Phone: (616) 786-2050

The West Ottawa Story: Panther Award

May 27, 2016 –  At the West Ottawa High School Convocation this past week, senior Felix Payan was honored with the Panther Award.  This award is given to a student who has overcome great obstacles to reach the graduation stage, and Felix is a well-chosen recipient.

From a research and statistical perspective, Felix should not be graduating, and in fact he didn’t think he would as he refused to sign the graduation pledge as a 9th grade student.  He knew his home life was difficult with Mom working many long hours to support the family and Dad who was either abusive or absent.  In addition to his family’s financial stress, he also had language barriers to overcome as a native Spanish speaker.

Faced with many challenges, Felix looked for help and found it in the form of a middle school peer named Camden who befriended him and whose family Felix credits as “just being good people.”  Felix also found support from staff who challenged him to take advanced classes and supported him through the workload.  Eventually, Felix decided he would not be what the statistics said he should, and he found success.

This past year, Felix has paid this forward by mentoring middle school boys.  Yesterday, he proudly graduated and heads into a tomorrow at Ferris State University, expenses paid.  And at Convocation this past week, Mr. Tulgestke gave him a second chance to place his name on the graduation pledge.

To a standing ovation, he signed.


You may view the full presentation of his award below:

Gregory D. Warsen
Asst. Supt. for Employee Relations and Marketing
West Ottawa Public Schools
Phone: 616-786-2061
Twitter: Greg Warsen@WO_Marketing

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