All posts by bmari48

I hate these bio things because it's impossible to put my whole life experience and consolidate it into a box, but it's whatever... I'm a sophomore at Michigan State University majoring in journalism. My goal is to move to Chicago or a major city on the East Coast and write for a major music magazine. Growing up, I was exposed to all sorts of music...r&b, 80s, Motown, pop, rap, rock, alternative, jazz, gospel. So don't be surprised if you're listening to my i-tunes library and hear the "American Gangster" soundtrack then "Bohemian Rhapsody." Music is GREAT!!! Born and raised in Detroit. I suppose that has shaped my view and standpoints on alot of things. I'm passionate about black issues/history (my specialty is Black American and Diasporic Studies...go figure). I don't believe in talk, let the work show for itself. I pick up on peoples' characteristics/personalities pretty quickly so make your first impression your best! Oh yeah...I love cats :-)

Meridian Township pastor balances church and family

The First Baptist Church of Okemos’ motto is “real people finding real answers.” According to the church’s senior pastor, Joe Dabrowski, that motto rings true for the 240-member congregation.

“They people look to the pastor for guidance,” said Dabrowski. “Whether it’s financial issues or family issues, people want guidance. They look up to me and it’s my role to lead this church.”

Dabrowski has been the senior pastor at First Baptist since 2003 after seven years as associate pastor. Since then, Dabrowski has dedicated his life to serving his congregation to develop a closer relationship with Christianity.

“His transition to the Senior Pastorate has resulted in renewed excitement and a dedicated vision for our church,” said the church’s music director Teressa Lewandowski.

Since being appointed senior pastor, church membership has increased by 100 members since 2003.

“My primary issue as senior pastor is delivering sermons for the Sunday morning and evening services, casting a vision and setting goals for the church,” said Dabrowski.

Dabrowksi’s journey began in Dover, New Hampshire, where he grew up. “I grew up in the Baptist faith and in the church,” said Dabrowski.

“I was baptized when I was three years old and it’s been apart of my life ever since.”

He said that his calling into the ministry came when he was in his late teens and a student at Liberty University in Lynchburg, Virginia.

“I was 17 years old, a freshman in college,” said Dabrowski. “The Lord gave me a prompt in my heart to become a pastor. I enrolled in the school’s Christian program and it challenged us, but it was something I wanted to do.”

He earned an associate’s degree in Bible Studies and a Bachelor’s in Pastoral Ministries. After graduating from Liberty, he moved to Grand Rapids, Mich. He earned a master’s of Divinity Degree from Grand Rapids Theological Seminary. Yet, it was at Liberty University that Dabrowski met an accounting student named Jody.

That friendship would turn into more than 17 years of marriage. “It will be 18 years of marriage in August, “ said Dabrowski.

“She is truly amazing. I’m a lucky man.”

They currently have three children, Seph, 14; Jillian, 12; and Caleigh, 2. The couple also has another child on the way, literally. The family is anticipating the arrival of their adopted daughter, 3-year-old Chloe Faith, from China.

Their other daughter, Caleigh, was also adopted from China. The oldest two are their biological children. Dabrowski said it was his wife’s idea and he was glad they did it. Both children came from orphanages in China.

“It was by my wife’s prompting,” said Dabrowski. “In America we’ve been given so much. We just wanted to give these children hope and give them the same opportunities that we have.”

According to Dabrowski, India, Africa and China have the largest orphan populations in the world. The process of adopting a child from another country could take years and the adoption of their first child was no different.

“We adopted a special needs child. There was a lot involved, paperwork and regulations,” said Dabrowski. “However, my wife’s very organized. It took about 18 months, but we have her now. For our second adoption, it took about 11 months.”

Friends and family can see their journey of adopting another child at

“It’s not uncommon for people to document their journey,” said Dabrowski. “It’s also good for people who want to adopt to see how the process goes.”

Despite the busy life as a pastor and father, Dabrowski enjoys every minute of it.

“I love spending time with my family,” said Dabrowski. “I like to play sports and going to the beach. But the most important thing I like to do in my spare time is be with my family.”


It’s been nice Meridian

Over the course of this semester, I have covered Meridian Township. From education to religion to politics, I tried my best to inform the community and others who live outside Meridian’s boundaries.

It has truly been a privilege and experience to meet different people and report on the issues that have had an impact on the town. I just want to say thank you to all the politicians, school administrators, pastors and the everyday people who have helped me write these various stories about your town.

You all have made my job as a reporter/journalist worth the hectic days and nail-biting deadlines. May you all have much success in your future endeavors and look out for me in a magazine in the mere future!


Help Relay for Life

Meridian Township’s Relay for Life will take place May 16-17 behind Chippewa Middle School starting at 3 pm Friday to 3 pm Saturday.

Meridian Community Church, the Kiwanis Club of Okemos, numerous businesses and volunteer groups/organizations will be involved. This is all an effort to find a cure for cancer and raise awareness for the disease that kills millions every year. This event is personal for me because my younger sister had cancer.

I attended a Relay For Life event a few years ago and it was definitely worthwhile. Getting together with people who had common ground and fighting the same struggle is powerful. These relays happen all over the country in just about every city. Just call your local American Cancer Society chapter if you want to donate money or attend Relay for Life in a town near you.

Welcome to Meridian Township

The town of Meridian Township is a suburban town right next to East Lansing. It is a municipality, comprised of Okemos and Haslett. The town received its name from Michigan Meridian, the prime north and south line that all townships in Michigan are measured by. It is home to Lake Lansing, the largest lake within the Lansing area and 1,250 acres of parkland.
Walking around Meridian Township, one notices that it is a middle-class area.

The town has come along way since the days when it was just a rural area, with nothing more than a gas station and mom-and-pop stores. Today, with a population of more than 39,116, Meridian has developed into a true suburban town. There are many restaurants, including an Olive Garden and Ruby Tuesdays, Meridian Mall, dance studios and more.

While the urbanization of Meridian Township is evident, the town has still been able to preserve its natural beauty, through the Township Board’s effort to maintain greenspace. Another positive is the town’s school system. There is the Haslett school district and the Okemos school district. Both school districts have some of the highest test scores in the state. Okemos High School is the only high school in Okemos, looks more like a college campus than a high school and each year, ranks in the top of all Michigan high schools.

Meridian Township fights back against cancer

They’re called luminaries. Small white bags that glow in the night. Oddly enough they represent both survival and death. For 24 hours, numerous luminaries will be placed on Chippewa Middle School’s track as a symbolism of one disease that has kills millions of Americans every year and the millions more who survive it.

And Meridian Christian Church will be in the forefront of this event.

Meridian Christian is joining forces with the East Lansing Chapter of the American Cancer Society for its annual Relay for Life, an event that raises money and awareness for cancer. Meridian Township’s Relay for Life will take place May 16-17, starting at 3 pm Friday to 3 pm Saturday at Chippewa Middle School.

According to American Cancer Society’s website, cancer is the second-leading cause of death in the United States and 565, 650 Americans are expected to die from various forms of the disease. Meridian Christian has spent the last five years getting people of Meridian Township involved in the battle against the disease.

“Meridian Christian thought it would be a neat way to get the community involved,” said Jamie Wetzel, the church’s associate pastor and captain of Meridian Christian Church’s team. “Our church rents Chippewa Middle School for services so we’re going to use the track for the event. Relay for Life is for those who’ve struggled directly or indirectly with cancer. It’s a good way to give back to something we all care about.”

The event will also include activities for kids, movies, karaoke and a special lap, known as the Ceremony of Hope, that’s dedicated to those struggling with cancer and those who lost their battle.

Every year there is a theme that goes along with Relay for Life and this year it’s “Dancing Through the Decade.” There are 11 teams participating and 37 participants. Besides Meridian Christian, other teams include Michigan State University’s chapter of Alpha Kappa Alpha sorority and Starbucks in Okemos. Meridian Christian has five people on the relay team so far.

“The teams each chose a lap that represents a certain decade like the 70s or 80s,” said Wetzel.
The teams are the ones who raise money and donate it to their local chapter of the American Cancer Society. Meridian Christian’s goal is to raise $700.

“Typically, individuals raise their own money through various fundraisers,” said Wetzel. “Some people will raise money one behalf of someone who passed away from cancer or is battling it right now.”

According to Julie Hansen, chairperson of Meridian Township’s Relay for Life, this will impact both community and the battle against cancer.

“It’s a community effort. We’re getting Haslett and Okemos together, businesses are getting involved, people are coming together for a cause that affects everyone,” said Hansen.

This event is personal for Hansen as well and has only made her more driven to find a cure.

“I had an aunt who died of cancer when I was younger,” said Hansen. “It just seems like you hear of more and more people who are dying and getting cancer. Everybody knows somebody who has cancer. It’s a disease that comes out of nowhere so this is a worthy cause.”

She added that what makes Relay for Life unique is it’s an event to bring awareness of all cancers.

“This is for cancer in general. Breast cancer gets a lot of attention. There are tons of other forms of cancer that get no recognition or funds,” said Hansen. “This event helps other people with different forms of cancer.”

Meridian Christian hopes that Relay for Life will make people more conscious of cancer.

“People are affected by cancer everyday,” said Wetzel. “We’re trying to spread awareness of how widespread cancer is in our community.” We’re putting in our best efforts and it’s good for our congregation to be involved in this event.”

If you want to donate money or attend Relay for Life, call Meridian Christian Church at (517) 332-8044. There will also be a meeting on Sunday April 13 at MCC in the Senior Center after services. Meridian Christian Church is located at 4225 Okemos Rd. in Okemos, Mich.

It is important to note that the death rate of cancer has decreased dramatically since the early 1990s; 18.4 percent decrease in men and 10.4 percent decrease for women. Nearly half a million lives have been saved due to new advances in technology and medicine.

Yet, in Hansen’s eyes, with 1,500 people dying each day from cancer, more work needs to be done and Relay for Life will help in that effort.

“It is a 24-hour event where teams walk on a track, but it also symbolizes that cancer never sleeps and we’re celebrating survivors and remembering those we lost. I do think one day we’ll find a cure. You have to have hope.”

Revised curriculum impacts Okemos public school district

With the number of HIV/AIDS cases among adolescents steadily growing, sexual and health awareness has become a top priority for many in the educational sector, including Okemos school district.

During the Okemos School Board meeting on January 28, one of the major topics was the revision of the health curriculum. Assistant Superintendent Patty Trelstad and Reproductive Health Supervisor Jill Dehlin presented a brief, yet detailed proposal to the Board about necessary revision of the district’s health curriculum, especially pertaining to HIV/AIDS.

“The State of Michigan passed additional laws since 2004 regarding what should be taught, but it’s up to individual school districts to decide,” said Dehlin.

She is referring to the Michigan Model, which was passed in 2004. If school districts chose to provide a sex education curriculum, they must provide information about statutory rape, the Sex Offender Registry, STDs and abstinence.

School districts also have an option of providing either an abstinence-based or abstinence only curriculum.

“Abstinence based promotes abstinence, but gives students information to protect themselves against STDs and unwanted pregnancy,” said Dehlin. “Abstinence only provides no information to prevent pregnancy or STDs. Okemos has an abstinence based curriculum.”

The new health curriculum would provide more effective ways and alternatives to live a safe and healthy for students.

“It’s a well rounded curriculum,” said Dehlin. “It focuses more on healthy relationships. We tend to look at the bad relationships and the negative like date rape to teach students about sex. It will provide students information without using fear all the time.”

Currently, instructors and teachers are trained to teach elementary sexual education. This proposal would pertain to those in Kindergarten through the ninth grades. The goal is to inform the student population about what HIV/AIDS is, how to transmit it, prevention and promote abstinence.

The state of Michigan lets every school district decide if it wants to teach sex education.

“We’re at liberty to teach the curriculum we want. The new curriculum will be all spelled out; it will already be there for teachers to provide information,” said Dehlin. “We’re requesting lessons be terminated that aren’t impacting like others.”

In Kindergarten, instructors focus on the basics like being friends with someone who has HIV. Most of the sexual aspects relating to HIV/AIDS, as well other sexually transmitted diseases, are not discussed until the seventh grade. Most of the time, when these lessons are taught to elementary school students, males and females are separated.

For ninth grade students, new videos would be added to the health curriculum, including one that discusses the difference between crushes and relationships. Even though the school district will continue to teach students about sexual health and education, there is a realization that the parents are the primary educators regarding their children’s sexual behavior.

“Abstinence is a primary emphasis of the curriculum,” said Dehlin. “We really respect parents’ rights for their take on their children’s sex behavior.”

For that reason, the Okemos School Board addressed the public with these proposed changes. The general public saw the proposal on February 5 from 6:00-8:00 p.m. at the School Board Office, located at 4406 North Okemos Rd.

“We had two public views, but only one person showed up. To me it shows that one, parents trust what we’re doing and parents have busy lives,” Dehlin joked.

Once the public gives its approval or disproval, the proposal will be brought back to the school board for the final say.

It appears that the proposed changes are not causing much controversy. Nevertheless, neither Dehlin nor the Okemos School Board did not want to give the green light for the new curriculum without the parents’ permission. During the meeting, it was emphasized that the intentions and goals would not change if the proposal is implemented, but would only enhance what is already in place.

The Okemos school board will make a decision during their next meeting on February 11 at Central Elementary, located at 4406 Okemos Rd.

If the Board approves the proposal, Okemos teachers can start using the curriculum before the end of the 2007-2008 school year.

Meridian’s police force maintains safe community

When living in a major city, hearing about high-speed chases, armed robberies and homicides is not an unusual circumstance. However, in small towns and municipalities like Meridian Township, these crimes have come in sporadic moments. Not what someone would consider a part of daily life.

The town could even be considered “boring,” by crime standards. Yet, Meridian’s residents and law enforcement are just fine with holding that title.

The Meridian Police Department has a force of 45 full-time officers. With 39,116 residents in the municipality, Meridian Township is considered a safe community. Violent crime is very low, with the last murder more than four years ago.

In the most recent police report, from July 1 to Sept. 30, 2007, Meridian Township has seen a six percent decrease in an already low robbery rate, larceny and traffic accidents. Sergeant Randy Kindy credits both the Meridian Police and the town’s residents for the low crime rate.

“We have quality police service, our department does an excellent job of taking a proactive approach to crime,” said Kindy, who has been a member of the Meridian Police Department for 26 years. “Plus, our relationship with the school systems is excellent. I think people enjoy the service.”

Juliet Wang, a Michigan State University journalism junior and Okemos native agreed.

“I’ve lived in Okemos my whole life and can’t really recall seeing any major crime here,” said Wang. “You would think with the town being next to a major university more crime would occur, but it’s not like that. It’s a safe place to live.”

The biggest increase was robbery. Based on the third quarterly report, from July 1 to Sept. 30, 2007, robbery increased by 300%, from 1 in the 2006 third quarterly rate to 4 in 2007. The biggest drop was larceny, which had a six percent decrease from 186 in 2006 to 174 in 2007.
Another continuing trend is the increase in rape and attempted rape. There has been a 67 percent increase in this category, from six cases in 2006 to 10 in 2007. Sergeant Randy Kindy wants to crack down on all forms of crime, regardless of what it is.

“All crime needs to be addressed,” said Kindy. “You can’t just pick one in particular, they are all important.”

Despite an overall low crime rate, the Police Department has numerous services to keep it that way and prevent future issues. They are aware that in order to maintain a safe environment, the community has to be involved as well.

Organizations such as the neighborhood watch, citizen academy and Capitol Area Response Effort or C.A.R.E. all provide both the police and the town’s population way for both to interact with each other to keep the crime rate low.

The Neighborhood Watch Program involves everyday people who keep an eye out in their neighborhood if a criminal activity takes place. They are able to warn other neighbors and report incidents to the police.

The Citizen Academy is offered by the Meridian Police Department and they inform people about the judicial system and the police department.

C.A.R.E is a program implemented to help victims and families of domestic violence. A team of people is on-call whenever a domestic dispute happens.

These and other programs are ways in which the community joins forces with Meridian Township Police Department to ensure and maintain a safe environment for everyone.

“The fact that we have a good relationship with the community’s residents helps us do our job as police officers,” said Kindy. “That’s the main thing, the professionalism.”

For more information on volunteering for these organizations and others, contact the Meridian Township Police Department at (517) 853-4800.