When the Grand Haven High School Science Olympiad team qualified for the national tournament this year, it marked the 23rd year in a row that the team achieved that honor. Science Olympiad is a program with deep roots in Grand Haven Area Public Schools, with Lakeshore and White Pines Middle Schools competing as well.

"The Science Olympiad is amazing," says Marcella Morrell, a coach for the Grand Haven High School Science Olympiad team. "It lets kids who enjoy science or have high abilities in science push themselves further than they thought they ever could."

The program exposes students to career choices in the fields of science, technology, math and engineering, commonly referred to as STEM, and does so through regional, state and national competitions. Students compete in 23 categories at each event.

"It's a really fun experience and it helps students not only get together with people that have similar interests but delve into areas that they might very well take careers in later in life," says Leah Chappell, a student and Science Olympiad participant at Grand Haven High School.

The academic events range from activities such as building and memorization to doing science on the spot, and give students the ability to explore science outside of the classroom. Oftentimes, the activities allow students to discover a passion that they didn't know they had.

"They gain so much experience in science, and in technology, that they go to college and they're in advance of all the other students," says Michael Reed, head coach of the Grand Haven High School Science Olympiad team. "The kids in college - and I hear this from them - say 'How do you know that?' It's because they did it in Science Olympiad."

Grand Haven has a very respected reputation among attendees. Michael remembers a comment that the coach of another team once made about Grand Haven's success.

"He told me, 'Grand Haven Science Olympiad makes everyone better' because we raise the bar, and that means our students know how hard they have to work to be able to succeed as well," Michael says.

Beyond the competitive spirit that it brings out in students and teachers alike, the Olympiad is an enjoyable event for like-minded individuals.

"It's just a great experience for people who are passionate about math and science," says Lakeshore Middle School student Nick Haan.

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