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Rocket Grad “Living the Dream”


MOUNT PLEASANT — Emily Vanderlaan has “lived the dream” as a student at Central Michigan University. The graduate of Reeths-Puffer High School will be attending another graduation soon, next month from CMU. And her days as a college student have been marked with real-life experiences of helping adults and children across the United States; and learning about the horrors of human genocide while touring Europe.

That’s a lot to squeeze into four years but she is very grateful for the opportunities that have been available to her through CMU. Emily is an active member of the Alternative Breaks program, which is run by CMU students. The program sends 12 students to various locations across the United State to become involved in various civic and community programs. “In my freshman year I traveled to Florida and worked for a non-profit group that provides free family vacations for terminally ill children,” Emily said.

Her other domestic trips have included a visit to a VA hospital in St. Petersburg, Florida and to Charlotte, North Carolina where she helped work on raising awareness of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Questioning (LGBQ) issues.

Emily has also traveled abroad representing Alternative Breaks and perhaps her most memorable trip was a visit to Germany and Poland, where she studied the Holocaust experience. “I learned the history of the Holocaust and even got to visit Auschwitz [prisoner death camp],” she said. “It was a remarkable experience.”

As part of her duties with Alternative Breaks, Emily was required to bring some understanding of the Holocaust to the CMU community; and it is something she said she will never forget.

While a student at Reeths-Puffer high school, Emily said she could have never. imagined doing everything she has done in the last four years. But it shouldn’t come as a surprise that she has been rewarded for her hard work and dedication. “I am a first generation college student,” she said. “I have put myself through college.”

Her academic life will not end once she graduates in May from CMU. “I have been admitted to the Michigan State University College of Law,” Emily said. “I will be studying constitutional public policy.”

Emily was born and raised in Augusta, Georgia and eventually moved to the Muskegon area because of her father’s family ties. She has a younger sister and she would be very proud “if she followed in my footsteps.”

If you would like to follow more of Emily’s “living the dream” story please visit