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Posted on Fri, May 31, 2013 : 11:10 p.m.

'Once a Flyer, always a Flyer': Willow Run High reflects on history at bittersweet final graduation

By Chelsea Hoedl

For many, Willow Run High School’s commencement ceremony Friday evening was bittersweet. Emotions ran high as the school’s last graduating class walked across the stage.

Due to the Ypsilanti-Willow Run school district merger set to launch July 1, resulting in the creation of a new district (Ypsilanti Community Schools), Willow Run High School will be used as a middle school next year.

While speakers focused on the accomplishments made by students and the journey they are about to embark on, each also had something to say about the long history of the school and the legacy it will leave behind.


A Willow Run graduate walks across the stage on Friday, May 31.

Daniel Brenner |

“Willow Run is not just the story of a school district or a bomber plant," David Bates, president of the Willow Run Board of Education, said. "It's a spirit that permeates this community. You bring to a close a very important and exciting chapter in the community’s history.”

Superintendent of Willow Run Community Schools Laura Lisiscki encouraged the class of 2013 to represent Willow Run as the last group to walk its halls.

“Know that you are part of the legacy of Willow Run. We expect you to share the rich history and traditions that have been a part of Willow Run for the past 70 years,” Lisiscki said.

The ceremony, held in the school's auditorium, celebrated the accomplishments of the school, the students and the community. Pride in the past and the future of Willow Run, speakers echoed the sentiment ‘Once a Flyer, always a Flyer’.

Awards were presented to outstanding students. Quentin Carter received the principal’s award and Dustin McCurdy was given the ‘most distinguished student’ award. The Van Gilder Scholarship of $2,500 was awarded to Darian Smith and Destiny Washington.

As family and friends cheered for graduating students, many felt a sense of sadness for the loss of a district rich with 70 years of history.

Paris Dodds, sister of graduating student Robert Montgomery, said that she is sad to see the school go. Dodds graduated from Willow Run High School in 2009.

“This is a happy day for my family, but still there is something sad about it,” Dodds said. “I loved my time at Willow Run. It was a great experience and to think that I won’t be able to come back and visit is sad. I can’t even imagine the predicament that the teachers are in either.”

Shonda Williams, mother of senior Yestiny Williams, said she is so proud of her daughter, but she’s disappointed to lose a district that has brought such good things to the community.

“I’ve been in the Willow Run school district for 20 years now,” Williams said. “It’s sad that it’s dissolving because there is so much history here.”

Mother of four, Williams has a 13-year-old daughter who will attended the new Ypsilanti Community Schools district. Williams said she has mixed feelings about the transition, but she is confident that her daughter will receive a good education.

Vice President of the Willow Run Board of Education Don Garrett said change is inevitable. He was referring to the change students will face after graduation and the change the community will face as Willow Run merges with Ypsilanti school district.

Chelsea Hoedl is an intern reporter for She can be reached at



Sun, Jun 2, 2013 : 1:02 a.m.

my high school merged also.i understand why but i was a FALCON then and i'll be a Falcon until i college became a victim of P.C. and changed it's nickname from Hurons to Eagles.i was a HURON when i graduated ans i'll be a Huron until i die.


Sat, Jun 1, 2013 : 10:21 p.m.

Ah, nope. This was also due to the fact that Willow Run middle/high school was closing. Whether or not they merged or not this school would not be existing as of June or whenever the last day is for Willow Run. So, yes, this is bittersweet but I hate to say it, this editor needs to rewrite this story to reflect the fact that WR would close whether or not the voters approved or not. Glad to see this merger because WR was a tax burden on all of us. Good luck to the grads.


Mon, Jun 3, 2013 : 6:55 p.m.

I seem to recall that Ypsi High was way more in debt than Willow Run. Either way, the state has forgiven both districts' debts (after the state caused a lot of the problems themselves by cutting funding to schools). Governor's way of saving money in education by merging districts, first drain them of money and starve them, then when they can't survive, force them to merge. What I can't understand is if this is supposed to save money, why in the world would they allow both superintendants to stay, probably to smooooooth things over with each of their staff for this consolidation. Smart-Not so much!

Anthony Clark

Sat, Jun 1, 2013 : 3:22 p.m.

So the new Ypsilanti Community Schools will have only one high school?


Sun, Jun 2, 2013 : 1:03 a.m.

sounds like it to me.that's why they merged.


Sat, Jun 1, 2013 : 10:24 p.m.

No to the overcrowding. Ypsi high as it was reported here on AA News,they said Ypsi high had the capacity to handle the influx of WR high school because it was at half capacity. Most of the WR children either went to Whitmore Lake or Belleville. Mine went to Ann Arbor because neither was above par for being a good school. Neither made the top 30 across the nation as being suitable schools. So, all WR and Ypsi middle schoolers will go to the old WR middle/hi school and all WR and Ypsi hi schoolers will go to Ypsi high school. As for the elementaries? I have no idea. I guess they are going to keep them as they are? Good luck.

Anthony Clark

Sat, Jun 1, 2013 : 9:29 p.m.

Isn't Ypsi High going to be really overcrowded? Or were the two schools really that underutilized? A real shame that Willow Run is losing so much: their school, their identity, their sense of community.


Sat, Jun 1, 2013 : 8:28 p.m.

Yes so now if you live on the east side in the willow run area....your kids get to go all the way across town up on Packard to go to high school.

Lisa Stevens Patterson

Sat, Jun 1, 2013 : 4:14 p.m.


Dan r OBryan

Sat, Jun 1, 2013 : 2:28 p.m.

70 years ,now look .whos to blame .why did ypsilanti schools take over . Laura knows .its a real shame


Sat, Jun 1, 2013 : 10:28 p.m.

In all reality? WR has wanted to merge with Ypsi for over 10 years now. This little grass roots movement started in the late 90's. It was not until 2005 that it every one was on board with it. But the voters aka parents had to be on board with it. It was not until last year when the BOE said they were closing WR middle/high school. This is when it became a reality. So, no. No one is to blame here. It is the fact that WW II, Korea and Vietnam is over and no one really needs a small town community school anymore. It is big box government keeping up with the Jones on the other side of the pond to make our children more of robot society. Enjoy the new merger. I am glad I am not a part of it.


Sat, Jun 1, 2013 : 12:42 p.m.

What's to become of the high school building?


Sun, Jun 2, 2013 : 1:04 a.m.

did u not read the article.

Michelle Valasin

Sat, Jun 1, 2013 : 4:43 p.m.

it will be used as a middle school for the new district