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1110 College NE
Grand Rapids, MI 49503

Thank you for a great year!


Thank you for a great year!

Elizabeth Topliffe

It is natural and good that at the end of a school year, we reflect on it. What went well? What did we achieve? How are we doing against our strategic plan? How is the balance sheet?

I’m glad to have the opportunity to share some of that with you now. But, before I do, I want to reflect first on how we make progress around here. I could tell each child here one hundred times per year that we respect them. I could tell them one hundred times that we seek peace. I could tell them one hundred times how capable they are and how much faith we have in them. Even if I spoke those words one hundred times into each child’s ear, it would not make them feel respected, or peaceful, or confident.

Nope. It wouldn’t be enough to do that.

Instead, it is the accumulation of thousands of small things that add up to feelings of confidence, respect, and peace. It is the hundreds of times someone smiles with them when they achieve that next step. It is the way that adults speak to them—with eye contact, quietly, respectfully, with intense interest and with deep engagement. It is the way guides and friends work next to them when things get tough. It is the openness of others to their ideas and help that empowers them. It is the tone of voice when anything is spoken, the care in the gaze of a guide, and the willingness to be flexible in response to that student. It is the meticulous care to create and maintain a physical environment that is responsive to the student.

Those things are the most difficult to measure and they are the most difficult to offer with consistency, with certainty, one hundred percent of the time. But those things, more than what we say, are needed in order for a child to become a student and then a learner.

The same is true of our school. I will share with you the attached snapshot state of our school, and our progress on our strategic goals, because WOW! we’ve made progress!

Even if we had accomplished nothing else, we could take great pride and satisfaction in the growth of our program into Middle School. And, even better, it is a farm-based Middle School, with two amazing guides already on board, and 100% of our graduating 6th years in attendance, plus some new families!!!

The truth is that we’ve accomplished that and much more.

It is, however, impossible in one note to tell you about all of the small things that have added up to these results. I cannot name all of the people who have made these accomplishments possible because each person is influenced by and has become better because of countless more.

All of you have participated in this growth, just by being a member of this community. Through your tone of voice, your willingness to help when things seem overwhelming, and your flexibility in response to an idea or a change, you have let us know that you’re with us.

Thank you for that generous gift and for sharing your children with us. It is a privilege.

I wish you the best summer, and I look forward to seeing you at our Annual Meeting on September 19, where will review our Fiscal Year in depth!

My best,



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