Grace Clinger finds community in everyone around her


The word “community” has multiple, varying definitions. Some say that it means a whole society working together, while others will tell you that it’s individual people linked by some type of force or motive. While the actual definition may be up for debate, there is one thing that remains constant: senior Grace Clinger is able to find a sense of community in almost any group of people.

Whether it be a sports team, a school, or a new and unfamiliar activity, Grace uses her friendly nature and outgoing personality to make sure everyone, including herself, feels at home.

“I try to talk to as many people as I can in my classes, and I also really like trying new things and bringing my friends out to try new things with me.” Grace said, “I especially like to do a lot of active things outdoors. I also challenge myself academically; I’m going to the University of Michigan next year, and I’m super excited about that. I’ve wanted to go there forever.”

Grace didn’t always possess this bubbly, warm persona that she portrays today, though. According to her, before she joined the crew team she was an entirely different person; she describes herself as shy and much less gregarious.

“I joined the crew team freshman year and I became friends with [senior] Jayla Williams; she’s super well known around the school for being one of the nicest and most outgoing girls in our grade,” Grace said. “I would say that she has had the most impact on my life; she was really the one that brought me out of my shell. After we became friends I started to want to talk to other people; I started being more outgoing and nicer as well.”

The people on the crew team allowed her to branch out of her comfort zone, and this is one contributing factor to why Grace considers being a part of crew to be one of her favorite and most memorable times of high school.

“I’ve enjoyed [being on] the crew team the most throughout high school,” Grace said. “Every year it allowed me to get to know a bunch of people in lots of different grades: guys and girls. It’s a very supportive community, and everyone is so comfortable being themselves there. The memories and jokes that we make during the out-of-town regattas are one of a kind. [The crew team] has really made my high school experience full.”

Despite the fact that crew helped Grace to discover who she is today, it isn’t the only part of her life that caused this. Camp Newaygo, an all-girls sleepaway camp that she has been going to for the past eight years, helped Grace uncover the part of herself that is more attracted to the rural outdoors.

“[Camp Newaygo] gave me a passion for nature that I plan on continuing in college by studying something that helps the environment,” Grace said. “It also gave me a large, supportive group of girls and friends all across Michigan, as well as throughout the United States. We all just connect and create a close group of friends there.”

Camp Newaygo, a community comprised of solely girls and women, was yet another step on the staircase to Grace’s overall self-discovery.

“I think of [camp] as the first thing that brought me into who I am,” Grace said. “It brought me out of my shell and taught me that I’m important and that I like to have fun and laugh. Then, after I stopped going to Camp Newaygo, I started doing crew. Crew was the next level of my life when I became ever more outgoing, and I expect college to be the next thing too.”

While both crew and Camp Newaygo forged communities within Grace, in the end, the true community in her life comes back to her home. For her, Grand Rapids is her ideal place to live. She has loved living here for the past 18 years and, after adequately exploring other towns and cities, she hopes to return back here in order to raise a family of her own.

“Since I’ve lived [in Grand Rapids] all my life I’m pretty ready to move on and see the world,” Grace said. “We are in a bit of a bubble [in Forest Hills]. Even though Grand Rapids gave me a really good foundation of people to know and lessons to learn, I’m excited to move on and go to college.”

“Forest Hills gave me an idea of what I want in a community and how to make a community out of a group of people that maybe didn’t initially have that much in common.”

— Grace Clinger

Within the community of Grand Rapids lies the community of Forest Hills. Especially in the central district, Forest Hills cultivates a reputation of a tight-knit, close, community of friends and family alike. Throughout the past 15 years of schooling that Grace has had, she can confidently say that Forest Hills feels like home to her.

“Growing up in Forest Hills gave me a sense of what a community is,” Grace said. “FHC puts a big emphasis on things like being Ranger Strong, having Ranger Pride, and feeling like a family. I think [the student body] gets really close. I feel comfortable anywhere in the school, and it just feels like home here because of all the great people. I would say Forest Hills gave me an idea of what I want in a community and how to make a community out of a group of people that maybe didn’t initially have that much in common.”

In general, Grace possesses the skill to create a community with people around her in whatever she does. Whether it be crew, camp, school, or Grand Rapids and all it has to offer, one thing can be said for certain: wherever life takes her next, Grace will always be able to attract wonderful people to her with her warm soul.

“A lot of things make me happy; I try to find happiness in everything I do,” Grace said. “There’s always little bits of happiness that are undiscovered; you’ve got to find them.”