Ken George: The Importance of Storytelling

It’s just after 1 p.m. on a Friday afternoon. For most major news source journalists, the heat of a day’s work is in full swing. However, at a high school in Grand Rapids, the day is yet to begin for a different type of journalists.

A group of 15 to 20 students gather in one of the English classrooms at Forest Hills Central High School. Although their class, ranging from second-semester freshman to graduation-prepped seniors, is merely one hour long, the students are able to transform that space into their own unorthodox newsroom. The result is The Central Trend, the school’s student-run publication, which sees anywhere from four to 15 articles published per day. Not bad, considering the Trend has only been around for roughly two decades of the school’s almost 60-year existence.

At the forefront of the class is teacher Ken George (‘90). Although much of the publication’s success can easily be attributed to his teaching expertise, he likes the claim that he’s merely an advisor when it comes to the Trend.

“What they’ve created is phenomenal,” said George. “It’s their show, and I do think there’s something to be said for empowering kids in a student-centered situation where you give them the go-ahead to do things like this.”

There’s something for everyone on the Trend. Articles range from student profiles to opinion pieces to sports recaps of every team, regardless of level. At first glance of the website, it’s easy to forget that these are merely high school students performing at such a caliber.

A lot happened before George walked into the FHC principal’s office in 1997 to pitch his idea of a student newspaper. After his experience at Albion College, which included a double major in communications and English and a stellar basketball career — he holds records for the best three-point field goal percentage (.458) and season free throw percentage (.871), —  Ken went on to work in the public relations industry. It didn’t take him long, though, to realize that this may not have been his niche.

“I was driving home in rush hour one day wearing my suit and tie, and I realized that this just wasn’t me,” George explained. “I felt like I hadn’t impacted anyone that day or done any greater good for humanity. I was just going to work and coming home.”

That realization prompted George to return to Albion College, this time as the assistant director of admissions and a prospective teacher. Not long after Ken got his teaching certificate, he received a call from a counselor at Forest Hills Central informing him of an opening for an English teacher and varsity basketball coach position.

Fast forward to the present day, and it’s safe to say Ken George’s decision to become a teacher was quite the beneficial one. The Trend keeps its audience buzzing, and George himself recently retired from coaching after 24 years with a record of 341-192. His students, though, remain as one of his biggest sources of pride.

“I just think [the Trend] is about getting a whole group of kids to buy into a bigger picture,” he said. “And they have, which is phenomenal.”

One of those students who bought in is Hannah Kos, co-Editor-in-Chief of the Trend. Although she admits that George pestered her into joining the Trend, the overall experience is something she wouldn’t trade away.

“I’ve gotten to meet so many kids that I would never talk to otherwise, and it’s helped me see the unique talents and diversity of our school,” Kos explained.

Reena Mathews, Kos’ counterpart, echoed the same experiences.

“In most high school English classes, you’re kind of bound to a curriculum,” she said. “This class gave me more freedom and let me incorporate more writing into my everyday life, which I’ve appreciated.”

Both also concur on George’s dedication to his students. They cite his ability to get a group to buy into a common goal, along with his drive to make every individual the best that they can be.

Regardless of his students’ interests, Ken George believes that learning about and understanding the fundamentals of journalism can be beneficial to anyone.

“I just think journalism is telling stories about people,” he said. “And I think that the people that are in this class are better at it now than they ever would’ve been had they not taken it.”

Photo courtesy of Ken George

About Andrew Wittland 35 Articles
Andrew is a Junior who was born and raised in Grand Rapids, Mich. When he is not avidly writing for the Pleiad, you can find him running for the cross country and track teams or hanging out with friends around campus. His favorite sports teams include Michigan State football and basketball, any Detroit team, and Tottenham Hotspur FC

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