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Hope Academy of West Michigan to open in 2011

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WZZM)- A former Catholic school in Grand Rapids is getting new life.  Wedgewood Christian Services announced Friday that will transform the former St. Francis Catholic School into a specialized school for at-risk youth.  The new charter school will be called Hope Academy of West Michigan and will serve all grades.

Wedgewood says there will be no charge to attend the school, which is authorized by Ferris State University.

The new facility will create 22 full-time and part-time jobs.

Hope Academy of West Michigan will open in the fall of next year.

Children take a stand against violence in Grand Rapids

GRAND RAPIDS (WZZM)-  A group of Grand Rapids area youth are taking a stand against violence.

They performed at Lamb of God Church Saturday afternoon. They say their message is not only for those making poor choices, but to also highlight those on the right path.

"Taking a Stand Against Violence" was an idea that started taking shape in February. But in light of the recent summer violence, those involved say the message is just as important now as ever.

Dressed as soldiers, the Holy Steps and the Anointed Step dance groups say they are in a war.

Performer Natasha Garcia explains, "I hope the message gets across that there's more out there than gang violence and other things for young kids to do instead of out running the streets all the time."

Grand Rapids Public Schools hosting park parties

GRAND RAPIDS (WZZM)-For the first time ever, Grand Rapids Public Schools will host a series of back to school park parties.

"The idea here is we're going to have live entertainment, music, kids games, free hot dogs, snacks and water," explained district spokesman John Helmholdt. "There's also going to be a series of information booths for G.R.P.S. [and] also community partners."

The first park party will take place Monday from 4 p.m. to 7 p.m. at Clemente Park. Another will happen at the same time Tuesday at Martin Luther King Junior Park. Then next Monday and Tuesday, two more park parties are planned for Aberdeen Park and Lincoln Park.

Park Parties begin for Grand Rapids students

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WZZM)- The first of four back to school parties for the Grand Rapids Public School District was held Monday night at Roberto Clemente Park.

The free parties are open to the public.  They include free hot dogs, chips and refreshments.  Participants can also enter free raffles for backpacks, school supplies and gift cards.  Parents can visit the information booths to learn more about the schools.

Superintendent Dr. Bernard Taylor says, "It's about parents, the community, the school district coming together to build the support out kids need to thrive academically."

The Southeast Park party is Tuesday from 4 - 7p.m. at Martin Luther King Park.  Parties for the northeast and northwest sides will be held next week.

Free shoes to be distributed to thousands of students

GRAND RAPIDS (WZZM)- Thousands of West Michigan students will be starting off their school year on the right foot thanks to the kindess of strangers.

The non-profit organization "In the Image" is hosting it's annual "S.H.O.E.S." program. S.H.O.E.S. is an acronym for "Shoes Help Our Elementary Students."

This year a record number of shoes will be handed out.

It's been almost a year since Jay Starkey took on the role as Executive Director at In the Image. He says he knows firsthand about the need for the S.H.O.E.S. program and he's worked to expand it.

Brutal schedule awaits Jenison

Georgetown Township, MI. (WZZM) The Jenison Wildcats might have the toughest football schedule in the state of Michigan in 2010. It certainly will rank among the hardest anywhere on the west side of the state.

The Wildcats open the season Thursday night against four-time defending state champion East Grand Rapids. They then face perennial playoff team Caledonia before opening their always-tough O-K Red schedule against Rockford. Games against 2009 playoff teams Grand Haven and Muskegon also await.

But Irv Sigler says his returning players are faster and stronger than last year and that practices have gone very well this month leading up to this week's opener.

Catch highlights of Jenison and East Grand Rapids this Thursday night at 11pm on WZZM 13 or at highschoolsports.net

Excel Academy holds scavenger hunt to help new kindergartners

GRAND RAPIDS (WZZM) - Going to school for the first time can be scary for some children, but Excel Academy created a fun way for students to get to know their new surroundings. Rather than a traditional walk through the school, incoming kindergartners took part in a scavenger hunt Tuesday morning.

By following a map across school grounds, students met their teachers and became familiar with the school's classrooms and offices.

The event also helped acclimate the parents.