Student Senate to host Dickinson Academy students

Drew Howard

On Friday, from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m., the Grand Valley State University Student Senate will be giving a tour of GVSU’s campus and facilities to 55 Dickinson Academy students.

Dickinson Academy is located in Grand Rapids, and the students attending the tour of GVSU are in the fourth to eighth grade. The members of Student Senate hope that by showing these students what GVSU has to offer, it will inspire them to take an active interest in attending the university in the future.

The itinerary for the tour includes a visit to the Kelly Family Sports Center, a meet and greet session with Louie the Laker as well as a special appearance by GVSU’s President Thomas Haas.

Dickinson students will also receive a lunch catered by campus dining and have a chance to fill out time capsules that they can read in three years. On top of that, the elementary and middle school students will be given a lanyard, a planner and a free t-shirt donated by Student Senate.

Shannon Blood was the coordinator of the event last year and will be in charge once again this Friday. Blood is on the Student Senate as a member of the Educational Affairs Committee.

“For me, I am going into education which is why I picked up this amazing event to plan,” Blood said. “These students at Dickinson need mentors. They come from broken families where their guardian works multiple jobs, and the kids are responsible for taking care of their younger siblings at ages as young as eight.”

Blood stated that most of the students are given lunch for free on a regular basis through Kids’ Food Basket, an organization that focuses solely on childhood hunger.

In addition to the tour of GVSU, Blood and the Student Senate took part in a coat drive last year for the Dickinson students.

“This past year, after the previous Dickinson event, I planned a coat drive,” Blood said. “This was planned due to the teachers expressing that many of the students didn’t even have a winter coat. We got around 30 to 40 coats as well as many hats, mittens and scarves to donate to the school.”

GVSU sophomore Brandon Witsaman became involved with the event last year and will be participating as a volunteer again tomorrow afternoon. Witsaman was convinced to join when he saw Blood’s passion for the project.

“I knew prior to the day of the event that I was going to have a great time volunteering with the kids,” Witsaman said. “I had no idea how much that day would really mean to me until after it was over.”

Witsaman had planned on volunteering for only a few hours, but after meeting the kids he decided to skip class and stay for the entire day.

“The kids were just so witty, respectful and immediately comfortable being themselves in front of everyone,” Witsaman said. “These kids are so mature for such a young age, and I am convinced that with some guidance they can all grow up to accomplish amazing things.”

Witsaman believes the job of a volunteer is very important as well as rewarding.

“As a volunteer, your main job is to just become friends with the students that come to visit GVSU,” Witsaman said. “By listening to their stories, asking about their dreams for the future, and talking to them about all the great opportunities at GVSU, we really get them excited about the potential of attending college after high school.

“The greatest feeling is hearing all the students talk about how they are going to do better in class so that they can come to GVSU when they grow up.”

According to Blood, the event has grown since last year and will most likely become an annual tradition for the Student Senate.

“A statistic I found on the Grand Rapids Public School website was that only 1 percent of GRPS students are considered ‘college ready,’ and most of these students figured it wasn’t something they could do,” Blood said. “It is exciting to be able to help foster passion in these students to become something more than what they think they can.”

The Student Senate is inviting anyone to participate as a mentor in tomorrow’s event. For further questions, the Student Senate office is located in Room 0040 in the Kirkhof Center.