Spartan Proud: Kaley Petersen, big life in a small town.
Spartan Proud is sponsored by Mason County Central Schools. This series features alumni of Mason County Central telling their stories. Today we feature Kaley Petersen, class of 2005.
By Rob Alway, Editor-in-Chief.
LUDINGTON — Kaley (Schroeder) Petersen doesn’t believe that attending a small school resulted in challenges or weaknesses in her life. “You make your own destiny and regardless of your upbringing or location you are in charge of your future,” the 2005 Mason County Central High School graduate says.
Kaley is the director of foundation, community services, and volunteers at Spectrum Health Ludington Hospital.
Kaley attended Grand Valley State University and earned a degree in healthcare with a focus on healthcare leadership.
“I am an occupational therapist by trade and worked clinically for Spectrum Health for five years, primarily in neurology,” Kaley says. “I was hired as a clinical lead in a new acute rehabilitation unit at the Spectrum Health Blodgett campus in Grand Rapids and it was there that I had my first career shift. My role evolved and I began taking on more leadership responsibilities and business development as it pertained to our rehabilitation unit. I started working with our hospital foundation to secure additional funding for our acute rehabilitation, specifically to purchase state of the art equipment as it pertained to the treatment of neurological conditions and diagnosis.
“I really gained a passion for the role philanthropy plays in healthcare and delivering exceptional patient care. In 2013 when Memorial Medical Center integrated with Spectrum Health I had my eyes open for career opportunities that might allow my husband Fritz and I to return to the Ludington area. In the summer of 2014 I started as the Spectrum Health Ludington Hospital foundation director. Since starting at Spectrum Health Ludington Hospital I have broadened my role. I love what I do and I am proud of our team.”
Kaley says Mason County Central provided a stable foundation for her.
“I had a great experience at Mason County Central. What strikes me most about my time spent at MCC was the closeness among not only my graduating class but those ahead and under me. There is an embedded down to earth culture at MCC. I keep in touch with many of my classmates and remain very close friends with several. In fact, my husband Fritz and all of my wedding bridesmaids were fellow MCC alums and dearest friend, Nealie Raven, was my maid of honor, and I hers.”
Like other schools in the area, MCC offers duel enrollment courses at West Shore Community College, allowing students to earn college credits while still attending high school.
“Taking advantage of the duel enrollment opportunity was highly valuable in preparing me for college and adulthood. I was able to graduate high school with nearly a completed associate degree and all of those credits transferred without issue to Grand Valley State University. I am grateful to have had educators at both MCC and WSCC that prepared me for further college education.”
Kaley not only had a positive academic experience at MCC, but also learned many life lessons on the field and stage.
“Sports played a big role in my time spent at MCC, most predominantly softball. I played on the varsity team for four years in high school and my senior year our team went to state. I will never forget my coaches, Christy Christmas, Greg Melchert, Cheryl Swinhart, my teammates and the many memories and inside jokes.
“Attending MCC allows you the ability to participate in several extra-curricular activities. You don’t have to specialize in one sport and commit your full year to one activity. Having the ability to play softball, basketball, volleyball, participate in choir and the equestrian team helped me become a well-rounded person. Larger schools don’t always offer that same opportunity to diversify your experience.”
Kaley was also the Scottville Harvest Festival Queen in 2004 and represented Scottville as the National Cherry Festival Queen in 2006. She was also crowned Miss Ludington Area in 2008 when the program was revitalized. She now serves as the Miss Ludington Area executive director. She was also a candidate for the Miss Michigan Scholarship competition.
Kaley says raising a family in Mason County was always a plan for her and her husband, Fritz, who is also an MCC graduate. After college, they lived in Ada and then Rockford.
“Moving away from the Scottville/Ludington area was always something I intended to do for a time,” she says. “I think it is important to broaden your world view, expose yourself to new experiences, cultural diversity and be in a new environment. With that said, it was always on the radar to move back to the Mason County area to raise family and plant roots long term. I view it as a very special privilege to live and work in my hometown community that I feel so passionate about.”
“We now own a home in Ludington and are grateful to be back in Mason county. When we lived away we missed family, the lake and all the natural beauty here. Both sides of our family primarily live in Mason County. It was a very conscious decision to return to Mason County when we were planning a family. We wanted to ensure our children were raised with grandmas, grandparents, aunts, uncles and cousins around. That is a big deal to us. We are always grateful for big family Sunday dinners, Saturday morning park walks and baking with grandmas, fishing and feeding deer with grandpas and that our son is so close to his cousins.”
Kaley says she believes small town living is a matter of perspective and how you live your life.
“My husband Fritz is my best friend and the love of my life. We both attended MCC but didn’t actually go through school together as he graduated a few years before me. We have been together for 11 years and married almost seven. He makes me laugh every single day and I couldn’t ask for a better partner. Our son Audric is all toddler and full boy. Audric loves the outdoors, is fiercely inquisitive and seems to have boundless energy. I love that I end each day with Audric snuggles before bedtime. Our home is tucked in the woods and we don’t take it for granted that we are just a couple minutes form Lake Michigan. We love the outdoors and all the natural beauty of this area. We have yellow lab “Ada”, pleasantly plump indoor cat “Isa” and an outdoor cat “Sookie”. We try to spend a lot of time with family, friends and outside. We like being physically active, on the go and give of our time when we can back to the community.
“Growing up and living in small town does not mean your life will be small. In fact, I find it makes life a lot more rich and full in several ways.”