Mr. Booy's Blog

Discord to Harmony

Being Different and Enjoying It

The memories I have from when I was young all come from conflict. My mom and dad were never together. My mom was never home and every few years she had a different boyfriend. I was the middle child, but felt like the oldest. My older brother was schizophrenic, and my older sister lived with my aunt, so I was the only one home that could care for my younger siblings. Despite that, we never shared a special bond. They always let me know that I was “different.”

I had a hard time surviving school. I was bullied and lonely. I was surrounded by people I couldn’t trust who spent their time smoking and drinking. I started having suicidal thoughts.

Through the help of Urban Family Ministries, I moved in with a kind man named Dan. He could tell I wasn’t doing well and he had me spend two weeks at Pine Rest. I returned to school, and the depression returned as well. Dan thought that sending me to The Potter’s House would help, and in the middle of my eighth grade year I transferred schools.

People there were friendly, and it was weird to me. Every time someone walked toward me I wanted to say, “Get away from me.” I thought they were a little nosey. I made some friends but still struggled. I began spending most of my days sitting in Mr. Booy’s office, reading and talking to him about how angry I was with God and my family for putting me through so much trauma.

One of my greatest struggles was always feeling different. Things changed when I came to The Potter’s House. It’s a diverse place. Being here I saw that differences were celebrated and now I enjoy being different.

When I tell my story, many people ask, “How are you not in a gang or on drugs?” My answer is, “I don’t really know.” I believe being heard has been key to my healing. The Potter’s House is a good place to be when you’ve hit rock bottom. The people here are like trampolines, they bounce you back up.

This year I started researching the effects of child care in impoverished communities. I took a childcare class at KCTC, and I am a childcare worker at Roosevelt Park Ministries. Even though I love working with kids, my dream is music. I write lyrics and play guitar. I am fluent in Spanish, and incorporate that into my music. I have been accepted into Adrian College and I plan to study music there this fall.

We thank God for all He has done in Dearis’s life. We are grateful for the generosity of folks like you, who alot us the opportunity to serve students and their families, bouncing them out of discord into harmony.

Middle School Play

The 5th – 8th graders have been working tirelessly on the 2017 TPH production of Rodgers and Hammerstein’s Cinderella. Tickets are still available for tonight’s performance! There were only three showings, as the 10:00 am Matinee on March 9 was cancelled due to power outage at Godwin Heights High School. The cast and crew bravely moved forward and the final performance is TONIGHT at 7:00 pm at Godwin Heights Auditorium (50 – 35th St.) We hope you will be available to witness this delightful performance by The Potter’s House middle schoolers!

Tickets are $5.00 for an adult and $3.00 for students.

UPDATE: Growing Hope – Together Campaign


The Growing Hope – Together campaign has raised over $8.7 million in the Leadership Phase of the campaign! This amount brings The Potter’s House close to its original goal of $9 million for the first phase of the campaign. Among other needs, this included the completion of the new high school and gymnasium, which is scheduled to be finished by December 22, 2016!

There is much excitement as our attention is now focusing on the needs of our Elementary and Middle School. Thank you for playing such a pivotal role in the expansion and renovations taking place here at The Potter’s House. Today we thank God for His provision, and we thank God for YOU!  

Prayerful and grateful,

Your friends at The Potter’s House

TPHHS Construction Update 12-9-2016 from The Potter’s House on Vimeo.


28th Street Entrance




Bus Parking and Exterior of Administration Offices




Front Doors – 28th Street Entrance




Administration Offices




Interior of 28th Street Entrance – Corridor between Admin Offices and the Commons




The Commons – Facing South – 28th Street Entrance




The Commons – Facing North – Newport St.




The Courtyard – Facing South




The walkway to the Courtyard




Gymnasium Exterior



_mg_4341Gymnasium Interior – with new maple flooring ready for installation (Mezzanine in the upper level)




On Monday, August 1, a brief mid-construction site tour was given. The buzz of excitement was contagious.

Please continue to pray that God’s vision for The Potter’s House is carried out successfully, that the construction crew continue to experience safety and swiftness in their work, and please be praying for our students, staff, and faculty as they prepare for another school year.

Please note, we are working on an event that involves the entire Potter’s House community and hope to reveal that soon.

These are exciting times.

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When we are small, we all naturally look up to someone or something. We admire beauty and accomplishment, strength and humility. Here at The Potter’s House, our intention is to inspire our younger students to envision themselves as graduates, as future compassionate world changers. Ultimately, the goal is that they would grow to love and be like Jesus.

This year, The Potter’s House began a new tradition. On graduation morning, our seniors came to the Elementary/Middle school to walk through the hallways. They found themselves celebrated by rows of smiles and cheering students. It was especially touching to notice that many of our seniors walked in front of sisters, brothers, cousins, and children of family friends, waving and eager to give high-fives. This moving procession was joy filled and gave our youngsters a vision of their own futures.

The entire 2016 class graduated this year. This is no small achievement. In our local schools today there is little over a 50% chance that a student like ours will make it to graduation. In a world where heroes can be a bit challenging to find, we are proud that The Potter’s House staff and graduating students can be living examples, worthy of emulation.

Thank you to all of you who support The Potter’s House. You are also heroes. Our hope is that our alumni will follow YOUR example and be anxious to pour themselves into their future neighbor’s lives and communities.

A huge “Thank You!” to Rudy Malmquist (TPH Parent), for these fantastic photos of our procession!

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Grand Poems in Rapid Transit


This week, a few of our elementary/middle school students were honored at the debut of a new project called, Grand Poems in Rapid Transit.

Flying overhead,

the plane, big and beautiful.

I’m watching it fly.

Kate Staggs


skiing over the deep snow

in the winter white.

Malachi Verwys

Kate Staggs and Malachi Verwys are two of the six students honored. Their haiku will be placed inside 150 Rapid buses. Jacob Caballero, Lyvinia Anible, Julienne Sinzumunsi, Natalie Waalkes, Bethany Klop, Sofia Brinkerhoff, and Tori Jansma received honorable mention. Their haiku were mounted on posters and displayed at the kick-off event on Tuesday, April 12, 2016, at The Rapids Central Station.

The project explained

The project was organized by Lew S. Klatt, Grand Rapids Poet Laureate and Associate Professor of English at Calvin College. He did it  in collaboration with The Rapid, Grand Rapids Public Library, and the following schools and afterschool programs: Creative Youth Center, Grandville Avenue Arts & Humanities Cook Center, Living Stones Academy, Camp Blodgett Club at Alpine Elementary, and The Potter’s House.

Students participated in poetry workshops and each received a photo from the historical archive at the Grand Rapids Public Library that featured transportation in Michigan from the past 100 years. Students were asked to describe what they saw and they took those descriptions and turned them into haiku, which is a Japanese form of poetry that follows a 5 syllable, 7 syllable, 5 syllable pattern.

We are very proud of the accomplishments of our students. The next time you ride the Rapid, be sure to look for Kate and Malachi’s haikus.

Social Justice March

Last Thursday, March 17, The Potter’s House middle schoolers, middle school faculty, and administration participated in a silent social justice march, honoring the legacy of César E. Chávez.

Who is César E. Chávez?

In order to understand the significance of this walk, it is important to reflect on what César Chávez stood for and the symbol that he is today. César was an American farm worker, labor leader and civil rights activist, who co-founded the United Farm Workers union, UFW. The bulk of his activism focused on worker rights and made the largest waves from 1952-1976.

Chávez was an aggressive leader, but he balanced that with nonviolent means. His desire was to end the mistreatment and abuses experienced by farm workers. What Chávez did was make our nation take notice of this injustice.  As a Mexican American, Chávez has become one of the best known Latino American civil rights activists. After his death he became a symbol of support for workers and for Hispanic empowerment based on grassroots organizing.

Activities the day of the march:

The César E. Chávez Social Justice march started at 11AM, and began at The Potter’s House school at the corner of Grandville SW and Van Raalte Dr SW. The march headed north to The Edge Urban Fellowship, at 735 Ritzema Ct SW.

While students only participated in the march, the rest of the participants continued their day with a community gathering at The Edge Urban Fellowship, featuring Pastor “PE” Troy Evans. State Board of Education member Kathleen Straus was  also honored for her many years of dedicated service to education in the state of Michigan. The day ended with a unity luncheon at Maya Mexican Grill, 1020 28th St SW in Wyoming.

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Valuable Lessons

It’s always a great joy when alumni, on their own initiative, share with the school the impact that The Potter’s House has made in their lives. I would like to share a couple of recent statements from one of our former students, Kjh-Lajhni Sanford.

An excerpt from Kjh-Lajhni’s Facebook post:

“As I sit in the Detroit airport waiting for my flight to DC, I can’t help but think about the many people who have helped to get me to where I am today and helped to prepare me for the opportunities that I am getting ready to have. Some of the first names that come to mind are my many teachers at the Potter’s House (Miss Beth Vander Kolk, Mrs. Ritter, Mrs. Yeo, Mrs.Hudgins-Jones, Miss Betsey, and many other support staff, teachers, and my sponsor Dr. Abiade) who encouraged me to do my best in everything, to reach out for help when needed, how to give a firm handshake, and to find the beauty in the trial.”

Kjh-Lajhni’s grateful post was followed up by an extremely thoughtful, and much more detailed letter, reflecting on her time here. Read on:
“I attended Potter’s House K-9. During my time there I was dealing with understanding what it meant to have divorced parents who are remarrying and having kids. It was a stressful time for me and I never fully understood the adult world. The teachers that I had, from Mrs. VanderArk to Mrs. Sisco, and everyone in between, all took their time to see me as more than just the student with the weird name. Most of the teachers that I encountered in my time at Potter’s House taught me small lessons that completely changed my world, and I still find those words to be what keeps me standing in times of stress and need.

For example, Mrs. Ritter would always tell me, “It’s not the end of the world” and this morning while flying to DC, it felt like my world was ending because of the extreme changes I was getting ready to make in my life.

As I scoured for new places to apply I would remember Mrs. Jones telling me “You’re thinking too hard.” It was in this memory that I knew that God already knew where I was meant to intern I just had to follow his guidance and within days I received my internship placement.

One of the most important lessons that I learned at Potter’s House was how to give a handshake and have the confidence to look someone in the eye. This lesson has carried me through the many jobs that I have had, and set me apart in interviews from other candidates.

I am to this day an excessive planner, but now I know that my plans will only work so long as they align with God’s plan for me. I know that the work the teachers do at Potter’s House is not in vain, and I am always willing to stake claim to my time at Potter’s House. I learned so much that has brought me so far. A few moments ago I was talking with my Grandmother (who has been my sole legal guardian since I was 4) about my time at Potter’s House. We both agreed in saying that Potter’s House made me who I am, with the values that I have and that is the greatest gift a school can offer. But the best thing is that The Potter’s House doesn’t take the credit, instead they give it back the mighty creator who allowed for these experiences to occur. My time since Potter’s House has been as bumpy as it was before, but I lean on the lessons and guidance that the teachers of The Potter’s House gave to me.”

When I think of Kjh-Lajhni, I always think of her vivacious personality and I think of her grandmother who worked endless hours volunteering at the school. Today Kjh-Lajhni is a  senior at Calvin College studying International Relations. She will be completing her degree in May. We are proud of Kjh-Lajhni and are grateful for the time that she took to look back and give such kind and thankful words for our teachers and school. She informed us that she will be looking for employment with a non-profit, or an organization that works with children who come to the US illegally. We have no doubt that she will do well, whatever path she takes.


Alumni Video Campaign


Pull out your cell phone, tape a 10-90 second video and send it in to:!

Your videos will encourage our teachers and staff, and as time goes by, we will also use these videos to be an encouragement to our donors, and to spread the word about The Potter’s House. You may be invited to share your story at one of our banquets! We are proud of you, and it will be very meaningful to us to know what and how you are doing.


Please videotape yourselves at your place of business, preferably in your work attire. I.e. in front of your building, in the neighborhood that you serve, in your home, wherever you are spending most of your time.

Please tell us:
What you are doing now
How do you think The Potter’s House has helped you to serve God and society to your fullest potential

We are SO excited to hear from you all!

Ready, set… Go Pumas!

*(disclaimer: many phones need videos to be less than 25MB to send, so if the video is high quality, it may need to be closer to the 10-20 seconds, rather than the 90…unless you can export your video to a lower resolution to make it a smaller file size)

Please send us your videos by: