What impact does GRA have on the young men that live, study, and graduate from the Academy? Discover firsthand from one of Grand River’s own. We caught up with alum J.B. Stackhouse (‘13) to discuss his experiences at GRA, what he is up to now, and the impact the Academy has had on his life thus far:
1. Why did you decide to attend GRA?
My parents actually made the call to send me to GRA. I was not really involved in the decision. However, I did visit the Academy before I enrolled.
2. Was the coursework at GRA difficult and challenging?
I would never say that the course work was easy, but [it was never too much for me to handle]. Because of the small class sizes, teachers at GRA have the ability to work with their students on a more personalized level. I really benefited from this and would say, in retrospect, that GRA students often times learn more than public school students. Since GRA classes are set up for and catered specifically for [male] students, [GRA students] come to view course work as easy.
3. How did GRA teachers help you succeed in your academics and prepare you for college?
When I started my senior year, my writing was complete crap. My biggest dilemma was writers block and it was always in my way. Josh Hartz was my English teacher that year, and I believe that it was him and his teachings, that got me to become a better writer. All of my history courses also prepared me for my major courses in college and helped elevate me to [higher academic] levels, year after year. But the biggest thing I learned at GRA was what it meant to be successful. When I started at GRA, I had a history of underperforming, and although I was ambitious, I would have never gone to college. GRA helped me get there and remain successful. I am so thankful for GRA.
4. Did you have a mentor at GRA? If so, how did they (or GRA in general) help you grow personally and academically?
Describing it is hard, but yes, I did have quite a few mentors at GRA. Although I never had him in class as he retired before I got to take his senior seminar, Bob Archer always felt like a sounding board of wisdom and reason for me. He had so much knowledge that one of the highlights of my days was getting to converse with him in the library. John Wooding and Larry Wilson were surrogate grandfathers in my mind, as they lessoned me in history and government. As older teachers, they controlled their classrooms in great ways, and taught me about school and life itself. Jed Trombley was a terrific mentor in the lives of my roommate and I, as he took us to the Harbor Perk coffee shop every week for philosophical conversation and lively discussion. Matt Pavlovic was my math teacher for junior year and has treated me like a son ever since. He has called me in my college days at the beginning and end of every semester to first give me tips for the semester and, second, to make sure I didn’t flunk out. My advisor, David Scharping, taught me what it meant to be a leader and was always pushing me to greater levels of success, as he advised me on perseverance and effort. Lastly, Thomas and Clare Polak were the older siblings I never had. As my dorm parents, we have argued over a thing or two, but as my friends and mentors, they have always been there for me in the hours I needed them most.
5. How did you interact with other students in and out of class?
GRA showcases true brotherhood, as I like to say as I’m out giving tours. GRA is its own family for its students. Everyone is unique and contributes to the overall community in a different way, each bringing their best attributes to the table. As an all-boys school, we never really had “popular kids,” we just saw each other as friends, classmates, and brothers. Everyone at GRA knows each other, as we form a small but very close-knit campus focused on backing and supporting eachother.
6. How did GRA prepare you for your chosen field of study?
When I was at GRA, I excelled in my American History and United States Government courses and had immense respect for my teachers. They, too, took pride in my accomplishments as a student, and I will always remember the impact they had on my life. When I got to college, Political Science courses came to me naturally, and I’ve stuck with it ever since. A lot of the material I learned at GRA has often been retaught in my collegiate courses and I’ve always been steps ahead my peers when it came to my understanding of government related concepts.
7. What are you up to now?
I will be starting my senior year at Hanover College in September. At Hanover, I have held a vast number of positions and have been very successful. Hanover has been an inspiring and remarkable college for my undergraduate education and I couldn’t be happier. As I near the end of my collegiate career, I can only think positively of my experience. Since my days as a freshman, I have served and held many positions of leadership at Hanover. During my freshman year I was elected as a Student Senator and a Hall Council President. During my sophomore and junior years I served as the Social Chair for my fraternity and won both re-election campaigns as a Senator. As a junior I was designated by the college as the Representative for the Class of 2017 for the Inauguration of our 16th President. I also wrote the constitutions for and reestablished the College Democrats and Republicans clubs on campus. On my thoughts for after college, I don’t really have any yet, but am sure I’ll be thinking about everything a lot this next year. As of right now, I am a summer intern at GRA, working with the admissions and advancement teams. It has been a terrific experience to be back and contributing to my high school alma mater.
8. What is something you miss about GRA?
If I had to point to one thing I believe it would have to be the brotherhood of GRA and the excellent family environment of our school. At GRA, I established solid friendships with people that I still contact in college and enjoy keeping in touch with. The remarkable bonds that I formed is not consistent nor existent at every boarding school in the country.
9. What is a good memory you had?
I will forever remember all of the excellent ski trips led by Rusty and Mr. Riddell. They were always so fun and, as a college student in Southern Indiana, a thing I haven’t been able to do since I was a student. I certainly miss those days blasting down the trails of Peek n’ Peak with Dom Buker and Zach Post.
10. What do you think sets GRA apart from the public school system?
I believe that GRA prepares young men with a set of skills and life lessons that you wouldn’t ever discover in a public school system. My classmates and I graduated as adults ready for college – and in some cases, the real world. As a school with an international presence, GRA has students from around the world. As students, we experience diversity first hand and respectfully learn and embrace the various cultures seen here. Boarding school students in general are much more prepared for college than students from public and private schools. This runs deep at GRA, as students cannot graduate without a college acceptance. It also goes to point out the development in character that I saw as a student and now as an intern. Boys come to GRA as boys and leave as men.
11. What is one piece of advice you would give to students?
If I could give students some advice, it would be to take college seriously. I know it sounds like a bummer but it’s really important. The majority of freshman that have negative first semesters leave college after that year and never comeback. Having been a high school senior not too long ago, I understand what’s going through your mind, but if you can just push back the party until you have established yourself academically and socially, college will be much easier.
If you’re a GRA alum and would like to share your experience, or just stay in touch, we’d love to hear from you.
Learn more about how GRA is helping every young man succeed – academically, socially, and emotionally – and how your son can transform his future by taking a more personalized approach to his academics.