Friday, June 22, 2018

Caitlin Lorenc - Class of 2005

WELCOME TO BENZIE COUNTY CENTRAL SCHOOLS FEATURED FRIDAY ALUMNI.  Today, we would like to recognize Caitlin Lorenc, Class of 2005.  Caitlin was kind enough to take the time to share her journey with us, and here is an inside look....  “As I sit to ponder and reflect on my time at Benzie Central, there is one theme that continues to reveal itself. While a student at Benzie Central, I was never at a loss for opportunities – chances to explore other educational fields, travel throughout the state and the nation to enlarge my views and experiences, and the chance to delve deeply into the subjects I truly enjoyed! These opportunities have crafted the various positions and situations I have already experienced and those I have yet to encounter. While at Benzie Central, I participated in a variety of activities such as volleyball, Madrigal Singers, the National FFA Organization, National Honor Society, Close Up, Odyssey of the Mind, and more! There were several teachers who inspired and encouraged me the most throughout my time at Benzie Central. Beverly Brouwer, 4th grade elementary teacher at Crystal Lake Elementary, discovered my passion for creativity and imagination and introduced me to the College for Kids summer classes at Northwestern Michigan College. Katherine Wolterink, high school English and World Literature teacher, tirelessly read and edited my creative writing pieces. Jerry Block, Plant, Animal and Environmental sciences teacher as well as my FFA Advisor, nurtured my love for plants and the environment as well as emboldened my desire to cultivate leadership skills through FFA. A culmination of these opportunities and teachers through Benzie Central assisted in inciting my fervor to continue my education after graduating from Benzie Central in 2005. I graduated from Michigan State University in 2010 with a BA in English and Creative Writing. As a Spartan, I extended my experiences with FFA by becoming a Michigan FFA State Officer and was able to travel to chapters, or schools, around the state to discuss the leadership and agriculture opportunities available through the program. While at MSU, I was also able to design, maintain, and manage the Michigan 4-H Children’s Garden on campus. The highlight of my time at MSU, was participating in the Study Abroad program and living in Denmark for six months. I was also able to travel to Ghana to learn about agriculture techniques and to discuss starting an FFA program in Accra, the capitol. My thirst for experiences via traveling commenced at Benzie Central and I have continued this journey by visiting at least a dozen countries around the world, and have lived in several states throughout the last few years. After MSU, I joined AmeriCorps for two years of service: one in Washington state with the Washington Reading Corps Program, and another with the Lyndon Economic opportunity AmeriCorps Program (formerly the Northeast Kingdom Initiative) in Vermont. At Green Mountain Farm-to-School (GMFTS) in Vermont, I was finally able to marry my interests of farming and food, with education, and creative writing. After my term of service with AmeriCorps ended, I was hired on by GMFTS to write their farm and garden based curriculum. During this year, I cemented my desire to continue my education by applying for and being accepted into a one-year intensive Master’s program at Goshen College in Indiana. In 2014, I graduated with an MA in Environmental Education. Since then I have been a Nutrition Education instructor and school garden coordinator with the Michigan Nutrition Network and a lead teacher for an outdoor-based preschool in northern Michigan. Since arriving back in Benzie County, I have been lucky to continue pursuing opportunities, although now they have taken a different form. My experiences have allowed me to learn and grow so I can give back and participate in my community. Currently I work for Michigan State University Extension as a Program Instructor. I am able to help schools in northern Michigan become healthier places by making policy, system, and environmental changes through Fuel Up to Play 60. Fuel Up to Play 60, is a national program, sponsored by the National Dairy Council and the NFL, in collaboration with the USDA, that promotes healthy eating and physical activity in schools and communities. I absolutely love my job and am fortunate to be an active participant in the cultural shift of making health a priority for students, teachers, staff, and administrators in our schools.

When not traveling, pursuing other educational opportunities, and meeting with schools, I also am starting a farm. Back Roots Farm, while small, is in its third year of production. Primarily focusing on root crops, the farm continues to intentionally develop and each year carries new ideas, projects, and goals! I also am a board member for the Benzie Conservation District and am thoroughly enjoying learning this new role and speaking on the merits of all the wonderful programs and initiatives the Benzie Conservation District offers our county and residents. My newest adventure entails raising a puppy – which is an experience all its own!

I am grateful for the opportunities I had at Benzie Central, the teachers who inspired and supported me in my endeavors, and the experiences I’ve enjoyed along the way. My advice to current and future Huskies would be to never stop seeking growth and change for that is where true learning is able to flourish!”
Caitlin, we are #OneBENZIE proud of all you have accomplished and all you continue to do.  We wish you continued success and happiness.  Of course, you know how Mrs. Crossman feels…like, love, and share!
Check out Back Roots on Facebook by clicking the link below.

(Back Roots is on Facebook:

Friday, June 15, 2018

Eric Caugh - Class of 1989

WELCOME TO BENZIE COUNTY CENTRAL SCHOOLS FEATURED FRIDAY ALUMNI.  Today, we would like to recognize Eric Caugh, Class of 1989.

While at Benzie Central, Eric had a nerdy appreciation for most of his classes and he enjoyed being pushed and challenged academically by teachers and his classmates. Some of the teachers who had a positive impact on Eric include Priscilla Belden, Jim Sheets, John  “Vas ist das?” Gehring, Will “lit a match to check his tank” Lynch, and Bruce Plont. He was involved in National Honor Society, student council, and the senior trip to Chicago. During the summers, Eric worked various jobs, including the Sport Shop of Beulah, The Hungry Tummy, the KOA campground across from Riverside Canoe, and The Sail Inn restaurant.

Eric was also involved in sports while at Benzie. He competed in basketball, football, and track and field (shot put, discus, and whatever relays Coach Moss needed a warm body for). In his last relay, Eric ran the 800 in a medley. He is expected to cross the finish line sometime this June. (Ha!Ha!) Eric even wrestled for half a season, “winning” 3rd place in the district tournament without ever beating a single opponent in his entire wrestling career.

After high school, Eric followed in his older brother Kurt’s footsteps and attended Alma College. At Alma, Eric studied history, political science, and English, and almost everything else that did not have a required lab.  He was active in a local fraternity (Zeta Sigma), Model UN, and IM sports. Most importantly, Eric met his wife, Sara, at Alma College.

After graduating college in 1992, Eric worked for the American Red Cross as a blood-services coordinator and HIV/AIDS educator in Alma, Michigan before enrolling in law school at the University of Michigan. Eric’s decision to go to law school can be traced back to Jim Sheets’ history class, when Eric was a lawyer in the mock trial of the Dred Scott case.

During law school, Eric had internships at law firms in Grand Rapids, Michigan and Minneapolis and ultimately accepted a permanent job offer at the Minneapolis firm, Zelle & Larson. Except for a short detour to help launch a different firm, Eric has spent his entire career with Zelle. Eric’s focus as a lawyer is on complex civil litigation and dispute resolution. Over the course of his career, Eric has tried cases and resolved disputes all over the country involving various issues, including: environmental, asbestos, insurance coverage, tobacco, rails-to-trails property takings, First Amendment/religion, intellectual property, and securities. Eric does pro bono work for the Appellate Self-Help Clinic through the Minnesota State Law Library.

Outside of work, Eric serves as a youth leader, confirmation teacher, and board member of Westminster Presbyterian Church in downtown Minneapolis. Although not much of a world traveler yet, Eric has traveled to Cuba with the church.  Eric is also the co-chair of the Minneapolis Idea eXchange for the Minneapolis Downtown Counsel.

In his downtime, Eric enjoys spending most nights on the sideline of a soccer pitch somewhere in Minnesota, either watching his kids play or watching Minnesota’s new MLS team, Minnesota United FC. 

Although Eric has not lived in Michigan in over 20 years, he still considers Benzie County home and tries to get back whenever he can. He is especially thankful for all of the opportunities he had at Benzie Central and the foundation it gave him.

Eric’s has two pieces of advice for his children, Lauren and Patrick, which also may be helpful to current students at Benzie: “First, be yourself and let others be themselves. You are unique, just like everyone else. Embrace what makes you you and respect others for being themselves. The sooner you get comfortable with who you are, and let others be who they are, the more content you will be in life.

Second, be kind to everyone, including yourself. Kindness costs nothing but it can make a difference. In a world where snark and sarcasm are commonplace, acting with kindness sets you apart.”

Thank you Eric, for sharing you amazing journey with us.  We are #OneBENZIE proud of all of your accomplishments and are pleased to always be a part of what you consider to be, “home”. 

You absolutely know how Mrs. Crossman feels…like, love and share! 

Friday, June 8, 2018

Sally Ramey Rook – Class of 2002

WELCOME TO BENZIE COUNTY CENTRAL SCHOOLS FEATURED FRIDAY ALUMNI.  Today, we would like to recognize alumni, Sally Ramey Rook – Class of 2002.

Sally graduated from Benzie Central High School in 2002. While attending Benzie Central, she was an honor roll student who also participated in girls’ basketball, girls’ volleyball, and was a statistician for girls’ softball. She attended the Career Tech Center for Horticulture her Senior year, while juggling being a brand-new parent of a wonderful baby named, Korin Isabelle, and working simultaneously.

After graduation, she decided to pursue her Associates degree in Arts and Science through Northwestern Michigan College in Traverse City. She continued to attended college while having my second daughter, Kayla Dawn and received her Associates in Applied Science degree (AAS) in 2008.

Eventually, she decided it was time to work towards her bachelor’s Degree, so Sally applied and was accepted to Grand Valley State University through the University Center in Traverse City! Having never set foot on main campus, she attended part time and finally received her Bachelor of Science degree in Liberal Studies with an emphasis on Holistic and Sustainable Living in 2016. 

Sally started to work towards her master’s Degree in Public Health with emphasis in Health Promotion, but later decided it wasn’t for her and decided to look for a career that tied in with her bachelor’s degree. Shortly after, she applied for the gym attendant position at the Strongheart Center through the Grand Traverse Band of Ottawa and Chippewa Indians. Being a tribal member and living in Benzie County her whole life, she was very excited to hear the tribe was putting in a fitness center in Benzie! She soon got the job and now Sally runs the new Benzie Fitness Center location on Hoadley Rd. in Benzonia.

Sally turned 35 this past May, and her oldest will be graduating high school next year and her youngest will be a Freshman! She married her husband Dean this past fall and together they have their own soap company called Space Cakes Soap Design. They are going on their second year, and Sally say’s that it is looking up.  They make all of their own silicone molds in many different designs and fill them with goats milk and shea butter melt and pour glycerin soap.  They also make cold process soap with olive and coconut oil, bath bombs, lip balm, lotions, salves, mustache wax and Native American Art Work. They can be found at the Frankfort Farmers Market every Saturday and eventually will be at the Interlochen Farmers Market.  Space Cakes Soap Design is on facebook and Instagram.  Check them out!

Congratulations to you, Sally!  We are #OneBENZIE proud of your determination to keep at it and continue doing more.  Our wish for you is continued happiness and success.

Benzie Strongheart Fitness Center FB group link:

Offical Strongheart FB Page

Space Cakes Soap Design FB Page

Space Cakes Soap Design Instagram Page

Friday, June 1, 2018

Annie Browning - Class of 1995

WELCOME TO BENZIE COUNT CENTRAL SCHOOLS FEATUERD FRIDAY ALUMNI.  Today we would like to recognize class of 1995 graduate, Annie Browning.  Annie was a student at Benzie Central High School in the early-mid-nineties after having attended elementary school at Platte River. While at Benzie, Annie was interested in learning as much as she could from Mr. Lynch, Ms. Belden, and Mr. Gehring (she felt she was a pretty big dork but it was fun!). Annie also helped to support the basketball teams by acting as a manager for the Varsity and JV basketball program.
After high school, Annie was fortunate enough to receive financial aid and had earned high enough grades to get the opportunity to attend the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor. One of the first things Annie did after arriving at the University of Michigan, was get a work-study job at David Humes' research lab where she did cell culture work creating a bio artificial kidney. Eventually, she did large animal studies to test the bio artificial kidney and then began FDA Phase I trial on humans and she was fortunate and ecstatic to personally witness the fruits of her labor when a 27-year-old man's life was saved with her help.
Shortly after finishing her undergraduate education, Annie began working toward her master's degree in UM's School of Public Health. After earning her master's degree in Health Management and Policy, she did an administrative fellowship at a community health system outside of Chicago. After spending about a year in Chicago, Annie returned back to the School of Public Health and achieved her master's degree in Healthcare Economics. Shortly after, Annie secured a job at the University of Michigan Health system working in IT and helping clinical researchers there use the electronic medical record for research.
After about ten years working at the UM health system, she decided to sell her condo in Ann Arbor and move back to my motherland. She is currently living in Honor and is looking to use her knowledge, skills, and expertise to help improve the health of Benzie county and its residents beginning with repurposing Platte River school. Annie’s personal mission has become to inspire, enlighten, and empower locals to make positive change. Her future is now basically wide open!
You can still reach Annie at if you have any questions or if you'd like to contribute to her mission.   Annie, we are in fact #OneBENZIE proud, welcome home!