‘This was so good for our souls!’

End-of-year school parade lifts spirits of students, staff

Last Friday afternoon, Ayesha Medina stood by the curb on Clyde Park Avenue SW with her younger sister, Aixi, friend Kennedy Boruta, and their mothers, Ixia Medina and Carrie Barrett. The girls jumped up and down with excitement as a line of cars and school buses decorated with balloons, streamers and signs paraded down the road. As Godwin Heights teachers and staff honked and waved from the vehicles, Ayesha put her hand to her mouth.

“I feel like I’m going to cry,” she said, choking up. “I missed their faces. I don’t care about the video chats anymore, I just want to see their faces.”

After 11 weeks of staying home, “flattening the curve” and distance learning, students got to see the staff and teachers in person, from a safe distance, on the last day of school, May 29.

Read about more school parades in East Grand Rapids and Sparta

Hitting All the Stops 

West Godwin Elementary Principal Mary Lang dreamed up the idea for the last day of school parade and Assistant Principal Casey Kroll led the effort to make it happen, devising a route that hit every neighborhood in the district and making sure the parade passed bus stops so students would have a familiar spot to watch. The parade route, estimated to take an hour, took more than two hours to complete and was time well spent, said Lang.

“I was extremely touched by the number of kids and families that came out,” said Lang.  “There were so many smiles and signs and as one of the staff said, ‘This was so good for our souls!’  Being away from our kids has been so hard and the thought of ending the year without seeing them was unbearable.”

Luckily for Grand Marshals Dan Borrello and Val Richards, it was perfect convertible weather, as arrangements were made for both to don a sash and ride in the open air to mark their retirements from the district. Borrello, a 1981 Godwin graduate who took a position as a custodian with the district in 1985, is retiring this year from his job as head custodian. Richards, an MTSS Interventionist, is also retiring. She attended Godwin schools from kindergarten through high school (graduating in 1971), sent her son there, volunteered there, and was a long-term substitute teacher before being hired full time in 1983.

It’s been a long few months for teachers and families alike and the parade was a needed lift to the spirits.

“I work outside the home,” said Ayesha’s mom, Ixia Medina. “When I’m home, I’m just concerned with what they need to do – getting to sleep on time, doing the video chat on time, appointments, cleaning, food – everything is on my shoulders. It’s a lot. When they’re in school we have different patterns, and more help.”

Shannon McGaffigan, who brought her son Alex Edson to the parade, said she is fortunate that she and her husband can work from home, but facilitating teaching while working is a challenge. She appreciated the chance for Alex to see his teacher, Jessica Haslacker, one last time this school year.

“I think this is a really fun and great idea for the kids,” said McGaffigan. “They’ve been missing a lot.”

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Bridie Bereza
Bridie Bereza hails from Lansing and has worked in the Grand Rapids area as a reporter, freelance writer, and communicator since graduating from Aquinas College in 2003. She feels privileged to cover West Michigan's public schools and hopes to shed a little light on the amazing things happening there through her reporting. Read Bridie's full bio or email Bridie.

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