into view for hundreds of area residents every winter.
Jessick and Hoig organize the annual public viewing of the monument, which is located about a quarter mile from shore off the Petoskey waterfront. They cut a hole in the ice above the crucifix so the public can see the monument which lies 21 feet beneath the surface and serves as a memorial to divers who have lost their lives, shipwreck victims and victims of other water-related fatalities.
On Saturday, March 2, more than a thousand people lined up from the clock tower to the red and green tent a quarter mile out on the ice for their chance to catch a glimpse at the underwater crucifix. Many waited more than two hours for their chance to peer into the depths of Little Traverse Bay.
The annual viewing is " ... for the non-diving general public," Jessick said. "They are given the opportunity to go out there and check something out that's very historical."
A winter crucifix viewing opportunity has been offered every year since the mid-1980s, with the exception of the occasional year Mother Nature chose not to cooperate.
We thank Dennis Jessick and Rick Hoig for their efforts again this year.
Be my buddy
Empathy and acceptance is the core of a new peer buddy program at Lincoln Elementary School in Petoskey.
Lincoln LINKS pairs students with fellow students who have been perceived as "different" because of medical conditions or social issues. Together, they work to understand each other for who they are and to accept each other's differences.
"Kids who are perceived as different are singled out for bullying by other students, when their peers don't understand the differences," said fifth-grade teacher Dara Iwankovitsch who is helping coordinate the program. "In this program, peer buddies, or LINKS, gain a better understanding of why a targeted student is different, and why he may have acted a certain way. Then, the LINKS provide support for the targeted students."
"I remember growing up and there was always a stigma attached to being different, as though it were a bad thing," Iwankovitsch said. "With this program we say, 'Yeah, everyone has differences. Let's help one another.' It gets rid of the negative stigma and helps kids learn to build upon each other's strengths while helping one another."
The Lincoln LINKS program was piloted last year in Iwankovitsch's classroom to help a student with autism spectrum disorder. This proved to be such a success that it was decided to expand the LINKS program school-wide this year.
LINKS helps students develop self-confidence and problem-solving skills which leads to understanding and the acceptance of differences -- all foundations for success.
For students, by students
East Jordan High School now has a special place for students that has been designed and created by students.
The cafeteria and commons area at East Jordan High School is no longer a drab room with boring beige tables. It's a bright red and white cafe-style area filled with comfortable tables and booths, complemented by a new sound system that fills the room with pop music as students enjoy eating, studying and socializing.
The updated area is the creative work of five East Jordan students -- Nicole Jackman, Stephanie Buckholz, Collin Farmer, Elena Masser and Josh Johnston. These teens were recruited in October by their school superintendent Jon Hoover to spearhead the makeover project.
"Our whole goal here is to build student leaders," said Hoover. "When you give these outstanding young people responsibility and authority, their true leadership shines through."
The students were in charge of everything from meeting with the designer to making all the decisions in regard to what the commons area would finally look like. All of their choices had to fit within the budget they were given. They visited other schools and colleges to get ideas, designed the layout of the area on computer and even helped paint the area in the rush to have it ready for students and staff the Monday after Valentine's Day.
The result is a modern commons area that's not just a place for school lunches, but a place where students look forward to stopping by to study and socialize. The area is open 7 a.m.-8 p.m. every weekday, has wireless Internet and offers snacks and deli sandwiches.
Nicole, Stephanie, Collin, Elena and Josh are to be commended for creating such a special place for East Jordan High School students both today and in the future.
Eye on invention
An Ellsworth High School graduate is making his mark in the eyewear market.
Twenty-one-year-old entrepreneur Tyler Essenberg is the creator of the new g-raps, decorative silicone band that fit around the temple area of eyeglasses. The g-raps personalize eyeglasses. They can make a fashion statement, support a charity, or show allegiance to a university. Examples of g-rap designs include pink bands inscribed with the word "Believe" -- a portion of these sales benefit breast cancer charities; as well as hunting-themed variations and popular university colors. Essenberg said he hopes to establish a larger selection of university-themed bands with licensed logos.
Unlike other wearable items, Essenberg noted people often put on the same pair of glasses day after day without a way to freshen the look. This observation triggered a problem-solving interest that Essenberg, a student at Davenport University in Grand Rapids, said he's had since childhood.
Thus, was born the idea of g-raps. He and his partner, Calvin Beeke, a former Davenport student, worked together to create the decorative silicone bands which began hitting the market this winter.
"We've been on the market a few weeks, less than a month, and we've sold a few thousand," Essenberg said.
"Everything's made in Michigan," he continued. "The product is made in Grand Rapids, the packaging is made in Grand Rapids."
So far, g-raps have been offered for sale mainly at west Michigan eye doctors' offices, but Essenberg is looking to line up similar offices in Northern Michigan as retail sites. They are also available via his website, www.g-raps.com. Essenberg said the business also is in discussions with a distributor that could help arrange access to chain retailers.
Essenberg's g-raps is an invention sure to catch on.
We're pleased to see Petoskey City Council remaining so involved in the dormant Petoskey Pointe construction site.
In its efforts to keep the giant hole in downtown Petoskey safe, council enlisted the expertise of engineering firm C2AE.
Soil & Structures, an engineering firm working on behalf of Petoskey Pointe site owner Northwestern Bank, presented a plan earlier this winter for shoring up the retaining wall lining three sides of the site, but C2AE's study of the site resulted in a differing option. C2AE recently reported it did not expect the Soils & Structures plan to resolve some of the erosion concerns existing along the wall. C2AE believes the partial hole filling wouldn't eliminate the need for some of the anchors attaching the upper part of the wall to the surrounding earth. These anchors have exceeded their intended life span.
After receiving a report from city manager Dan Ralley about C2AE's findings, Petoskey City Council members reiterated their position that the Soils and Structures plan fell short of meeting their expectations.
Ralley said the city's next step in dealing with site questions will be to arrange a meeting with Northwestern Bank representatives and find out whether they agree with C2AE's findings.
Along with assuring long-term wall stability, council member Jeremy Wills said there are concerns to be resolved about the presence of Petoskey Pointe's perimeter fence, such as encroachment on city sidewalks, aesthetic issues and potential visibility obstructions for motorists making turns at nearby intersections.
Mayor Bill Fraser said the site's appearance presents "a blight on the whole community," and that a timetable needs to be established for resolving problems there.
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Our View: Salute for week of March 11
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