BY MATT MACKINDER
Clarkston News Staff Writer
Kamren Huizenga graduated from Clarkston High School in 2014 and then began college that fall at Michigan State University.
Truth be told, you probably saw him quite often from 2014 to 2018 and didn’t even know it, as Huizenga played the MSU mascot, Sparty, all four years in East Lansing.
MSU has a tradition of not revealing who portrays Sparty until graduation. At graduation, Sparty wears his boots unmasked with his graduation gown.
“I never would’ve imagined myself trying out to be Sparty,” Huizenga said. “During my freshman year, I found I had spare time and I was searching for opportunities to become involved at MSU. I looked into many different clubs and organizations, but none really held my attention. I actually owe it to my twin sister, Kendall, who was on the Dance Team at that time, for discovering the opportunity.”
The Dance Team and Sparty work closely together as members of the MSU Spirit Squad, which is how Kendall was aware of the opening and audition.
“I was at first apprehensive about trying out, since it was something wildly outside my comfort zone,” said Huizenga. “Through motivation and encouragement from my family, and some past Spartys, I gathered my confidence and submitted my application. Throughout the rigorous tryout process, I fell in love with the program and the character Sparty.”
Huizenga said it was emphasized to keep his identity a secret in order to protect the character of Sparty.
“This enables you to make yourself more comfortable when portraying him,” Huizenga said. “Of course, some very close people had to be let in on the secret. My family, along with very close friends, knew my identity, as it would’ve been impossible to deceive them that long and frequent. Whenever I revealed my identity to close friends, the constant reaction was disbelief. In fact, it took more convincing on my part than I care to admit. For everyone else who didn’t know, I was constantly stringing together excuses for why I couldn’t attend activities – in hopes that my Sparty identity wouldn’t be revealed. My roommates thought it was a bit odd that I never wanted to attend a football game, when in reality, I had the best seat in the house.”
Huizenga called his time as Sparty “absolutely incredible” to be on the field or court to cheer on the teams and travel around the country representing the university.
“I was extremely fortunate to be at MSU while there was so much athletic success,” said Huizenga. “As a result, I was able to travel to many sought-after events, including the Final Four, the Cotton Bowl for the college football playoffs, Big Ten championship games in both football and basketball, and other March Madness games to name a few. However, the large majority of my time was not spent on football fields and basketball courts. Rather, it was within the Spartan community, both local and nationwide at fundraisers, hospitals, elementary schools, and weddings. Oh, so many weddings. While I loved the adrenaline-filled large-scale athletic events, it lacked the deeply personal connections that were formed at the hundreds of other smaller events where Sparty shared his magic.”
Huizenga graduated in 2018 with honors from the Lyman Briggs College at MSU with a BS in Human Biology and just completed his first year of medical school at Central Michigan University.
“I have always had an interest in medicine that was reinforced when my older sister, Taryn (another Clarkston grad), became a doctor,” Huizenga said. “Given my interest in science, medicine was a natural fit. Portraying Sparty gave me the opportunity to continue to serve in the community and interact in many ways at hospitals and schools. It also gave me the privilege of traveling the country and every corner of the state of Michigan. I had been to the Mount Pleasant area as Sparty, and the size of the program, community clerkship, and clinical simulation center all appealed to me. At this time, I have an interest in ophthalmology, but I understand that as I progress through medical school, my interests may change.”
Born in Royal Oak, Huizenga has lived in the Clarkston area since birth. He attended Andersonville Elementary, Sashabaw Middle School, Clarkston Junior High and graduated from CHS with Magna Cum Laude honors. He also played hockey for CHS, and this also came in handy when, as Sparty, he was able to skate at both Joe Louis Arena and Little Caesars Arena with the MSU hockey team.
“The Clarkston community gave me the foundation to pursue my goals,” Huizenga said. “I am grateful for the education I received at CHS. The school is large, allowing all students the opportunity to find a place to thrive. I was also incredibly surprised with the huge amount of support that I received from the community, including from many individuals who I have never even met, after it was made public that I was Sparty. I’m thankful that I was able to grow up in Clarkston and look forward to each chance I get to return home.”