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Putting out the welcome mat

Lakeside students serve as school ambassadors

East Grand Rapids — Take a tour with the Lakeside Student Ambassadors and you will learn more than just where the lower and upper elementary wings are located. You’ll discover what the displays in the glass cases are all about, where the basketballs for outdoor recess are located, why the elementary school’s mascot is a lion and why there is a yellow flag with a coat on it displayed in the hallways.

“It means that you have to have a coat on for recess,” said fifth-grade Ambassador William Cherveny of the flag with the coat. “If it is below 50 degrees, you have to wear a coat outside.”

A longstanding tradition at Lakeside Elementary, every year six students — a boy and a girl from each of the school’s three fifth-grade classes — are selected to be part of the Student Ambassadors program. The Ambassadors escort new families through the building, stopping at various points in the school such as the gym and the music room.

“At one point, it was decided that when new families came to Lakeside, we wanted them to be able to see it through a student’s perspective,” said fifth-grade teacher Kristen Lecours, who helps with the Ambassador program. “It is more about having that conversation and giving families a look into what Lakeside is about.”

William C. added that the goal is to help new students know where they are supposed to be and to not feel overwhelmed. Tanya Moons, a fellow Ambassador, said that the tour did, in fact, do that for her when she moved into the district.

“It did show me the school and it made me feel more comfortable,” said fifth-grader Tanya.

Part of the reason Lakeside chooses fifth-graders to be the Ambassadors is because they are the oldest students, Ambassador William Kemppainen explained. Fifth-graders also serve as the school safeties, helping to set an example to the other students, William C. said. 

Fifth-grader Ella Rogalski talks about a mural that is in the hallway

A Blue Ribbon Start

The tour starts just outside of the office, near a large framed poster of the school’s Blue Ribbon Award. Usually the tour is led by two students, but on this day, all six Ambassadors participated.

“A lot depends on what the family wants to see,” said fifth-grader Arrabella Meyerhoffer about how the tour starts. “A lot of times, a family wants to see the classroom. If they have a class in the upper elementary, we would start there, but we always make sure to show the family both wings. 

“Even if they are going to be in the upper elementary, I always take them to the lower elementary wing so they know where those classes are.”

Since fifth-graders are reading buddies with kindergartners, an incoming student would need to know where to go for that activity, Arrabella added. 

As the Ambassadors made their way to the lower elementary wing, which houses kindergarten through second grade, they pointed out details such as the white lines outside where students line up after recess. They noted that there are two playgrounds, one for the lower elementary and one for the upper elementary. 

They also mentioned how the playgrounds are being redone over the summer and that they will not get the chance to use the new equipment; next year, the Ambassadors will be in sixth grade at the middle school.

“I am going to miss recess,” William C. said, to which most of the tour guides agreed. 

Besides School, There is a Lot to Do 

The next thing most families want to know is what activities are at Lakeside, said fifth-grader Sam Schrotenboer as the tour continued. He listed some in-school options such as gym, music, art and Spanish, while the other Ambassadors immediately chimed in about Lego League, running club, choir and the chess club. 

“You can also get involved in the school musical,” William K. said. “Everyone who auditions gets in, but you audition for the parts, the leading parts.”

Sam also said he liked participating in the wax museum in third grade, along with the fun days and field trips. 

The next stop on the tour was a room that looks like a library, which the students explained is called the learning commons. Books are available to check out and the area is designed to provide students a place to read and learn. 

Arrabella noted that fifth-graders can come on their own to get a book and that carts are located outside of the upper elementary classrooms where students can place a finished book.

“It is so you don’t have to go all the way down to the learning commons to return it,” fellow Ambassador Ella Rogalski explained.

All Good Things Must Come to an End

The tour moved on to the upper elementary wing, which includes grades 3-5. The guides pointed out the art room and talked about the safety awards on the lockers. 

“In third and fourth grades, they have to share the lockers, but in fifth grade you get your own,” Arrabella said.

As the group headed back to the office to conclude the tour, they talked about Lakeside’s annual fundraiser, the Roar Auction — where one of the prizes is being principal for the day — and about their time at Lakeside coming to an end. 

“I think I am going to miss all the teachers,” William C. said. “Along with the hallways and all the memories you have when you walk through them.”

The students agreed that next year will be different.

“We had six years here and now we get to go to a new place,” Ella said. “At least before we left, we got the opportunity to tell others about our school.”

The Lakeside Ambassadors are, from left, William Cherveny, William Kemppainen, Tanya Moons, Ella Rogalski, Sam Schrotenboer and Arrabella Meyerhoffer

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Joanne Bailey-Boorsma
Joanne Bailey-Boorsma
Joanne Bailey-Boorsma is a reporter covering Kent ISD, Godwin Heights, Kelloggsville, Forest Hills and Comstock Park. The salutatorian for the Hartland Public Schools class of 1985, she changed her colors from blue and maize to green and white by attending Michigan State University, where she majored in journalism. Joanne moved to the Grand Rapids area in 1989, where she started her journalism career at the Advance Newspapers. She later became the editor for On-the-Town magazine, a local arts and entertainment publication. Her eldest daughter is a nurse, working in Holland, and her youngest attends Oakland University. Both are graduates from Byron Center High School. She is a volunteer for the Van Singel Fine Arts Advisory Board and the Kent District Library. In her free time, Joanne enjoys spending time with her family, checking out local theater and keeping up with all the exchange students they have hosted through the years. Read Joanne's full bio


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