Meet the neighbors

GVL / Hannah Hill 
Students make their way to class on the first day back from break on Wednesday September 6, 2017.

GVL / Hannah Hill Students make their way to class on the first day back from break on Wednesday September 6, 2017.

Drew Schertzer

Grand Rapids and Grand Valley State University are two peas in a pod, as GVSU’s Pew Campus has existed within the community for decades. However, the Community Service Learning Center (CSLC) thinks there is room to create a better bond between GVSU students and the people who live in Grand Rapids. 

For this reason, the Grand Neighbor Orientation (GNO) will take place Thursday, Sept. 7, starting at 5 p.m. in the Richard M. DeVos Courtyard with an optional walk. From 6 p.m. onward at Lincoln Park, participants can engage in many activities and enjoy free food until the movie “The Princess Bride” is shown at 8 p.m. 

“Since students live in a Grand Rapids neighborhood for a short time, they don’t always think of the families that live there,” said Liz Collver, CSLC assistant director. “It’s important that students learn how they fit in their community and how the community wants to let them in.”

For the second year in a row, the GNO will seek to bring the GVSU and Grand Rapids communities closer together, Collver said. 

According to Collver, there are multigenerational families of more than 50 years that have been in Grand Rapids, and the West Side community is very friendly, and students would only benefit from getting to make new connections. 

In the DeVos Courtyard, students and faculty can congregate and begin learning about the history of Grand Rapids. They will then be given the opportunity to learn about the surrounding areas until everyone arrives at Lincoln Park.

“Grand Rapids has a lot of rich history (that) a lot of people look over,” said Matthew Foreman, GVSU student. “Since working downtown, the connections and people I’ve met have been incredible.” 

After students, faculty and staff have time to connect with people who live in Grand Rapids and learn about the history of the city, they can make their way to Lincoln Park at 6 p.m. Collver said there will be 15 informational tables set up from neighboring associations. There will also be a raffle-ticket system set up for prizes, as well as free food from Two Scotts Barbecue and Vito’s Pizza. To receive this free food, participants need a GVSU ID card.

Some of the local organizations involved in the event are John Ball Area Neighbors, WestSide Collaborative, Rockford Construction and more. These local companies are teaming up with the CSLC and many Grand Rapids organizations, such as Other Way Ministries and Challenge Scholars, for this event. Schools in the area, such as Grand Rapids Public Schools, are going to be helping with the GNO as well. 

“This is an event about understanding and building community,” Collver said. “It will teach students history and let them know what it takes to be a good neighbor.” 

Collver thinks students will be able to enjoy a fun night, as well as become more educated on the past of Grand Rapids. She also said students often overlook small details of how to be a good neighbor, like taking care of your lawn or plowing the sidewalk. 

Registration is not required but is encouraged. For more information about the event, contact Collver at [email protected]