On Wednesday April, 27, more than 600 people packed the JW Marriott’s International Ballroom for the 13th Annual MindShare gala. Held annually, MindShare raises funds to support programs and initiatives in the Grand Rapids Public Schools around the Foundation’s five impact areas of Literacy, Arts Education, Math Science & Technology, Physical Wellness and Environmental Education.
This year’s theme Transform showcased how education transforms all of us. GRSAF President Deb Bailey kicked off the event with an introduction to the Transform theme. She encouraged the audience to think about what person, event or activity transformed them and how they can pay that forward.
“A strong public school system creates stability for our employees,” Bailey said. “Our students are the workforce of tomorrow.”
Many MindShare attendees have a strong understanding of the link between education and workforce and work closely with GRPS to introduce students to different types of career options.
“Our biggest challenge is getting talent into our industry,” said Brian Crissman, who was sitting at a table sponsored by The Christman Company. “We do mentoring and class presentations so we can help introduce students to the construction field.”
The real stars, however, were the GRPS students. Every part of the program showed how these students have been thriving with the help of GRSAF. When Amway communications relations manager David Madiol went onstage to speak, he was presented with a gift from GRPS third-grade students. Each student created a self-portrait in clay. They were able to create this gift because their school had received a kiln in March.
Following Madiol’s speech, Ottawa Hills High School junior Luvenia Riley took to the podium to recite her original poem, “Finding My Unknown.” After Riley read her poem, she told the audience that art is what transformed her, “because it spoke to me when no one else would.”
Following dinner, GRPS Bands – Brass explosion performed under the direction of James DeVoe, a third-generation GRPS band director. DeVoe said the people who
transformed him were his father and middle and high school band directors.
“They didn’t push me until I got it right. They pushed me until I couldn’t get it wrong,” he said.
GRPS Superintendent Teresa Weatherall Neal told a heartwarming story of how much the children of Grand Rapids mean to her. Before she took her superintendent job at GRPS, she would pray for the kids in the district every night, something her young daughter noticed and pointed out when the job was offered to Weatherall Neal.
In her speech, Weatherall Neal told the audience how much GRPS has grown and thrived with the help of GRSAF. Graduation rates are up 12 percent, attendance is up 25 percent, dual enrollment for children of color is up 70 percent and more than 5,000 children participate in school sports.
“My transformation story is GRPS,” Weatherall Neal said.
To date, MindShare has raised over $300,000. Interested in joining in the transformation? Make a gift here!