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St. Clair Shores principal nominated for LifeChanger of the Year Award

By: Kristyne E. Demske | St. Clair Shores Sentinel | Published December 10, 2019

 Michael Fringer

Michael Fringer


ST. CLAIR SHORES — Someone who has made a proven, positive impact on their students, who shows a commitment to building a nurturing environment to support learning, and demonstrates exemplary leadership — that’s who the National Life Group Foundation is looking for when it seeks out its LifeChangers of the Year.

Employees in South Lake Schools think that one of their own, Elmwood Elementary School Principal Michael Fringer, has what it takes to win.

Fringer was nominated by South Lake High School Assistant Principal Becky Schroll-Riedel, who said that she feels it is important to recognize and show appreciation for those who go above and beyond, especially in education.

“Personally, Mr. Fringer is someone who I can go to for advice, and he is always willing to listen and help problem solve,” she said in an email interview. “His dedication to helping others is unparalleled, be it colleagues, students, parents, friends or family.”

Ashley Chiu, a representative for the National Life Group Foundation in Vermont, said that the National LifeChanger of the Year Award receives hundreds of nominations from all 50 states and Washington, D.C., each year.

Fringer was nominated by Schroll-Riedel for his “dedication, perseverance and advocacy,” according to a press release from the organization.

Parent Teacher Association President Justine Ventimiglia told the organization that she looks forward to volunteering because Fringer is so inspiring.

“He makes us feel like we are all making a difference for these kids,” she said in a statement. “That’s a rare gift to possess and one that I don’t come across very often.”

Seventeen individuals will be awarded LifeChanger of the Year awards during the 2019-20 school year. The grand prize winner will receive $10,000 to be shared with their school or district. Four finalists will each receive $5,000 to be shared with their school or district. Ten winners will receive $3,000 each, and the Spirit Award winner will receive $5,000 for having the community that demonstrates the most support for its nomination. In addition, a Spotlight Award winner will receive $5,000 for demonstrating that they have made a proven impact on school safety.

Fringer is in his sixth year as the principal of Elmwood Elementary School. Before that, he served as the assistant principal of South Lake High School and the counselor at Koepsell Elementary School.

He said that it is the energy from the community that helps him continue his work at the school.

“There is fuel that comes from the reciprocity (of) working with people who care so much. It’s fuel for my soul. It’s fuel for my heart. It’s fuel for my intentionality,” he said. “When I can see actual, physical, quantitative growth, then it just keeps me going even more.”

Schroll-Riedel called out Fringer for working every day to provide support and resources for his students, setting high standards for staff, and working with the Parent Teacher Association to raise $20,000 for learning resources and free field trips for students. He is currently raising money to install a washer and dryer at the school, as well.

Fringer said that Whirlpool has a grant program that will provide a washer and dryer — the school has to cover the costs of the installation, which will include venting and meeting the fire code. Getting a washer and dryer for the school, he said, is all part of his work to make the school relevant to the community. It’s through events like reading nights, game nights and more that he is able to interact with parents on a more casual basis and learn what other needs their families may have.

“Sometimes, some of our families here have needs that we might be able to help address,” he said. “Schools have become the pillars of the community, so any additional services that we can offer the community just make us more impactful.”

Schroll-Riedel said that the outpouring of support for Fringer shows what an impact he has made on students and the community.

“If you (go) on his nomination page and read through the comments, you will quickly see the positive and lasting impact he has had on the lives of others,” she said.

Nominations are open until the end of the year, and then former winners and higher education professionals will convene to choose the award winners for the year in the first months of 2020.

Winners will be announced with surprise events at their schools.

Nominations can come from any employee in a K-12 school, and nominees should demonstrate that they’ve made a proven positive impact on their students; enhance their school or district’s atmosphere, culture and pride; demonstrate exemplary leadership; possess a record of professional excellence; show commitment to building a nurturing environment that supports learning; and adhere to the highest moral and ethical standards.

“I am humbled by the comments and support from the community and colleagues that I have received through this process,” Fringer said.

To view Fringer’s profile or to leave a message of support, visit