"Gosh, it feels like you're trucking them in now! It's so nice to see you again Jesse," Grand River Academy Physics Teacher Mr. Dan Riddell said as I walked our 5th alumni visitor in one week into his classroom. Over the past year, we have welcomed back dozens of GRA alumni and families to campus. Each time we see old friends, it is thrilling to learn what they have been up to and hear their memories of time spent on campus.
Helping all of these alumni around campus has given me an awesome insight into what makes GRA memorable and important enough for folks to travel back. One of the first things nearly every alumnus does when they are here, especially our younger visitors, is to ask about each of their teachers. They simply want to see their former teachers and say hello. I see this as a true sign of the influence and lasting legacy that those who teach, and spend countless hours with our students, give to each graduate.
The alumni who visit typically thank their teacher...right after giving him or her a hug. They thank the faculty member for teaching them important skills, valuable life lessons, and most importantly for not giving up on the high school version of the adult who is standing there today. A bond spanning a few months, or a decade, is visible right there in front of me - and I am just the lucky guy who gets to observe it.
I then have the pleasure of answering the next question on most alumni's minds - "what's new on campus?" Showing the basement of Shepard Hall renovation with the Productive Growth Center has most visitors astonished at the space and the change. Then highlighting the Knowledge Commons update in Gates Library, the new look to the weight room, the recording studio in the Posner Music Room at the Robert S. Morrison Lecture Center, and of course the brand new dorm bathrooms is a treat to see how excited our alumni are at the positive change in their campus.
And that's just it. This is still their campus. Our alumni use the adjective "we" - "we" are improving and "our" school is beautiful. Grand River Academy is still their home.
(Pictured is Kyle Habermann '12 and Brady Prewitt '12 who visited campus on their way to see Tyler Stetz '11 in Michigan. They saw our recent renovations and even got a hug from GRA Bud Field Student Center employee "Grandma" Mary Jane Deanna!)