Sveri May: a Loy Norrix life and legacy

Mrs.+May+has+been+at+Norrix+for+39+years+and+her+contributions+are+priceless.+After+she+retires%2C+she+plans+to+move+to+Colorado+to+be+closer+to+her+daughter%27s+family.+She+has+already+made+calls+about+starting+a+Peace+Jam+at+the+local+high+school.

Credit: Hannah Locke

Mrs. May has been at Norrix for 39 years and her contributions are priceless. After she retires, she plans to move to Colorado to be closer to her daughter’s family. She has already made calls about starting a Peace Jam at the local high school.

Hannah Locke, Chief Copy Editor

A lot can happen in 39 years, Sveri May is a testament to that. Current Loy Norrix teacher, Mrs. May, attended Loy Norrix High School for her sophomore and senior years– she spent her junior year in Stockholm, Sweden, and graduated from KPS in 1973. 

May returned to Norrix in September of 1987 to begin her career as a student teacher, which lasted until December of 1988. She then started to teach full-time the following year. 

Deciding to continue her career at her alma mater was not a hard decision for her to make because she never wanted to leave Loy Norrix in the first place.

“I could have graduated early, but I didn’t want to leave. I just took extra classes and whatever because I really wanted more of my high school experience at Loy Norrix, so I didn’t graduate early,” May said. ”I graduated with everyone else and I was bawling my eyes out because I wasn’t ready to leave.”

So, May came back and has been at Loy Norrix for the better part of 39 years. Her time at LN has been filled with many milestones such as the creation and growth of Peace Jam, the beginning of her Living History project, and years as a successful class advisor. 

“This is a very emotional retirement from Loy Norrix. It’s never been a job for me. It’s been more than a job and a career: it’s been a passion,” May said.

An immeasurable part of May’s legacy at Norrix is Peace Jam. She started the group in 2003 and completes an average of 35 service projects every year with the student members she advises. Her projects include winter clothing drives and the Loy Norrix/Edison Literacy Project that helps build the reading comprehension skills of fourth graders from Edison elementary with the help of Norrix “peace jammers.” She also travels with Peace Jam to complete out-of-state and international service projects, helping people in need all over the world. 

“I’ve taken kids to Peru twice, I’ve taken them to South Africa, India, Vietnam, Cuba,” May said. “You’re doing something to make life better for someone else, you’re actually changing your understanding that you can make the world a better place.”

I’ve been doing Peace Jam for two years now, and even though it’s been online for most of that time, it’s been really fun and fulfilling,” said Maia Litner, sophomore at Loy Norrix, “Mrs. May has opened up so many opportunities for me and my fellow peace jammers to help the community, everything from volunteer car washes to the Edison Literacy Project, where we read to fourth graders at Edison Elementary over Zoom. I’ve learned from her and from being in the group the importance of giving back to your community and collaborating with others. We will all miss her!”

Before Peace Jam, though, in 1996, May began the Living History project. The project pairs 10th graders with veterans from WWII, Korean, Vietnam, Persian Gulf War, Operation Desert Storm and other military combat and non-combative events. The students interview the veteran they have been paired with and research them before compiling all of their findings into a notebook. They are able to meet with their veterans one more time at a luncheon and give them the notebooks.

 “I think the most important thing I learned is how much students cared about the military service that the veteran’s told them about in their interviews at the Battle Creek VA Medical Center.” May continued, “There have been about 500-600 veteran reports — Navy, Army, Air Force, Marines and Coast Guard.  Some of these reports have been given to the Library of Congress, others will be given to local historical societies. Students helped to gather these veteran’s stories and service to our country for them and for their future generations to know about them.”

“I’m very grateful I got to be a part of that project,” said Loy Norrix sophomore, Avery Vandenbusche, “Mrs May did a great job setting up the groups of kids with their veteran and still making the project happen even with covid. I thought it was cool that we could interview an actual veteran and learn about their life in the military. When I thought of military life I thought of being in combat zones, but it wasn’t until I interviewed a veteran that I learned there’s so much more to military life than just fighting. Overall the project was a great learning experience and life experience and Mrs May did all that she could to help everyone participate and learn from this experience. With her help, many students were able to leave their comfort zone and get to know someone they had never met before.”

May’s time at Loy Norrix is not only made up of Peace Jam and Living History. In the four decades she has been teaching at our school, she has made a legacy for herself through the students she teaches and mentors.

“What I want it [legacy] to be and what it will be are different,” May said. “I hope my legacy is the kids that have learned to be good citizens and to give back to their communities. What you’re actually changing [is] the person inside because you know that every little act of kindness will help somebody along the way.”

May thinks that her legacy will be something more measurable, like the college flags that are hung up on the walls of our cafeteria .

“There are a few things that will last even though I turn in my keys and I’m all done. All those flags that are around the cafeteria, I either bought them or I convinced the office of admissions that they wanted to have their flag in our cafeteria.” May continued, “There was a couple snow days that that’s all I did all day was call admissions offices and tell them why it was that they needed to send us a flag.”

Throughout her entire career, May has only ever wanted to give students bright futures filled with learning opportunities. Another specific way that she recalls spending her time, a way that helped her students reach their full potential, was writing recommendations. 

“It’s my way of extending their valor, and looking into a window to their future. We helped to get them ready for the next step of theirs. I’m so honored to be able to spend that time to help them to get there,” May said, “That’s the paying it forward, I can’t imagine anything better.”

May’s legacy is not just going to be the college and university flags that line our cafeteria. Her legacy is made up of the thousands of students she’s helped send to college, the thousands of lives she’s impacted–made better through her countless projects in and outside of our halls. Her legacy is the limitless love she has for Loy Norrix and the people who work here and learn behind it’s doors.

May ended with misty eyes and a tissue in hand, “If Loy Norrix is my home, then the people here are my family.”