Hazel Park kicks off new school year at Hometown Huddle

By: Andy Kozlowski | Madison-Park News | Published August 21, 2023

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HAZEL PARK — At the end of the month, Hazel Park Public Schools will usher in the new school year at its Hometown Huddle, featuring the first home football game of the season.

Admission to the game is free, and there will be many exhibits set up around it, shining a light on the district’s offerings. The Huddle takes place Thursday, Aug. 31, starting at 5 p.m., at Hazel Park High School, 23400 Hughes Ave.

Amy Kruppe, the Hazel Park Public Schools superintendent, noted this is the eighth Huddle to date. The tradition started in 2015 when she first arrived in the district. A group called the Community Engagement Team was formed with the goal of finding ways to bring families together. The CET created the Huddle to raise awareness about the district’s programs and activities.

The event has also grown to include the presence of many local organizations, forming a snapshot of Hazel Park as a whole. At press time, 24 local businesses, community groups and churches had signed up for the event, bringing food and more.

“The police are there, sometimes with their dogs. The firefighters are there. Everyone from the library to the churches are there. All kinds of organizations are there showing their support. So it’s a real community gathering,” Kruppe said.

The superintendent will start the event at 5 p.m. with a welcome speech by the baseball field. There will be plenty of pizza, hot dogs and other food to enjoy. There will also be performances by the band and dance team, and demonstrations by the robotics team.

Throughout it all, guests will be free to move between the different tables. One exhibit is by the Oakland County Health Department, with a free vaccination clinic. Easterseals will be on hand with resources to assist families. The YMCA will be handing out sports equipment while supplies last.

“The Huddle is for all family members, kindergarten through adulthood. They can come in, and the energy is great. Hazel Park is a fantastic community. In my mind, the schools are a hidden gem,” Kruppe said. “There’s so much excitement in the air. There’s something here for everyone.”

She said the district continues to tout the success of its Promise Zone, which guarantees scholarships for a free two-year college education to any students who graduate there and live within the district’s boundaries. The district includes all of Hazel Park and parts of Ferndale.

“I wish I had a Promise Zone where I grew up. The ability to have a free two-year college education is simply amazing,” Kruppe said. “Our students have that opportunity for a free college associate degree with an in-state school. With four-year schools, we pay the same amount we’d pay for Oakland Community College, putting it toward two years at a school in Michigan. We encourage our kids to think about having at least some level of college education. It’s an amazing opportunity.

“Another great feature is that we have college coaches as part of the Promise Zone,” she said. “They’re going to each student while they’re in their freshman and sophomore years, mentoring them to make sure they’re successful working toward college. Sometimes they’re the first members of their families going to college.”

A new program this year is the Junior Vikings, done in partnership with the city of Hazel Park. Its first season started earlier this month. Students from age 6 up to eighth grade can play football or join a cheer squad as part of the Junior Vikings, all at low cost.

“That’s another example of our district providing more opportunities that maybe they normally don’t have or couldn’t afford at a private club,” Kruppe said.

Ed Klobucher, Hazel Park’s city manager, said that football and cheerleading are just the start.

“We want our young people, of elementary school age, to have the same opportunities to play organized sports that kids in other communities have,” Klobucher said. “We’re starting with football and cheerleading, but we expect to add more girls and boys sports soon.”

The Huddle will also introduce guests to the Create and Repair Incubator, a new after-school program done in partnership with local artist Richard Gage, of Richard Gage Design Studio, and sculptor Alexandra Virginia Martin, founder of anhelo anhelo. Guests can mingle at a milk-and-toast bar while learning more about the workshop, which will show participants how to disassemble and reassemble household appliances, teaching them mechanical skills and sparking new interests.

The district is also planning other features for the 2023-24 school year, such as a “zero hour” before the start of each day at Hazel Park Junior High, where students can exercise on grant-funded spin cycles to get their blood pumping and relieve stress, making it easier to focus once class begins. Tutoring services will also be available during the new zero hour.

“There are all kinds of great activities occurring in this district,” Kruppe said. “We’re bringing the community together, letting them see all the fantastic opportunities in the Hazel Park Public Schools.”