Spinal Column: Veterans Day is a time to honor our true heroes

By Sen. Mike Kowall
15th Senate District

This past Monday, Nov. 11, Americans observed Veterans Day. This solemn holiday reminds us of why we are such a great nation. We have been blessed by millions of loyal men and women who are brave, resolute and determined to do their duty, whatever the cost.

Veterans Day has its roots in World War I. In 1926, Congress passed a resolution to remember a specific moment in time: Nov. 11, 1918 at 11 a.m.—the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month. At that moment, the world rejoiced. After four years of bitter fighting, an armistice was signed to end World War I.

The 1926 resolution called for Americans to commemorate the day “with thanksgiving and prayer and exercises designed to perpetuate peace through good will and mutual understanding between nations.”

Our veterans are America’s true heroes. I want to thank them for working to strengthen and preserve peace in the world. Our values and our legacy of freedom, justice and liberty are safe today because brave men and women have been ready to put their lives on the line in our defense.

Yet the lesson our veterans have taught, repeated time and again on the pages of history, is that freedom never comes without a price and must not be taken for granted by any generation.

I can certainly speak for my colleagues in the Michigan Legislature when I say we strive to ensure that all veterans are treated with respect and dignity.

The state Senate recently approved legislation supporting our honorably discharged veterans by allowing them to use certain military training and experience toward professional licensure as an emergency medical technician, firefighter, boiler operator and stationary engineer, mechanical contractor, and residential builder.

The reforms recognize that military training is rigorous and worthy of counting toward comparable jobs in the civilian workforce.

We owe our freedoms to the men and women in uniform who put their nation before themselves. This is a common-sense way we can help them find work when they return home.

Another measure before the Legislature would allow schools to award a high school diploma to honorably discharged veterans who served in the Vietnam War instead of completing high school. And a bill on its way to be signed into law by the governor would provide disabled veterans and their spouses with some relief on the cost of owning their home.

Under this measure, veterans who have suffered total and permanent disability in service to our country would qualify for a full tax exemption for their homestead.

These are just a few of the ways the Legislature has worked to recognize Michigan veterans for their service. It is my sincere hope that every Veterans Day, all Americans will stop to consider how lucky we are, to remember the suffering and sacrifices endured by veterans, and to be grateful for all our veterans have done.

This column first appeared in the Spinal Column.  Senator Mike Kowall, R-White Lake, is the chair of the Senate Economic Development Committee. He serves the residents of the 15th Senate District, representing western Oakland County.

Novi schools tap into tech showcase at Capitol

From the Observer & Eccentric

Deerfield Elementary and Novi Woods Elementary were among nearly 30 schools in Michigan that participated in the 13th annual AT&T/MACUL Student Technology Showcase on Oct. 23 at the State Capitol Building in Lansing.
Students used computers and other electronic devices to show elected members of the Michigan State Senate and the House of Representatives how technology is being used in the classroom to facilitate learning. The projects covered a wide variety of learning areas including science, mathematics, social studies and language arts.
Taking part in the demonstrations locally were fourth graders, Katie Johnson, Kyle Dowd, Cameron Andrysiak, Lauren Trainor, and their teachers, JoAnne North and Myla Lee. Their one-year project focused on Project-Based Learning and Art and Technology Integration.
Another Deerfield team lead by Janis Canady, media specialist, and fourth-graders Carson Grant, Theodore Pispidikis, Aamir Hasan, Melanie Reagan and Lauren Wiacek demonstrated how iPads were used to research "The History of the Constitution" on Constitution Day.
The combined Deerfield and Novi Woods team of Heather Merte's fourth-graders, Prabhas Vunnam and Avni Kinra, and Becky Byrd's third-graders, Alexis Zielinski, Carter Tarkanyi and Charlotte Stoy, showed how blogging integrated literacy and technology in an authentic way.
The Showcase was sponsored by AT&T, Michigan Department of Education, and the Michigan Association for Computer Users in Learning (MACUL), an organization dedicated to bringing educators from all levels together to share their knowledge and concerns regarding educational uses of computers and technology.
Ric Wiltse, MACUL executive director, said that technology has joined the "three R's" as one of the basics of educating children. "Surveys show that students enjoy using computers, so they tend to get more involved with their projects and often do much better in school as a result," he stated.
For further information about the event, visit the MACUL website at www.macul.org.Novi Elementary Schools Participated in AT&T/MACUL

Sen. Kowall welcomes Father Ureel to Senate session

LANSING—State Sen. Mike Kowall, R-White Lake, welcomed the Rev. Wayne Ureel to the Michigan Capitol on Wednesday. Father Ureel (left) serves as pastor at Church of the Holy Spirit in Highland and gave the invocation before the start of the Senate session.

Note: Click the image for a print-quality version. This photo and others are also available by clicking the Photowire link, above.

Sen. Kowall welcomes high school choir to Capitol

LANSING—State Sen. Mike Kowall, R-White Lake (center), welcomed the West Bloomfield High School Laker Express Choir to the Capitol, where they performed in the Capitol rotunda.

Kowall’s guests also included the students’ parents, teachers and administrators from the high school, and the superintendent of the school district.

Note: Click the image for a print-quality version. This photo and others are also available by clicking the Photowire link, above.

West Bloomfield High Choir to Perform Nov. 5 in Lansing

From the West Bloomfield Patch

After hearing West Bloomfield High School's Laker Express choir perform the national anthem during a recent tour of the school, Sen. Mike Kowall (R-White Lake) invited the group, under the direction of Sheryl Hauk, to perform in Lansing on Election Day.
“I can't think of a better way to showcase the students of the West Bloomfield School District and of the 15th Senate District than to invite them to the Capitol to perform for the public and lawmakers alike,” Kowall said. 
The Laker Express will perform in the Capitol Building Rotunda at 12 p.m. The Rotunda rises 160 feet to an opening at the top of the inner dome. Called the oculus, or eye of the dome, it provides a glimpse into the vastness of the universe, represented by a starry sky.

State Sen. Mike Kowall ‘lights up’ West Bloomfield High School

From the Oakland Press

While taking a tour of West Bloomfield High School, Michigan State Sen. Mike Kowall, 15th District, visited 12 classrooms, including Mervet Ismail's Honors Chemistry class.
The senator was somewhat reluctant when Ismail asked him if he would like to light her hand on fire, but agreed to participate in the experiment. He appeared surprised when it ignited, but happy to have played a part in the demonstration – and nobody was injured.
As he toured classrooms ranging from ninth-grade Engineering Academy where students were learning to build bridges, to the Laker Express Honors Choir who performed the National Anthem under the direction of Sheryl Hauk, he stated, "I have been looking forward to visiting West Bloomfield High School to see first hand why it is consistently ranked among the best in our nation."
Principal Tom Shelton, Assistant Principal Mara Hoffert, Arthur Ebert and Pat Watson all joined the senator as he toured classrooms, including the high school's state-of-the-art television studio where Ashley Teffer teaches the school district's popular video journalism course. In the advanced marketing classes, students get a true sense of the common principles of the marketing mix, such as product, price, place and promotion in the school's own store, Laker Landing. Kowall walked out in true Laker Pride fashion as he donned a Laker baseball cap from teacher Eric Pierce.
He shared stories along the way of his own education and broad background, stating that he originally wanted to be an archaeologist because he enjoyed digging rocks when he was young, then later became certified in hydraulics and could have gained employment in Avionics.
The senator asked Counselor Lisa Graff a rhetorical question, on how we help kids decide on a career at the young age of 15 years old. She shared some of the unique programs that the school district has to offer, such as the political leadership where students get to work with professionals such as judges and attorneys, or the medical mentorship program, where they are able to shadow doctors at Henry Ford Hospital to help them decide if they are truly interested in that field or perhaps not cut out for it.
Kowall believed that "constant exposure is one of the best concepts we can offer." Assistant Principal and Athletic Director Pat Watson also noted that "we have a multitude of athletic activities for students to choose from as well and now have our own equestrian team."
West Bloomfield High School offers 24-advanced placement classes, more than most other high schools in the state. The senator commented that "most districts around the nation can't hold a candle to what we're doing in Oakland County and the schools in my district."