03-12-2020 Statewide 2019 high school graduation rates released Tri-City area schools among state’s

THE POKAGON FUND COLLABORATES WITH VANDERLYN COMMUNITY CENTER… Executive Director of The Pokagon Fund, Dan Petersen, presents a donation in the amount of $40,000 to Hartford Public Library Director Stephanie Daniels for the new Children’s Room. The dedicated space will contain a varied mix of technology and traditional books for the beginning reader, featuring everything from LEGO, a dollhouse and an Imagination Station packed with dress-up costumes to a state of the art “Touch Table” with digital interactive gaming for kids. When completely furnished the room will also contain cozy reading nooks along with its own furniture and restrooms all scaled to fit the library’s smallest patrons. Daniels reports the project is actually ahead of the June 2 target for completion thanks to the mild weather. Expect to see the ribbon cutting of the Art and Bonna Vanderlyn Community Center/Hartford Public Library sometime in the month of July. (TCR photo by Jon Bisnett)

Statewide 2019 high school graduation rates released Tri-City area schools among state’s best

How local schools match up By Jon Bisnett According to data released recently by the Michigan Department of Education and Michigan Center for Educational Performance and Information, 81.4% of public-school students who entered as freshmen in the fall of 2015 graduated on time by summer of 2019, on a statewide average. Across the board, our Tri-City schools fared better. Hartford Hartford High School led Van Buren County with a 99% on-time graduation rate, putting Hartford in the top 77 Michigan public schools with graduation rates of 98% or better. Of 80 students in the Class of 2019, after transfers in and out; 79 graduated on time. In their junior year, 10% of the Class of 2019 tested as fully college-ready based on their ACT scores. Fifty-eight percent of that class enrolled in some form of secondary education college by last fall. To note, the data that follows is not weighted in any way by socio-demographics, gender or ethnicity. The simple math; (which does factor for out of district transfers both in and out,) is expressed as a percentage of how many students entered the 9th grade and earned a high school diploma four years later. Watervliet Watervliet High School came in with a 96% graduation rate based on a count of 79 students that began as 9th graders in 2015, just missing the top list by two points, while carrying a 1% dropout rate. Coloma Coloma High School charts an 88% graduation rate, based on a count of 138 students that began as freshmen in fall of 2015. While the lowest number of the Tri-Cities schools, Coloma still exceeds the statewide average by 6.5%, despite experiencing an 8% dropout rate. Summary The good news is that high school graduation rates have been steadily increasing consistently since data was first collected in 2008, despite the adoption of more strict graduation requirements mandated by the State of Michigan in 2010. Prior to the Class of 2011, schools set their own graduation requirements. Half of Michigan students graduated without even taking algebra. In those days a sharp student could cover their full graduation requirements by the end of their junior year, allowing them to slide through their senior year with a schedule with much less-demanding electives. In 2008 the statewide was just 75.5%. Students now are mandated to take four years of English language arts; four years of math, with advanced algebra and geometry; three full years of social studies, and three years of science, including biology additionally opting for either chemistry or physics. It is further notable that three Southwestern Michigan schools made it into the elite top 27 on the list posting 100% graduation rates. A tip of the hat goes to Bridgman, Buchanan and Marcellus for their accomplishment.

VOTING… at Coloma Township Hall was only temporarily delayed after a visitor accidently drove their vehicle into the side of the hall. While the car and building were damaged, thankfully no one was injured. Due to a collaborative effort by the police department, some board members, North Berrien Fire Rescue personnel, and Coloma Public Works, voting was resumed in about an hour.

Van Buren proposals pass, Biden wins Dem. Primary

By Annette Christie Although it wasn’t a unanimous yes vote throughout Van Buren County, there were enough yes votes to pass the four proposals facing voters. The road millage renewal of 0.9769 mills; the public transportation renewal of 0.2471 mills; a new Veterans Services millage of .10 mills; and a Van Buren Intermediate School District Special Education millage of .9 for services provided to students with a disability were all approved. Democrat candidates for the Presidency Former Vice President Joe Biden won the State of Michigan in the presidential primary. Bernie Sanders came in with the next highest number of votes. A senator from Vermont since 2007, he has served in Congress since 1991. He unsuccessfully challenged for the Democratic nomination in 2016 but fell to Hillary Clinton. The 2020 Democrat National Convention will be held in Milwaukee in July 2020. Prior to that, individual state caucuses and primaries are held to allocate convention delegates. If no candidate reaches the number of delegates needed to be named the nominee, super delegates that come from party leadership will vote at the convention to select the nominee. The Democrat who receives their party nomination will face current President Donald Trump in November. Final voting numbers were not available at press time.

New Riverside Kayak Park and ADA compliant

launch opens this weekend

Izzy DiMaggio, Hagar Township Supervisor, announced that the launch at the Riverside Kayak Park, 3510 Coloma Road in Hagar Township, was scheduled to be reinstalled partway into the Paw Paw River on Wednesday, March 11, weather permitting. The work will be done by the same contractor from the Grand Rapids area that removed the launch last fall, and Berrien County’s new launch in Watervliet. The launch is expected to be available for the season starting this weekend, and remain open thru the end of the fall season. To protect this major investment, Best Practices suggested that the launch be brought in at the end of each season. To save costs, the installation of the Riverside launch will be coordinated with Berrien County’s Paw Paw River Park launch during the same day. The timing of this installation was based upon future weather patterns, availability of the contractor, and the numerous requests from residents and the general public. Supervisor DiMaggio encourages all kayak and canoe enthusiasts to take advantage of this new State of Art, ADA compliant, launch. The Riverside Park, also ADA compliant throughout, will also be open including the pavilion, picnic tables, grills, and vault toilets. For beginners or intermediate paddlers, DiMaggio recommends a beautiful, relaxing paddle from the Coloma/Watervliet area or the Bundy Road drop-in area, downstream to the Riverside Launch. He strongly discourages any downstream paddle from the Riverside Launch. This is a paddle for only the advanced paddlers, as the nearest dropout isn’t for at least 10 miles, and the Paw Paw River is not easily navigable at this point. There is a large, Trail Head sign at the entrance to the Riverside Launch providing excellent information on the Paw Paw River Water Trail, including the warning about the downstream situation. This park was developed with a $300,000 grant from the Department of Natural Resources, and the balance of the $500,000 plus with funds from the Riverside Downtown Development Authority.

Tri-City royalty vie for Blossomtime crowns this weekend

By Annette Christie

King and Queen royalty from the Tri-City area will be among all Southwest Michigan royalty as they vie for the Mr. and Miss Blossomtime crowns this coming Sunday and Monday.

The Blossomtime Pageant with the theme “The Greatest Show” will be held on Sunday, March 15, 2020 at 6:30 p.m. and again on Monday, March 16, 2020 at 7:00 p.m. Both events will be held at the Lake Michigan College Mendel Center. Sunday night features the Mr. Blossomtime Contest and the Showcase of Queens. Monday night will host the crowning of Miss Blossomtime.

Tickets for the event are still available and may be purchased by contacting the Blossomtime office at 269-982-8016 or emailing office@blossomtimefestival.org.


Sophia Tavolacci, Miss Watervliet will be vying for the title of Miss Blossomtime. The 17-year-old is a junior at Watervliet High School. She stands 5’6” and has blonde hair and green eyes.

Tavolacci participates in cross country and track. She is the recipient of the 2018 MVP award for cross country and has received the Academic of Excellence award in all core and fine arts classes in 2018 and 2019.

She volunteers for the Girls on the Run program, a food pantry, at U.S. Renal Dialysis Center, and as a peer to peer tutor for first graders.

Following high school, she plans on attending the University of Tennessee to major in medicine with hopes of becoming a pediatrician.

She is the daughter of Kellie Cearlock and Jeff Tavolacci.

Dylan Tucker, Mr. Watervliet, will be seeking the Mr. Blossomtime along with the other two members of his court. Tucker, 18, is a senior attending Watervliet High School. Following high school, he plans to go to college to pursue a career in Biomedical Science.

Tucker has received his varsity letter in football and baseball and has received the Panther Award for football. He is in the National Honor Society and Student Council and has received various awards in different classes. A previous Mr. Firecracker, he was also the Sunburst King and the Watervliet Snow Prince in 2015. Tucker is also part of the peer to peer group at Watervliet South School.

He volunteers at Midway Baptist Church, for the community Christmas celebration, Watervliet Recreation Council, Covert Recreational Center, and helps at various school events. He has completed over 400 hours of community service.

His parents are John and Tina Tucker.

Gus Hinch is first runner-up to Mr. Watervliet. He is the son of Josh and Kerrie Hinch.

The 18-year-old senior attends Watervliet High School. He is involved in National Honor Society, track, and cross country. He was named MVP in cross country in 2017 and 2018, was MIP for track in 2018, and was named First Team All-Conference for cross country in 2018 and 2019. He has been the Tri-City Record Press Box Player of the Week and has received various academic awards.

Hinch will be completing his fifth year in the Early Middle College program and then plans to graduate from a 4-year college university. He plans to travel the world and hopes to make a difference in his community.

Alex Isbrecht was named 2nd runner-up to Mr. Watervliet. He is the son of Tom and Kim Isbrecht. The 18-year-old senior attends Watervliet High School.

In high school, he is involved in wrestling, soccer, cross country, and track. He has been on the honor roll every year in high school. He was named the most improved player in wrestling, two years in a row. During the current season Isbrecht achieved 100 wins in wrestling.

Following high school, he will be attending Grand Valley State University to study computer science.


Destiny Chacon was crowned Miss Hartford 2020. The 17-year-old senior at Hartford High School has also attended Van Buren Technology Center to participate in EMT and Fire Science programs. Her future plans include attending college to become a registered nurse.

The daughter of Jacob Granados and Lashonda Yakel, she is a member of the volleyball team, softball team, and the Hartford Indian Emerald Vanguard Band. She is also a part of the sideline cheer and competitive cheer teams.

In her spare time, she volunteers for numerous events at Hartford High School.

Chacon has received academic all-state honorable mention in competitive cheer and first team academic All State for volleyball.

Elijah Ledesma will be representing the community of Hartford, seeking the Mr. Blossomtime crown. In his community contest, he was crowned first runner-up to Mr. Hartford.

Ledesma is a 17-year-old senior attending Hartford High School. His future plans include going to college to pursue a degree in law enforcement and to work for the tribal police department.

The son of Robert and Misty Ledesma, he is involved in football, basketball, and baseball. He has played indoor soccer and studied law enforcement at Van Buren Vo-Tech for one year.

Ledesma volunteers for various sporting events in the Hartford School District.


King and Queen for the community of Coloma are Lilly Trapp and Ian Ishmael, who will also hope to gain a Blossomtime title.

Lilly Trapp is a 17-year-old senior attending Coloma High School. The daughter of Michael and Danielle Trapp, she has one sister.

In high school she is involved in varsity singers, Chambers Choir, Serenade Choir, and Academic Challenge. She was the first runner-up to Miss Teen Coloma in 2018. She has been on the honor roll for all four years of high school and is a two-year member of the Michigan All-State Jazz Ensemble.

Trapp plans on taking pre-pharmaceutical classes at Southwestern Michigan College before transferring to Ferris State University to get her degree in pharmacy.

Ian Ishmael, 18, was selected as Mr. Coloma. He is a senior attending Coloma High School. His parents are Tim and Heidi Ishmael.

Ishmael is involved in Student Council, baseball, football, and wrestling. He is the treasurer of National Honor Society and is the Drumline Section Leader of the Marching Band.

He has been named the WSJM Student Athlete of the Week, is 1st Team All-Conference in Wrestling, and has achieved 100 wins.

Following high school, Ishmael will be attending the United States Naval Academy so he will be able to give back to this country.

The first runner-up to Mr. Coloma, Ethan Price, will also be seeking the Mr. Blossomtime title. The 17-year-old is the son of Ryan and Erika Price. He is a senior attending Coloma High School.

His hobbies include baseball, hunting, fishing, camping, kayaking, and golfing. He has received All-State honors for baseball, All-District twice, All-Region, and All-Conference three times for baseball. He has also received the Coaches Award and been on the honor roll.

He plans to play baseball at the next level and have a career as a carpenter.

The Blossomtime Contest will be held Sunday, March 15 and 16 at the Lake Michigan College Mendel Center.

Earlier this week Lake Michigan College sent out a notice to patrons and guests regarding the coronavirus. In it, they noted that even though there are no reported cases of Coronavirus COVID-19 in the State of Michigan, they are continuing to monitor the spread of COVID-19 in our country and around the world.

The Mendel Center staff and Lake Michigan College support services put the safety and health of the community as their top priority. They are committed to adapting their programming and cleaning practices in ways that minimize the transmission of germs in their building.

In the statement it said, “We are closely monitoring the recommendations of the Center for Disease Control, the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services, and the Berrien County Health Department to ensure sanitation procedures for our building are up-to-date and effective.” These efforts include adding more Purell dispensers and Lysol anti-viral wipe dispensers throughout the building; their custodial service is adding additional wipe downs for surface areas prior to performances and events. Extra wipe downs of “high touch” areas such as counter-tops, railings, and elevator buttons have also been instituted. Visitors are encouraged to bring their own wipes or use the additional wipes available for added sanitizing.