Monday, August 28 is the first day back to class for many schools in the Catholic Diocese of Grand Rapids, and the students at St. John Vianney are excited to head back.
It's not hard to see why either. Back in February, we did a story on Principal Gregg Bruno's High Five Fridays, when he personally greets every child at the front door with a high five. He knows them all by name too.
"I make an effort to be the person that greets kids every day and I tried to spice Friday up a bit and made it High Five Friday," Bruno said. "The kids get into it. They shine. They bring that joy out of one another."
That word "shine" holds special meaning at St. John Vianney. Student interventionist Emily Blaser and several other staff members came up with an initiative called SHINE based on the gospel verse Matthew 5:16.
"We're always trying to get kids to have their light shine to others and to be a light," he said. "Sometimes we get the impression that this world's kind of dark, but we can change that. We can be a light. We can shine to others."
St. John Vianney is welcoming more than 25 new students this year, thanks in part to a partnership with Compass Insurance, which greenlit a kickstart program matching the Diocese in welcome scholarships.
"What a great way to spread the joy and the wonderful things we do here, than to welcome these new students," Bruno said.
The school is a K-8 operation with full service pre-school and daycare. That means you have toddlers all the way through 14 year olds learning under the same roof. Bruno says that's how SJV combines "the best of what was, with the best of what now is."
"It's a speech I sometimes give our eight graders," he said. "I'll have the eighth grade by me and we'll watch the younger kids walk in and I'll make the point to the eighth graders that our kindergartners and our first graders may not know who Matthew Stafford is. As much as it's going to kill me to say this because I'm from Boston, they may not know who Tom Brady is. But they will know each of those eighth graders by name.
"The eighth graders interact with them. Our middle schoolers in general, they play different leadership roles throughout our school. Our kindergartners and our first graders look up to the example set by the eight graders -- the light these eight graders, these seventh graders and these sixth graders shine."
The new school year is also proving to be special for St. John Vianney as the parish celebrates its 75th anniversary.
►Make it easy to keep up to date with more stories like this. Download the WZZM 13 app now.