Assessment Hero

Belonging Among Friends: A Graduation Reflection

Students gathered together in a school lobby.

Isaac Postma (center), pictured with friends (left to right): Isaac Timmer, Jacob Berkenpas, Josh DeVries, Naomi Baker, nurse Jackie Bouwman, Peyton Vis, Derek Meyering, and Caleb Voetberg.

To belong means “to have solid friendships”, according to a group of South Christian High School (Byron Center, MI) seniors. For many of these students, their K-12 education has been uniquely shaped by their friendship with fellow senior, Isaac Postma, a bright, funny young man who lives with spinal muscular atrophy type one, a muscle degenerative disease.

This group is approaching graduation with more than fond memories—they have experienced twelve years of being known through solid friendships.

They have developed these friendships over video games, beach visits, football games, medical emergencies, ice skating excursions, performing together in The Music Man, Lunch Buddies, youth group, and much, much more.

Though Isaac’s condition can require significant accommodations, longtime friend, Caleb Voetberg, has not allowed accommodation to impede fun activities. When Isaac wanted to learn to weld in shop class, Caleb partnered with the teacher so Isaac could participate.

In woodworking class, Isaac was the mind and Caleb was the hands as they crafted a cabinet for Isaac’s mom, Deb Postma.

Isaac describes Caleb as “hilarious”, a trait that has developed since the two first met in kindergarten at Byron Center Christian School (Byron Center, MI).

This group treasures being known, a crucial element to this enduring friendship. As Naomi Baker reflected, it is often difficult for folks to understand Isaac’s words, but his close friends understand him and enjoy the funny things he says. “Shared friendship with Isaac has brought diverse personalities together,” said his nurse of twelve years, Jackie Bouwman. Their friendship has created space for other students to belong too. When Derek Meyering was a new student, his friendship with Isaac connected him to a larger group of friends.

Though graduation will lead to new and unknown paths for these seniors, the friendship with Isaac and each other will go with them—impacting how they see fellow image bearers of God.

“You learn the most from the people you’re least like,” said senior Isaac Timmer, “To learn how different people see the world is eye opening.”

As they graduate this spring, the students know it will take intentionality to maintain their friendships. “It will take extra effort outside of work to get quality time with Isaac,” said Caleb. But intentionality has always been a normal element of their friendship—they have been doing it all along.

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Katie Barkley headshot

Katie Barkley is the director of marketing and communications at All Belong.