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ROPES, Wisdom from Grand River Academy Alumni

ROPES, Wisdom from Grand River Academy Alumni

During lunch each day at Grand River Academy, a member of the GRA community gives a Rite of Passage Enrichment Sermonette (ROPES). Topics for the 2015-2016 school year include new beginnings, lessons learned, appreciation for others, and appreciation of oneself. These meaningful speeches have quickly helped me to know each faculty, staff member and student that much better.

Below is a copy of the speech I gave this past week in which I shared with our GRA family some wisdom given to me by you - our alumni, former faculty, and friends of Grand River Academy.

"The important lesson learned that I’m sharing today is that faces change, but our students through the years have not. What do I mean by that? Well, for those of you who didn't realize, I've been on campus now for 23 years. That means 23 graduations, granted I don't remember some of the first ones. So I have seen roughly 600 students graduate from GRA, myself being one in 2011, and naturally that has given me something to think about.

So faces change, but people don't. Well, Billy - you actually remind me of a Bill Jordan who graduated 10 years ago, and Colin, you remind me of a young man named Mike Good who graduated in 2008, Andrew, you're a little like Tyler Bell who was in my class, and so on - I could do that for each of you.

Why do I compare you, because hundreds of students have come before you, hundreds have had similar experiences, faced similar hurdles, had similar fears and apprehensions, lived in the same dorm rooms, complained about our food, wifi, and lack of girls. Only faces and names have changed over the years, but our students, who we serve, has not.

I've talked with many of our alumni over this past year, and I will be honest. Many have been successful, either in their jobs, personal life, and emotional well-being, while others have not- they made mistakes, took unnecessary risks, and may have regrets. But what have nearly all of these alumni shared with me, that I want to pass along to you?

Nearly all of our alumni reflect back and say that our teachers were some of the best role models they had, our study hall structure actually was productive, our lack of girls really did help in their focus, being away from home actually allowed them the room to discover themselves, and ultimately- looking back each alumnus has said he misses his time here- missing just hanging out in friends' dorm rooms, missing soccer practice every afternoon, missing the feeling of accomplishment on their first A or college acceptance, all alumni miss the brotherhood here.

So if faces change but people don't, reflect on what those who came before you shared. Look around and wonder what you may miss, what you may look back on, and what you might wish you had more time to do while here on campus. Because one day you'll be 23 or even 93, as one alum shared with me recently, and wonder what your experience could have been here at GRA, if you only had more time to spend and more room for appreciation for those around you."


Our current young men are not unlike you when you were a student at Grand River Academy. They must overcome the same hurdles and face similar challenges. They can benefit from your experience and learn from your time at GRA. If you have any stories or words of wisdom to share with our current student body, please know I would be honored to pass your history along as they make history of their own. I can be reached by email at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or phone at440-275-2811 ext 246.

(Pictured is Avery '16, David Thomas '11, Jimmy Aveni '10, and Nolan Kovacik '12 during a visit Jimmy and Nolan made to campus this past Spring. The alumni and current students shared stories and looked over yearbooks together with Avery, a GRA Senior).

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