Dickinson Elementary tours GVSU with Student Senate

Courtesy / Sarah Hillenbrand
Student Senate

Courtesy photo

Courtesy / Sarah Hillenbrand Student Senate

Sarah Hillenbrand

In a trip organized by the Student Senate, fifth-grade students from Dickinson Elementary got to spend their Saturday playing games, taking a tour of Grand Valley State University, and hanging out with Louie the Laker.

The day started with games in the Kelly Family Sports Center before the kids went to Lubbers Stadium to meet and play around with some of the football players. Later in the day, they ate lunch at the Niemeyer Honors College and went on a campus scavenger hunt, with other activities in Honors following.

“The best part of the day was when one of the students realized that a GV football player had attended Dickinson,” said Ricardo Benavidez, vice president of the diversity affairs committee. “They then asked if that meant that they, too, could go Grand Valley. The hope in the students’ eyes warmed my heart and inspired us all.”

Senator Darris Sawtelle of the political affairs committee arranged the visit. Sawtelle first got the idea when he visited Dickinson Elementary about a year ago.

“I wanted to do something for them, and that is what inspired the idea,” Sawtelle said.

Benavidez was one of the senator mentors throughout the day.

“Events such as this visit are not what the Senate usually focuses on, but they are some of the best that we host,” Benavidez said, adding that both the elementary students and the college students that helped got a lot out of the experience.

“Getting the student body involved is one of our most important goals, and to do so with such a worthy cause is a great treat,” Benavidez said. “Urging elementary students to further their education is a great cause and one that I am proud to say I was a part of.”

Nick Conley, who was a mentor to the students and is on the public relations committee, said he got a lot out of spending time with the Dickinson students.

“I didn’t expect to feel as good about my day with the kids as I do,” Conley said. “It was a very rewarding and emotional experience hearing some of the kids say ‘I want to come to Grand Valley for college’ when higher education might not have been in their plans for the future before today.”

After a campus scavenger hunt, the visiting students listened to guest speaker Selma Tucker, a GVSU graduate who now works for the City of Grand Rapids. Tucker spoke about the importance of hard work and dedication to schoolwork.

At the end of the day, Jeff Chamberlain, director of the Honors College, presented the students with certificates and promised them Honors College tutoring throughout their academic year. He also committed to fund up to 50 percent of their book costs for their first college semesters if and when they come to GVSU.

Sawtelle said the visit required a lot of coordination with different departments, organizations and committees, and he appreciates the GVSU students, student senators and student athletes who volunteered.

“Without their help and cooperation, we could not have made today a reality, and for this I am so very thankful,” Sawtelle said.

In all, the visit appeared to be a success.

“Spending the day with the students from Dickinson Elementary truly touched my heart,” Benavidez said. “Their resilience and hard work is admirable and deserves to be recognized. I feel that I took as much away from their visit as the students did.”

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