Author Archives: Jeff Popovich

LSSU students educate expectant mothers about perinatal vaccination

LSSUNursinBabyShower8903Soon-to-be mothers in the eastern U-P had the chance recently to learn about the importance of perinatal vaccinations.

Nursing students from Lake Superior State University presented information on the value of perinatal vaccinations to hundreds of expectant mothers and their families. It was part of a community wide baby shower. Continue reading

Getting to the bottom of rising national student loan debt

College Students
The school year winding down means graduation ceremonies are around the corner.

Whether graduating students are leaving college, or getting ready to attend, one thing on many students’ minds is student loans. Continue reading

Utility assistance offered to mid-Michigan residents

Although winter is over, paying utility bills isn’t. A community action group is offering assistance to people in mid-Michigan struggling to pay a back-log of winter bills.

Mid Michigan Community Action is offering assistance to families with lingering utility costs, and providing them with a supply of heating fuel for next winter. Continue reading

Service project aims to “eat away” at invasive species

Volunteers are needed for a series of hunts in northwest lower Michigan, that are meant to curb the spread of an invasive plant species.

The volunteer hunters will be searching for Garlic Mustard. A species that can quickly crowd out native plants. Continue reading

The balancing act: College and politics

Central-Michigan-University-seal.svgAs potential presidential candidates start to gear up for the 2016 election, both parties have made it clear they want to target young voters.

A population that can be challenging to reach. Continue reading

Earth week events encourage “hands on” learning

This is Earth week. It’s dedicated to restoration and conservation efforts.

There are several Earth-friendly events taking place this week at Central Michigan University, including one “hands-on” event.

It’s called “Pick up the Chip”.

It’s a service project aimed at cleaning trash from around the Chippewa river, and part of the Earth-week focus to reduce pollution and teach future generations responsible ways to maintain a healthy ecosystem.

Rachel Ochylski is one of the organizers.

She said, “We really wanted to show the community that you don’t have to live near an ocean to care about marine animals and conservation of their habitat, and you can make a difference here in Michigan and right here in Mount Pleasant.”

Ochylski said event organizers hope to educate people on the importance of habitat conservation and reducing pollution.

Pick up the Chip is scheduled for Friday at noon at Mt Pleasant’s Island Park.

Pick up the Chip

Paws for Freedom: one dog’s rescue story from Iran to Saginaw

Pets take on roles; they’re family members, best friends and sometimes – targets.

Captain has been all three. Today he lives with a family in Saginaw. He was adopted out of Iran. A place where dogs have been outlawed for over thirty years.

Jeff Popovich tells us about Captain, his new family and his remarkable journey:

Despite missing a leg, Captain runs effortlessly to greet, Reza Saffarian.

Saffarian is an Iranian-born American citizen who adopted Captain from his home country two years ago.

He said, “We are just happy to be able to help an animal that had probably been put down overseas if that was not, you know if that was not for the circumstances.”

Dogs have been outlawed in Iran since the Iranian revolution in the late 1970s.

It wasn’t until 2004 the country’s first ever animal shelter was founded. It’s called Vafa. That means loyalty in Farsi, the official Persian language in Iran.

Saffarian said animal activist groups like Vafa have been busy trying to improve the fate of dogs in Iran.

He said, “They were instrumental in identifying these dogs and bringing them in, and sheltering these animals.”

The shelter adopts dogs to safe homes in other countries through their website.

Saffarian said, “We were able to look on their website, read the stories of these dogs, and be able to hook up some of these dogs and he was one of those few, and I think they would tell you that, he was one of the few fortunate dogs to be able to get adopted out of nearly 500 dogs.”

Saffarian decided on Captain because he says he felt the dog would be overlooked by other families looking to adopt because he is missing a leg.

He got in touch with the Vafa representative who handles adoptions to the US.

A few weeks later Captain was on a plane to Boston.

Once he was in the US, his journey continued to Saginaw through a volunteer group called The Liberty Train.

That’s an all volunteer organization dedicated to rescuing and transporting animals to homes across the country.

Laura Harper is transport coordinator and founder of The Liberty Train.

She said, “We get drivers to pick up a dog at one location then they transport them to the next location and pass them off to the next driver and so on and so forth until they get where they’re going.”

Harper said it’s a humbling experience working with so many people that are so willing to help.

She said, “When I get to the end of the week and I know that I’ve got wonderful people like Team Iran and Team US/Canada or the Vafa shelter and all the other rescues that we work with it fills my heart. It keeps me going knowing that there are good people out there.”

Back in Saginaw, Reza Saffarian said he’s grateful to all the people who were involved in Captain’s rescue and transport.

When Captain arrived, the Saffarians were concerned about his stump. It had not been properly amputated when he was still in Iran.

Saffarian said, “So we put him through a surgery shortly after we got him, and ever since I think he has…his life has taken for the better.”

Since his rescue, Captain has adapted to the English language.

He’s also picked up on things that American dogs take for granted, like climbing stairs and even playing with toys.

Saffarian said, “We are delighted…we are really delighted. And I think somehow he appreciates that too you know you saw how he comes to the door and greets us, and how he sticks by me. I think he understands that maybe he is somewhat lucky.”

Captain went from being a target on the streets of Iran to a full fledged Saffarian family member.

Aside from being one lucky dog, Captain’s journey is one example that possibilities are endless.


Vafa Animal Shelter

The Liberty Train

New veteran assistance coalition forms in mid-Michigan

veterans 11-13-13Mid-Michigan area veterans and their families will soon have a new support network to turn to.

The Great Lakes Bay Veteran’s Coalition aims to provide assistance to members of the military, veterans, and their families. Continue reading

Endangered species designation slows northern trail project

BatTrail enthusiasts in northern Michigan will have to wait a bit longer for construction of a new trail from Boyne City to Charlevoix.

The project delay is the result of a recent designation of the northern long-eared bat as a threatened species by the U.S Fish and Wildlife Service. Continue reading

Planting season is around the corner

CropsAs warmer weather finally returns to Michigan, farmers are gearing up for the planting season.

Crop analysts are hopeful that the 2015 planting season will be relatively normal, compared to last year when cold weather delayed farmers from taking to their fields. Continue reading

Longtime coach, CMU athletics legend retires

Marcy Weston (Photo courtesy Central Michigan University)

Marcy Weston (Photo courtesy Central Michigan University)

As women’s history month comes to a close, so does the career of a woman who’s had a national impact on women’s athletics.

Marcy Weston has spent the last four decades at Central Michigan University, as a women’s sports coach and administrator. She announced her retirement from CMU earlier this month.

Jeff Popovich sat down with Weston to discuss her time at Central, and he asked her how a five year gig turned into a 42-year stay in Mt. Pleasant.


Marcy: Actually I’ve had that question asked to me several times in the last few months. I came here with the option that I’d move somewhere else after five or six years and Central Michigan really gave me an opportunity to do everything I loved. Started out as a Field Hockey coach and after two years I was called in and they said, “Well you really probably don’t have a job here anymore because the field hockey coach is coming back she was getting her P.H.D” I go, “Well I can do something else” They go, “What else can you do?” I said, “Well what do you need done”? Because I wanted to make sure I kept my options open. They go, “Well we need an assistant basketball coach” I go, “I can do that” “…and a volleyball coach” I said, “I can do that”. I was an average at best volleyball player, I had never coached volleyball. So I quickly went to five volleyball clinics around the country to get more knowledgeable, and then totally lucked out with four players from the Michigan State Championship volleyball team just came to Central. We had open tryouts, and I was a good judge of talent I picked all four of them, and that was the beginning of my volleyball career. And really good athletes make coaches look really good. So that’s kind of how it started; it worked out very well, I had a good volleyball coaching career and I got to stay in basketball. Even after I got out of officiating I worked part time for the NCAA. Central always allowed me to do that as long as I got my work done. So there were a lot of crazy years in there where I didn’t have a lot of time off, but you know I was young and kind of crazy and I did it and wouldn’t have changed anything. Jeff it helped fully round me out as a coach, as an administrator, as a mentor, as a support person for other staff, and central let me do that, which is why I stayed that long. A lot of places would have said, ‘Can’t do this outside stuff’ but my athletic department knew and the president knew all those years. Those weren’t the years where you told everybody everything you did, because I didn’t want them to think if I was you know five minutes late for something its because I was doing outside work. Sometimes you’re just late.

Jeff: As you arrived here, you arrived at the same time coinciding with the debut of Title IX. So you’ve seen the growth and acceptance of women’s programs and student athletes over the decades. What’s it been like watching the impact of Title IX, and the growth of women’s athletics over the years?

Marcy: Jeff you know it’s interesting because anybody that’s spent any time looking at Title IX no one really knew the impact it would have on athletics. It was basically an educational amendment that any public or post-graduate or secondary school, if they received federal funds they had to make sure that educational opportunities were available for men and women. Boys and girls, men and women. Nobody thought about athletics, it was like can they get into med school, can they get into law school, can they get into engineering school where there was a ponderance of men, it was basically educational. Well then it wasn’t until really in the 80s where people started to go, ‘Wow…it’s also athletics. It’s also anything else you could think of’ any other program where the institution receives federal dollars. A school like Central Michigan certainly receives federal appropriation. So when it started it just happened to coincide with me being here, but again we didn’t even know those implications.

Jeff: Officiating has always been a part of your life as well, you were officiating before you even came to Central. So after decades of officiating, what does it mean to be the first woman to win the Gold Whistle Award back in 2008?

Marcy: Actually Jeff that was a major touch point in my life. I’ve been a member of NASO, National Association of Sports Officials, for twenty-five years. Just because it’s the only, everybody goes “Who would want to join an officials organization?” Obviously an official (laughs). It, in any sport, they have articles, they have support for every sport there is. So I was a member of that, I’ve been on their board of directors. I’ve done a lot of things with that group, and when the executive director called me and said, “You’ve been selected as the Gold Whistle Award” I mean, I’m very rarely at a loss for words, but I was. I go, “Barry.. It’s all guys.” He goes, “Yeah, well it’s not all guys anymore”. And I said, “Wow, I’m stunned, flattered, exuberant” I mean these are like final four officials, NFL officials, you know world series officials have had, you know and I go, “I’m a women’s basketball official” and they go, “Well we believe that the body of work and the things you do…”and I won’t go into details, but I said, “What could I say but thank you”. That was…that was huge for me I can’t even…I can’t even tell you how I felt, but it was exuberant.

Jeff: So looking throughout this extensive career, what would you say was the best part of your job throughout your career here at Central and what will you miss the most?

Marcy: Clearly working with student athletes. That is the most fun part of my job. I have said this part many times I would never want to work anywhere with all adults of any age; young, middle-aged, older, because I think it would be boring. Now maybe not because I try to find the positives in everything. But working with young people, student athletes in the formative years. I started out teaching in middle school, never was at the high school level where I might from middle school to get my masters and went to college. But the benefits of athletics, physical education, activity, sport, recreation, activity in and of itself is so valuable I think to the psyche, the development of boys and girls. Even if you’re not real good at it, there’s a value in the experience. Because I think the values you learn later in life from that you can’t quit when you’re losing. If you don’t like somebody on your team, you still got to play with them. If the coach yells at you or empowers you sometimes you don’t think you can do it, and you can. And there are all those opportunities in real life as well, but you can learn those from an early age in a sporting environment. So to me, working with young people in athletics gives them so many opportunities that they may not always view as an opportunity. They might view that they’re being like “unfairly challenged” or “unrealistically challenged” , but so many that endure and make it, they go, “I got through that. I got through that awful situation.” We were 0 and 12 and we won our last two games, so we finished 2 and 12. And it’s hard going the other way where you won and then lose at the end, but it’s still a lesson to be learned. And I think the value and coaches with young people is they can show them how you can get through tough situations. So working with young people has always been my joy.

Jeff: Well that’s good to hear Marcy, and you’ve been such an inspiration for so many people I wish you the best of luck in retirement and thanks again Marcy for talking with us today.

Marcy: My pleasure Jeff, thanks for the invitation.

Consumer’s Energy working to fix outages in NW lower Michigan

power linePower outages are affecting several northern mid-Michigan counties today.

More than 4,500 people are without power in Wexford, Missaukee, Osceola, and Clare counties.

Cadillac Schools is sending students home early due to power outages in multiple buildings.

A Consumer’s Energy spokesperson said restoration work should be completed by mid afternoon.

Consumer’s Energy outage map

State trail usage survey reveals thousands of annual users

trail users 2Michigan’s recreational trails have been feeling the love. A community forum is planned in Petoskey to discuss survey results that show the usage of some northern Michigan trails.

The Top of Michigan Trails Council and Emmet County commissioned the study last summer. Continue reading

Michigan Historical Commission approves four new historical markers

MI_His_CenterResidents and tourists in Michigan have some new historical destinations to learn about.

The Michigan Historical Commission has added four new historical markers to the more than 1700 green and gold signs found across the state. Continue reading

New policies attempt to address the vaccination issue

vaccinationState health officials are just over a month into enforcing a new policy aimed at informing and providing parents with education on vaccinations.

The state is ramping up efforts to increase vaccination rates after Michigan ranked fourth-highest in the nation last year for vaccination waiver requests. Continue reading