HUDSONVILLE, Mi. — It's graduation season - a time of transition, hope and change. And as we celebrate the accomplishments achieved, many are looking toward the road ahead. It won't be an easy journey, but getting to this point wasn't either with COVID, social media and the everyday struggles of high school life. A Hudsonville High School grad overcame all that and more and now has big plans for the future. Elsa Groenink is like so many other high school graduates, looking forward while fondly remembering her highlights as a Hudsonville High School student. She was on the swim team and her water polo team has won the state championships the last four years. She also served on the National Honor Society and has turned a baking hobby into a small business. She says, "I like the hands-on, it gives me something to do. And it's just fun and like seeing the final product is probably my favorite part.” Elsa is completely self-taught, learning though online videos - doing everything from wedding cakes to countless cookies. As a busy volunteer, she also likes to bring goodies wherever she goes. "I like to help people I’ve also like to bring my baked goods to places and like to surprise people so that just putting smiles on people's faces is pretty good.”
Watching Elsa at work, you would never know the struggles she deals with every day. "I have a neurological disorder called Charcot Marie Tooth, and it slowly like dissolves the peripheral nerves in your hands and feet mostly so I’ve lost feeling in both my hands and feet, so it becomes hard to like do different things with that. Baking has helped me keep my hands nice and strong and being able to like still use them and it's good therapy to keep them going.” Anything she can do is beneficial, because the prognosis isn't great. She says, "There's no cure right now, so it will continue to progress, and it gets worse over the years it’s different it affects everyone differently. My mom didn't see it. She also has it, and she did not see the affects until she was probably like in her 20's. But when I was 10, I started to see the affects.”
Elsa says her mom is her greatest motivation and inspiration, and she certainly has big dreams. "I’m going to GRCC next year an do their culinary program and then hopefully get a baking and pastry arts certificate and then I can do an internship maybe somewhere out of the country before and then hopefully own my own bakery which would be really exciting.” And as she puts the finishing touches on her high school career - she shares her advice for other students. "Keep going and don't give up don't let a setback stop you and just have fun because the years go fast. Enjoy it and do what you love.” Elsa was recently honored with a scholarship for her academic, athletic and philanthropic efforts from the Community Choice Credit Union. This weekend, Elsa and the Hudsonville girls water polo team took their 5th consecutive state title, beating Rockford in Ann Arbor.