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First Day Excitement
First Day Excitement
David Thomas
About the only thing traditional for the beginning of Grand River Academy's school year was the start date right after Labor Day. At the opening morning address by Headmaster Tim Viands, students were in for a surprise. The day was marked by experiences and learning not in the classroom, but rather on campus and in the community.

Student Life Coordinators Ms. Amanda Jennings and Mr. Thomas Polak created goals for each class during this first day. These ranged from simply meeting one another, exploring campus, to developing their leadership ideas and problem solving. As the students discovered, learning does not have to happen just inside the classroom but can be shared anywhere. From team-building activities on-campus, tackling the canopy challenge course at Geneva-On-The-Lake, playing a game of foot golf together, kayaking along the shores of Lake Erie and along the Ashtabula River, to eating lunch as a class, there were many opportunities for students to learn more about one another and create shared experiences.

I helped to lead the Class of 2018 on the first day and was fortunate to experience firsthand the orientation and first week activities. It is exciting for me to see these opportunities because they are the memories and the life lessons that our students will remember far beyond their graduation. The benefit of a boarding school environment allows for the stronger relationships and bonds not only at first between students, but quickly between friends.

Our young men likely won't remember their score on hole 5 of foot golf or how far out they kayaked, but they will remember a teacher sitting down at the campfire asking about life or the initial conversation over pizza discovering a shared love for that obscure band. These unique experiences may seem small now, but make a lasting difference for students that reinforce the notion that he is not facing life alone, but rather has a campus community full of people who care for him and his entire experience.

If you have a first year story or experience you would like to share or would like to get in touch with fellow GRA alumni,please reach out to me at I'm looking forward to hearing from you!

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