Inside Scoop: Principal Laura Lemke


Bree Soule, Online Editor in Chief

Prior to being principal at Fenton High, Laura Lemke went through her life like any other kid would— with numerous ups and downs. She was born in Queens, New York, where her father is from, and she has lived in both New York City and Michigan as her mother was from Michigan. 

Currently, she likes to read and go camping “rustic style,” or without a camper. In high school, she followed her love for traveling as she became an exchange student.

“I have always loved traveling,” Lemke said. “After being an exchange student in France, I came back to the United States being fairly fluent in the language.”

Growing up, Lemke loved ice skating and was a figure skater. She won tri-states for Michigan, Indiana, and Ohio one year, as she spent a lot of time practicing her skills.

“My dad used to build me and my brother an ice rink in our yard every winter when we were younger,” Lemke said. “I would spend hours and hours outside skating, playing music to skate by and trying to teach myself skating moves and tricks. It wasn’t until probably 5th grade that I started taking skating lessons and really started to get better. I remember on my first day of skating lessons, I was moved up two classes the first day because of the skills I already had from skating in my backyard for so many years.”

The ice rink she went to had a private school she wanted to attend, however, her parents wouldn’t allow her to because they could no longer afford it.

“My parents wouldn’t allow it, in part because they were going through a divorce and, with splitting up the household, could no longer pay for my skating,” Lemke said. “I had to quit and get a job, instead. I continued skating into college (as I could afford it) but I had to scale way back because I worked three jobs to pay for all of my college costs myself.”

After her parents divorced in her high school years, Lemke slowly lost touch with her father.

“I haven’t seen or talked to my father in over 37 years and he has never met my two children,” Lemke said. “My parents probably should have divorced much sooner as they first separated when I was in kindergarten, so there was a lot of marital discord until they finally parted ways. This experience is why I am really a champion for kids getting their education— because you never know when your whole world can change and you need to be self-sufficient. Education is one thing that no one can take away from you once you have it and it is transportable everywhere.”

Not only did her parents divorce, but she was also forced to move around a lot as a kid.

“Both of my parents were Marines, so both my younger brother and I moved a lot,” Lemke said. “I moved schools every two to three years so that was challenging. I promised my own kids that I wouldn’t move them from their school growing up because I remembered how hard that was to make and lose friends, especially since it was way before social media so moving away from a friend back then, usually meant losing touch forever. My brother and I are close because of how often we moved, even if we don’t get to see each other as much.”

Although she moved a lot, Lemke found a love for baseball and played shortstop on a boys baseball team. 

“I joined the team before Title IX, so girls had their sporting options limited and were often not able to play sports they wanted to,” Lemke said. “My aunt owned an archery center and so I learned to shoot bow/arrow at an early age and was pretty good at that, however she passed away at age 30 due to breast cancer.”

Then in 2015, Lemke was diagnosed with breast cancer.

“I thought it might be genetically linked to her so I went through genetic testing for the benefit of not only my two daughters but my brother’s two children as well,” Lemke said. “My form of breast cancer is not genetically based which was great news for my family members.”

Lemke worried about what the cancer diagnosis would mean for her family. After beating cancer, one of her proudest accomplishments came out of it.

“The accomplishment I am most proud of is raising two healthy, smart science/math nerd daughters who are independently minded and inquisitive about the world,” Lemke said. “This is an exceptional accomplishment for me because, with my cancer diagnosis, I wasn’t sure I was going to be around to watch them grow into the young adults they have become. 

Now grown up, Lemke is the principal of Fenton High, however, this wasn’t always what she wanted to do as she believed the hotel and restaurant industry would be a good opportunity for her. She attended Michigan State University and took classes in business, world language and hospitality management.

“After starting college I worked on Mackinac Island in multiple restaurants,” Lemke said. “On Mackinac Island, I met the man who would eventually become my husband.  As I continued with the program, and probably in large part to the family experience that was disrupted due to marital discord and divorce, I decided a career in the hospitality industry would mean I would be working most holidays and weekends.  I did not want to do that to my “future family” so I shifted gears. Because I was already continuing my world language and business, I decided to try teaching a community education class as well as volunteer in a middle school to see if that was a field for me. I found out that I loved it and never looked back.”

In her immediate future, Lemke plans to continue working with Fenton High students and attempt to make Fenton High the best school in Genesee County.

“I plan to try and continue to give students options for their education because it was my anchor in my life when things were not going well,” Lemke said. “I saw how education goes with you even when you move, have to change households, communities, friends, jobs, etc. I want to help students realize that even the “dull and boring” moments are critical to life’s success because it teaches you how to be resilient and carry on even when things are tough. That is the biggest life lesson I would like to pass on to all— work hard, don’t give up, you will make your dreams happen.”