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Welcome, class of 2036

Grandville — Chocolate-chip cookie in hand, Evelyn Farran solemnly considered the question before giving her assessment of Grandville’s kindergarten tailgate: “Two thumbs up.”

Then, reconsidering, the South Elementary kindergartner set aside her cookie to give a full-body answer: “And toes up, too!”

Kindergartners from the Grandville class of 2036 run through the bulldog and onto the football field at the end of the kindergarten tailgate

Mom Joni laughed: “She put her cookie down to give you those thumbs up, so it’s pretty legit!”

The Farran family was enjoying their first visit to the Grandville Education Foundation’s kindergarten tailgate, an annual event that helps welcome kindergartners and their families to the district and the greater Bulldog family. 

This year’s event, held last week at Grandville High School, welcomed about 600 members of the class of 2036, GEF President Pam Silva said. The foundation uses the tailgate to get to know new families and share its mission of supporting and enriching learning through teacher and classroom grants

But the youngest Bulldogs are the heart of the festivities.

“We want them to realize that it’s a really big deal to be a Bulldog, to be part of the Grandville community and to be proud of it,” Silva said. “It puts them in a position to know that everybody is here for them and wants them to be successful. Even all of the businesses here in Grandville are here to support their success.

“And it’s not just about the ABCs or one, two, threes — it’s about social interaction, acceptance and inclusion. In an event like this, they get all of that. … It’s kind of a big, giant welcome hug to say, ‘We love you.’”

Every kindergartner received a class of 2036 shirt and a lei color-coded to the elementary school they attend, so that they could easily find classmates from their own school or meet some new friends. After a meal provided by the VFW, kids and families could visit booths and take part in activities provided by local and district organizations including Kent District Library, local law enforcement, the YMCA and Grandville High School’s Be Nice student group. 

The highlight of the event was saved for the end, when all kindergartners got to run through the mouth of a giant bulldog figure and onto the high school football field — an activity usually reserved for football players at the start of a game. Cheerleaders and parents lined the field to celebrate the young learners as they dashed across the yard lines, before taking seats in the bleachers to watch the JV football game. 

Math, Pancakes and Support

Evelyn is the first child of the Farran family to attend Grandville schools; she was in Treehouse child care and two years of preschool through the Grandville Education Center before starting the year at South Elementary. The kindergartner said she was “a little bit nervous” to go to a new school, “but now it’s just fun.” Math has emerged as a favorite subject, and she’s looking forward to the day later this month when pancakes are on the menu for lunch. 

Joni Farran said the transition to all-day school has gone better than expected for her daughter, thanks to the staff at South. 

“I remember my kindergarten being like what her preschool was — just playing and painting rainbows and nap time — and now it’s like an actual class, with so much learning and education happening so quick,” Farran said. “It’s been really great. Her teachers have good communication with parents and it seems like there are good support systems in place.” 

At the tailgate, Evelyn was able to reconnect with a friend from preschool who now attends a different elementary school.

“To have this little get-together here, where she could reunite with old friends, was really cool,” Farran said. “This is a way bigger community than I realized when we moved into the area, and there are so many different school buildings; I think the things that Grandville does for the whole community like this are really great.” 

Read more from Grandville: 
‘It’s really all about providing equity’
Her focus: your success

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Beth Heinen Bell
Beth Heinen Bell
Beth Heinen Bell is associate editor, reporter and copy editor. She is an award-winning journalist who got her professional start as the education reporter for the Grand Haven Tribune. A Calvin University graduate and proud former Chimes editor, she later returned to Calvin to help manage its national writing festival. Beth has also written for The Grand Rapids Press and several West Michigan businesses and nonprofits. She is fascinated by the nuances of language, loves to travel and has strong feelings about the Oxford comma. Read Beth's full bio


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