Dowagiac schools celebrate December Students of the Month

Published 5:44 pm Thursday, January 18, 2024

DOWAGIAC — Six local students have been selected for recognition by teachers and faculty for their outstanding performance in school this December.

Nominated by teachers and faculty from their respective schools in the Dowagiac Union Schools district, Brianna Willis, Gaia Ruiz, Ella Samuel, Kirsten Smith, Jacob Villegas and Charles Shreve received plaques and T-shirts with their names on them for their accomplishments and attitudes in the classroom.

Villegas is a freshman at Union High School. He enjoys wrestling, working at McDonald’s and spending time with family. After graduating, Villegas said he would consider attending the police academy, joining the military or becoming a mechanic.

“Not only is Jacob successful in his classes but he also balances everything on top of wrestling team responsibilities and his job outside of school,” said Villegas’ social studies teacher Jessica Kean. “In this semester’s reflection assignment in SOAR, Jacob wrote that he has grown as a student by practicing better sleeping habits and not giving up. I have seen his determination to grow in all facets of his life throughout this whole semester.”

Smith is an eighth grader at Dowagiac Middle School. She said what she loves most about Dowagiac Middle School is her teachers.

“They’re really nice despite what some other people say and they’re really helpful.”

She also said she enjoys the special activities and events that are put on by the school for students, “especially activities nights, fun Fridays and the honors breakfast.”

I nominated Kirsten because she is a leader in class,” said Smith’s art teacher Andrea Hatter. “She leads by example, by working hard to complete her assignments and also following instructions to the best of her abilities. Kirsten also has a positive attitude that spreads to others around her quickly. She is always willing to assist others and myself in the classroom when she has completed her assignments as well.”

Ruiz is a second grader at Patrick Hamilton and was nominated by her teacher Shelley Kurland. She is an avid Swifty – a Taylor Swift fan – and enjoys spending time with her grandmother and playing soccer. She has goals to join the cheer team one day and would like to be a teacher when she grows up.

“Gaia is very inquisitive and asks lots of questions,” Kurland said. “She was always the first student with her hand off to answer a question. She is very caring and concerned for others and wants everyone to be fair. She is a problem solver and always wanted to help her friends. She tells great stories and always has us laughing in class. If the class gets distracted, though, she helps us get right back on track. She’s a great role model for being a Chieftain hero in the classroom.”

Samuel is a second-grade student at Justus Gage and was nominated by her teacher, Briana Quist. She enjoys spending her free time at her grandmother’s house and her favorite subject is reading. She loves art and loves to paint as well. When Samuel grows up, she wants to be a veterinarian because she wants to make animals feel better.

“Ella was chosen to be the Student of The Month because she sets an example for other students on how to follow school-wide expectations and shows other students how not to give up,” said Principal Brian Henry. “She is always willing to lend a helping hand to Ms. Quist and her peers. She always follows directions quickly and participates during all lessons each and every day. She keeps Ms. Quist on her toes. If Ms. Quist forgets to do something, Ella’s quick to remind her. She always tries to make others laugh and feel included. She is a very high achieving student.”

Willis is a second grader at Kincheloe and was nominated by her teacher Melissa Lillie. She loves to read and enjoys art. She takes hip-hop, she takes hip-hop, lyrical, acro and gymnastics in the summer.

Brianna’s a wonderful example of what it means to be a Dowagiac hero,” said Principal Ryan Zietlow. “She walks in daily, beaming with a smile and ready to learn. Brianna sets a great example for her classmates. If I ask her to partner or help another student, she doesn’t hesitate to help. She is a great friend and shows caring and compassion for others.”

Shreve is a second grader at Sister Lakes and was nominated by his teacher Megan Burghhardt. 

“Charlie is an absolute joy to have in class,” Burghardt said. “He is an excellent student with great enthusiasm for learning. Charlie enjoys many subjects, including language arts, math and art… In addition to his love for learning, Charlie is a great friend to all his classmates. He always is kind to peers and actively looking to help others academically in the class. Charlie is a wonderful student and I am privileged to have him in my classroom.”