Image of several people from the Real Stories features on Spark Success with the title Best of Real Stories 2021

One of the Spark Success campaign highlights this past year was featuring the real stories of real people right here in West Michigan. These stories of real West Michigan graduates from Allegan, Kent, Muskegon and Ottawa counties showcase the multiple pursuits a person can explore in a sometimes winding pathway that ultimately leads to a strong sense of purpose and a fulfilling career. We celebrate the fact that every individual is unique, and we are proud to be presenting their stories as part of this campaign.

Image of Samantha Kirschner

Meet Samantha

As a pastry chef and chocolatier at Patricia’s Chocolate in Grand Haven, Michigan, Samantha Kirschner, originally from Muskegon, is passionate about creating unique chocolates that people will remember and enjoy. What started as a spark of interest became a full-time career as Samantha began to pursue her passion. Read her full story. 

Meet Joseph

Joseph Reich is a mechanical designer at Tower Pinkster in Kalamazoo. An alumnus of Allegan High School, Joe started participating in trade programs during his junior year and started a job at Perrigo after graduating high school. While at Perrigo, Joe began attending college but ultimately decided it wasn’t the right path for him. Watch his story in the video below.


Image of Ryan Meppelink


Meet Ryan

When Zeeland resident Ryan Meppelink was in high school, he worked on his father’s pick-up truck with his dad and cousin and discovered his passion for hands-on work. The project involved working on the diesel engine of the truck. Through the constant engagement in mechanical work, Ryan knew he wanted to be a diesel technician one day. Read his full story.

Image of Dr. Kalisha Morin


Meet Dr. Morin

Dr. Kalisha Morin from Spring Lake is the proud owner of Holland Family Dentistry. She loves her day-to-day work and the challenge of running a business. Growing up, Dr. Morin never envisioned a role for herself in the medical field. Her mother thrived in her career as a receptionist and Dr. Morin planned to follow in her mother’s footsteps. Read her full story. 

Meet Isabel

Isabel Lopez-Slattery went to high school in Kent County, including a stint at the Kent Career Tech Center. She continued an educational journey at Grand Rapids Community College and Western Michigan University. It all led her to become an entrepreneur and business owner. Her company, Isabel Media Studios, is a photography studio specializing in commercial photography and related services for websites, marketing materials, and more for a wide range of corporate and organizational clients. Watch her story in the video below.



Image of Bobbi Jo Matheny


Meet Bobbi Jo

Bobbi Jo Matheny of Muskegon has a nontraditional job. Her expertise? Welding and application of gases in the welding process. In layman’s terms, Bobbi works in welding. Her job is to pack industrial gases as a research associate in Delaware at Air Liquide, a French-owned, global company. Before landing the job, Bobbi Jo graduated from Ferris State University with a bachelor’s degree in welding engineering technology. Read her full story. 

Meet Darin

When he first began working at AHC+Hospitality in 1990, Darin had just graduated from Louisiana Tech University with a bachelor’s degree in general studies. Not quite sure what his calling in life was at the time, Darin decided to join the world of hospitality after connecting with a friend in the industry. Watch his story in the video below.



Image of Shannon Veld


Meet Shannon

During her junior year of high school, Shannon took an accounting class at the Allegan County Area Technical and Education Center and discovered her knack for the trade. She also obtained her certification in QuickBooks, which opened the door for work-based learning at an accounting firm in Grand Rapids her senior year. At the firm, Shannon put her QuickBooks skills into practice, and was mentored by those in the field. Though Shannon found her passion for accounting during her first-ever accounting class, it was the work-based learning opportunity that cemented her interest. Read her full story.