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‘A GRPS education can take you anywhere’

New Facebook group features stories of alumni, including those on COVID-19 frontlines

A new Facebook group aimed at Grand Rapids Public Schools alumni wants to honor the great work GRPS grads are doing, including in response to COVID-19.

Launched this week, the group already had 621 members signed up as of Thursday. They stretched as far back as a 1965 graduate of the former South High School, President Gerald R. Ford’s alma mater.

Salina Bishop is director of development and marketing for the Grand Rapids Student Advancement Foundation, which has made more than $20 million in grants to support programs and initiatives of GRPS in the last two decades.

She said GRPS and the SAF have for a long time now wanted to better connect with and engage GRPS alumni. Coming together around frontline COVID-19 efforts became a chance to share stories and create points of connection.

“Now more than ever we want to connect,” Bishop said. “As we highlight stories, our hope is that we will bring people together. We also know that there is a lot of difficult news that people are seeing on social media, and we feel it is so important that we share the good news as well.”

Bishop said GRPS alumni are invited to not only join the Facebook group but also connect and share their stories at grsaf.org/alumnistories.

“We’d love for them to use the link to submit their stories,” she said. “Then as we post the stories to Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and LinkedIn, we encourage everyone to share. We want social media flooded with good.”

And, she added, the definition of “frontline” stories is pretty broad.

“It can mean doctors or teachers,” she said, “or moms who are balancing a professional workload on top of now homeschooling their children. What we wanted to do here is highlight GRPS alumni who are working hard during this crisis and making a difference.”

A new Facebook page has launched for GRPS alumni to connect

Idea for COVID-19 Stories Came from Alum

The idea for telling GRPS COVID-19 stories came from Dr. Colleen Lane, a 2002 City High Middle grad who is leading the COVID-19 testing efforts at Whitman-Walker Health in Washington, D.C. Madelaine Lane, her sister and a 2000 City grad, is vice president of the SAF board of directors, and understandably proud not just of her sister but all of her fellow GRPS alumni working in the fight against the pandemic.

“Our alumni are doing incredible work every day, and especially during this exceptional time,” said Madelaine Lane, a partner in the Litigation, White Collar Criminal Defense and Investigations, and eDiscovery Practice Groups at Warner Norcross + Judd, where she’s been since 2007.

“We need to highlight the work of these alumni not just to celebrate their contributions to the community, but also to serve as an inspiration to our current GRPS students. A GRPS education can take you anywhere.”

For Lane, GRPS teachers were a critical part of her education. Lessons learned from English teacher JoAnne Peterson, she said, “have helped to make me the lawyer and the person I am today.”

Such sentiments, Bishop added, are why the new efforts to tell the stories of GRPS include not just alumni but also former and retired teachers and coaches.

“They are just as much part of education as the students who attended the school,” Bishop said. “We look back on our time in high school, and more often than not, we connect memories with teachers and coaches.”

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Phil de Haan
Phil de Haan
Phil de Haan hails from Exeter, Ontario, but has called Grand Rapids home since 1985. He is the son of a longtime public school teacher who taught both English and machine shop! Phil took both classes at South Huron District High School, but English stuck, and at Calvin College, where he met his wife, Sue, he majored in English and minored in journalism. His background includes both freelance writing and public relations work, including teaching an advertising and PR course at the college level. In the summer of 2019, he began his own freelance writing and communications business. In his spare time, Phil plays pick-up hockey and pickleball and tries to keep tabs on his two adult children. Read Phil's full bio or email Phil.

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