We know our Ramblers accomplish great things once they leave our classrooms. We've created this page to celebrate the success and accomplishments of some of our thousands of alumni.
We also feature articles each month in our district newsletters, so if you know of (or are!) an alumni who deserves a shout-out, please use the form on the bottom of this page to share their story!
Phil Sciriha, Class of 2012
Pursue Your Passions, Says Welding Alum
Fraser High School Class of 2012 graduate Phil Sciriha hasn’t graduated from Ferris State University yet, but the Welding Engineering Technology major already has job offers waiting for him. He brought his knowledge back to FHS to share with current students.
“I want to let them know what they’re learning at in the classroom, they are learning the ground floor of the structure in this big industry,” he said. “The skills they have are the key to everything and they’re getting a lot of valuable experience that’s hard to see nowadays.”
He spent several days mentoring FHS welding students while he was home on break from Ferris State University.
“Definitely do research into what you’re passionate about and don’t be afraid to look at things from different perspectives,” he said.
For Mr. Sciriha, he was passionate about math, science and working with his hands.
“I took Intro to Welding in my sophomore year, and I fell in love with it. Welding brought those things together.”
Jason Hartless, Class of 2013
Alumni Shares Experiences with Students
Fraser High School graduate and current Ted Nugent drummer Jason Hartless, Class of 2013, recently visited FHS band students to share his experiences and talk about careers in the music industry.
Jason spoke to the students about what it is like being a touring musician today. He said that what Fraser students are learning right now in the Performing Arts Career Academy is incredible and extremely important for their future careers in any music field. Jason was a FPACA student and what he learned in music theory, ear training and orchestra helped shape his musicianship as a performer and helped him to be admitted to the College of Music at Berklee School of Music.
He also spoke about getting a degree in music business. The students were surprised at the number of jobs and opportunities that could come from that degree.
“Jason made a comment about feeling the music, and I thought it was something to really consider if you want to be in the field of music,” said freshman Jaylinn Willis. “Because if you don't feel the love of the music, there’s no reason to make it your passion.”
Since graduating from Fraser in 2013, Jason has been very fortunate to have toured the world while drumming for various artists and has played on two Top 30 Billboard charting songs. He is currently playing drums for rock legend, Ted Nugent and has also toured with Mitch Ryder and Joe Lynn Turner (vocalist for Rainbow and Deep Purple).
In 2016, Jason was named a Managing Partner of Prudential Music Group and oversees the day-to-day operations of two record labels and a publishing company.
Jason was very involved in the performing arts when he was a student at FHS.
“My parents always joked because I was there so much that I pretty much lived at school. Being involved with so many activities helped me build a really strong work ethic that has translated into my professional life.
“The best advice I could give to any student is to get involved with any and all programs you can at Fraser. Give 110% when working on any project, homework or activity. Building a strong work ethic can get you far in life and if you put you mind to it, you can really accomplish anything.”
Jeff Verkeyn, Class of 1996
Fraser Grad is Making A Difference
Have you ever wanted to thank someone for making a difference and didn’t know how? Ever wonder what effects your positive acts have on others?
FHS graduate Jeff Verkeyn, class of 1996, established the Make a Difference Experiment (MADE™) to recognize and reward positive behavior. Verkeyn connected the experiment with technology to track the positive effects made across the world.
Each rubber MADE™ bracelet has a unique tracking code on it. The MADE™ website (www.MADETracker.com) encourages a four-step process to become part of the experiment: Register yourself and your MADE™ bracelet; Recognize someone making a difference; Reward that person by passing on the bracelet; and Revisit www.MADETracker.com to watch how far your bracelet travels.
Richards Middle School adopted the program this year and established a MADE™ bracelet challenge. Principal Huston Julian passed out bracelets to students in WEB, student council and the National Junior Honor Society during November’s Kindness Month.
“The MADE mission just aligned with our Honor the Castle initiative,” Mr. Julian said. “Students were already making differences in each other’s lives, and this gives us one more way to recognize them for spreading kindness.”
Bracelets have been tracked as far away as China and Saudi Arabia and have popped up in 13 states, including Michigan.
Melissa Rutkelis, Class of 2003
FHS Alum Leads Chicago Public Schools Music Program
Melisa Rutkelis, Class of 2003, was recently named the Arts Education Specialist for Chicago Public Schools — a district of more than 600 schools and 400,000 students.
While at FHS, Rutkelis participated in multiple art and athletics programs, including band, choir, theater, dance and tennis.
“My junior year, I auditioned for drum major and began leading the marching band. For me, that was the true moment when I knew I wanted to be in front of a musical ensemble for my career,” she said.
Her career path took her to schools in both Indiana and Illinois, before landing her a job at Mark Twain Elementary in Chicago Public Schools in 2012.
“There was no band, choir or afterschool music [at Mark Twain Elementary School],” she said. “I received over $55,000 in grants I wrote for the school. I funded a band, choir, rock band and mariachi program. All of these happened after school, and I saw 900 students K–5 in general music during the day.”
This past summer, she was promoted to Arts Education Specialist for the district. One of her main duties is running the All-City Program, which is a collection of dance, theatre, modern band, jazz band, concert band, orchestra, choir and alternative music ensembles. She will also lead district-wide professional development and music festivals.
Rutkelis added that all of the arts teachers at FHS supported her and encouraged her to challenge herself to achieve goals that seemed impossible.
“I can tell you though, I won’t stop here, I will keep on climbing for the rest of my life. Never stop learning and challenging yourself.”
Emily Bankes, Class of 2013
Fraser Alum Wins Design Contest, Attends New York Fashion Week
Emily Bankes, Class of 2013, recently attended New York Fashion Week after winning a contest through Michigan State University. Bankes had to create a collection of 11 illustrations and one concept piece. Students were provided MSUbranded materials.
Bankes based her collection on the MSU alma mater, “MSU Shadows.” As the color guard section leader in the Spartan Marching Band, Bankes sings the song at every football game.
“I aimed to create a collection that celebrated MSU and showcased that Spartans are all around us in the world, even if we aren’t always aware of it. My dress reflected this concept by having tulle layered over top of different MSU logos. The designs were still visible, but more easily seen from different angles,” she said.
While at FHS, she took fashion design and art classes, and participated in the color guard. The fashion design classes “taught me to love all the small intricacies that go into developing designs,” she said. “Ms. Yokhana taught me to love what I was doing and to push myself. The art department also continued to teach me to push my creativity. The music program at FHS taught me to persevere, to be determined, and that you can never get enough practice. All of the hours I would spend practicing and great habits that I developed, I now apply to practicing and developing my technique in designing.”
Bankes and one other winner from MSU had the VIP treatment in New York earlier this month attending shows and an industry panel, and networking opportunities all week.
“To see Emily so successful and striving to reach her dreams is the best reward to have as a teacher,” said Ms. Stacie Yokhana, who teaches fashion design at FHS. “My heart is exploding with pride, there is nothing better.”