Members of the student group Refugee Outreach Kalamazoo at Michigan State University show up to cheer on the Newcomers youth soccer team.

Lansing area provide supports for hundreds of refugees

More 4,900 refugees have been resettled in Michigan so far in 2016, including 864 in the Lansing area, according to the U.S. State Department’s Refugee Processing Center.

That’s up from 2,714 refugees statewide in 2015, and 611 in the Lansing area.

The growth comes despite criticism of some refugee re-settlement programs. During the campaign, President-elect Donald Trump pledged to shut off immigration from Syria to stop terrorists from slipping into the country.

Yet local refugee services groups say they’re committed to continuing to help people fleeing their homelands.

Principal Les Key of Hamady High School near Flint, Michigan, has been an advocate for efforts to fix the city's lead-contaminated water system.

Flint advocate: ‘You can live poor, but you don’t have to live dirty’

Les Key says he is on a mission to help Flint’s youth overcome the city’s struggles. Key is principal of Hamady High School, with is just outside the city. He said half of his students live in the city of Flint, which has been in a state-declared financial emergency since 2011. In 2014, as part efforts to resolve its budget deficit, the city switched its water supply to the more corrosive water of the Flint River, which damaged the city’s water infrastructure and caused lead to leach from the system’s pipes into the water supply. Spartan Newsroom: If you could sum up the attitude of Flint toward politics what would you say? Les Key: When it comes to our city, we just want justice.

Student refugees, humanitarian leaders and musicians took the stage together on Nov. 13, 2016 at the MSU Cook Recital Hall.

Storytelling concert puts local refugees on stage

On Nov. 13, students, professors and musicians took the stage at Michigan State University’s Cook Recital Hall to share experiences about what it is like to be a refugee. Emily Worline, founder of the nonprofit Refugee Outreach Kalamazoo, said the goal of this storytelling concert was to help demolish the divide between refugees and other Americans. Worline said her experience volunteering in Greece drove her to start the nonprofit group. While overseas, Worline said she was overwhelmed by the generosity from refugees who expected nothing back in return. “They fed me, they thanked me, they gave me their last fork and they went without and yet I knew that I did nothing for them,” Worline said.

Gabriel Arroh laughs about whether he minds getting sweaty. "No," he said, "it means it is working."

Are students paying more attention to their diets?

Michigan State University Extension Food Educator Joyce McGarry said she has noticed a growing number of college students taking an interest in what they eat. That’s welcome news given reports about the overall health of the state. In 2015, Michigan had the 16th highest adult obesity rate among U.S. states, according to The State of Obesity, a collaborative project of the Trust for America’s Health and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. “They understand the benefits of eating healthy,” McGarry said of MSU students. “I do think they understand it better than some older people.

Clinton-Trump graphic

Trump wins the race as Michigan keeps counting

By 3 a.m. ET, Hillary Clinton had conceded, Donald Trump had declared victory and Michigan was still trying to find its winner. Michigan remained one of the few states where the winner was undeclared as Trump achieved the 270 Electoral Votes needed to win the presidency. At 8:25 a.m. Wednesday with all but seven precincts in Genesee County, Donald Trump led Hillary Clinton by 12,488 votes.

How a local family feels about the change in trends for children’s holiday gifts

Professor in Advertising and Public Relations Dr. Pat Huddleston said there has been a dramatic change in when holiday advertising begins. “I think it was Best Buy that was the first big one to stay open for Thanksgiving,” said Huddleston. “Other stores feel like they need to meet the competition, so we started seeing Sears and Kohl’s and JCPenney staying open as well.”

Local father of three from East Lansing Todd Vanderbur says his kids’ Christmas wish lists are always changing, and shopping for all of them has created a diverse shopping cart. “My kids range in age from 24 to 13,” said Vanderbur. “The 24-year-old wants tires for his car, 21-year-old wants a new car and my 13-year-old, Addy, wants a hedgehog.”

While Addy may not have asked for a fancy gadget for Christmas this year, Vanderbur says that is only because her phone takes care of most all her gadget needs, or wants.

All-of-Us Express Children’s Theatre perform "Alice in Wonderland" at the Hannah Community Center in 2015.

‘Through the Looking Glass’ entertains and inspires audience, cast

People gathered into the theater at Hannah Community Center to catch the last performance of the Alice in Wonderland spinoff performed by the children of All-of-Us Express Children’s Theatre. Artistic Director Sarah Willis says the All-of-us Express Children’s Theatre is more than just reading lines and dressing in fun costumes. Willis, who went through the program herself, says the best part is the life skills developed in the end. “You’re growing up and you’re learning responsibility and teamwork and how to get along with people and you’re also learning theater skills and you’re gaining confidence and all of those great things,” said Willis, “and those are what build community members.”

Willis said that while there are students who manage to play a sport and do the plays, she sees the opportunities for students who are not sports-oriented. “This is a place people who don’t fit in other places who aren’t athletic or who don’t want to be on the debate team — they have a place to go,” said Willis.

Getting to know new members of City Council

The election of three new members in City Council took a surprising turn as Mark Meadows, Shanna Draheim and Erik Altmann swayed votes and won over residents with their experience, rapport and dedication to the city. Meadows, who has served on City Council for 11 years and as mayor for eight, said he is eager and prepared to get to work on resolving issues the ity is facing. Meadows said this familiarity stems from his involvement in many local government committees. These committees include the New Economy Committee, the Local Government Committee and Tax Policy Committee. Meadows also chairs the Health Care Reform Committee with a focus on retiree health benefits, which he says is a huge problem that the city is struggling with.

State pushes to make retention of students decided by standardized test score

“The actual cost of keeping a child for an additional year is an added strain to the district.” said East Lansing Schools Trustee Karen Hoene. “We have kids who are struggling,” said Hoene. “We see dropout rates increasing the more students are retained.”

The amendment of this house bill adressing young student retetion was a great topic of concern at the last East Lansing Public Schools board meeting, where Central Administration debated amending House Bill 4822 —  which states third graders must pass state reading assessments to move up in grade. Hoene said she likes the development side of the bill, but there is not enough funding to back it up, and fears it will end up hurting kids more that are struggling the most if the amendment passes. “Kids are already so stressed in our test-driven culture, we do not need to add the fear of retention to their shoulders.”

Hoene says the decision of whether or not to retain a student should be made between the teacher and the parent of the student and not to be left up to a standardized test score.

Big home games mean celebration for residents and East Lansing party stores

Saturday home games in East Lansing are a time to halt everyday worries and unite for a common goal — celebrating in hopes of a Spartan win. Luckily for local party stores, this means for many people consuming large quantities of alcohol. Spartan Spirits cashier Jane Ames said there are few days busier than those surrounding a big game. Ames said the most popular liquor sold on game-day weekends at her location is the Burnett’s half gallon because it yields the most alcohol for its price at around $20. “It seems like it is mostly the fraternities and sororities that will come in looking for the large quantities,” said Ames.