Derek & Natalie (Selmon) James – Ottawa Hills High School – Class of 1998

Natalie and Derek met in 9th grade in Ms. Noah’s freshman honors English class at Ottawa Hills High School. Derek was signing Boys to Men in the back of the classroom as the entire class worked on their spelling narratives. Annoyed with this, Natalie called out “Who is singing boys to men in that ‘ol deep baritone voice? Stop it!”. That voice was Derek’s. “But she noticed me!!” he thought. 

They would go on to become great friends as they took on various leadership positions together in athletics, National Honors Societies, student government, B.E.E.P. Time at practices and competitions (and in many honors classes together) afforded them the chance to become close friends who kinda had a thing for each other from afar…but would never tell one another until later in life. Natalie even taught Derek how to high jump as they both jumped for Ottawa Hills High School track team. They also continued to trade academic achievement position in their class of 1998: Natalie graduated 3rd in their 1998 graduating class overall and Derek graduated 4th. 

They both ended up at Grand Valley State University where their friendship continued to grow as they supported each other through different experiences, relationships, challenges, and milestones. After graduating GVSU, the friends became a bit more distant. They were reconnected by another GVSU friend and OHHS classmate. Natalie wrote Derek a long letter about her secret feelings for him after all these years…and the rest was history. They married in December 2005 and now reside in Pennsylvania working for Penn State University with their sons, Micah and Elijah. The Ottawa Hills pride and colors are all around their offices,  house and wardrobes.

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