Alumni Stories that Inspire

Intriguing. Inspiring. Diverse. Our alumni have some of the most fascinating stories to tell and we are always honored to share their accomplishments and achievements. We hope you find inspiration in the stories we tell here.

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Chris Dudley, author of Lil Boogaloo Shrimp and the Clean Sweep


Chris Dudley, born and raised in Grand Rapids, recalls how attending Madison Park Elementary (now Gerald R. Ford Academic Center), shaped him into an award-winning artist and author. His latest work is the Childrens’ book Lil Boogaloo Shrimp and the Clean Sweep.

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Tawngela Reynolds, OHHS class of 2000, author of Change is Okay

For March Reading month, we are celebrating the joy of reading by highlighting GRPS Alum who are authors of children’s books. Tawngela Reynolds was born and raised in Grand Rapids, Michigan, graduating from Ottawa Hills High School class of 2000. Her book Change is Okay was written after she saw a need to address the concerns children had regarding COVID.

“Sometimes you have to make the best of change,” said Reynolds. “No one is immune to change, but we all have to face it. She encourages you to join Tiana, the character in this book, as she learns that even though some things have changed during the pandemic, she can still have fun.

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Tawana Dudley, OHHS class of 1996, author of Name Game A to Z

As a young mom of three children, Tawana Dudley wanted to make learning fun for her kids. Going to the library was part of their weekly routine. She often noticed there were few books that highlighted children of color and their unique names. When a child see similarities between them and characters in their story, it makes a difference. She wrote her book Name Game A to Z, to be fun, engaging resource that she wished she had when her kids were little.

As a 1996 graduate of Ottawa Hills High School,

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Marshall Purnell OHHS Graduate Remembers MLK Day

Many Grand Rapids Public Schools Alumni, like Marshall Purnell, have done amazing things since their time in Grand Rapids.
Marshall has a long list of successes in his career as an architect but one of his most impactful moments included working on the Martin Luther King, Jr. memorial in Washington, D.C.

He can remember where he was when he learned that Martin Luther King, Jr. had passed and the assignment to write an original poem about his impact.
On this day, we celebrate the triumphs that Martin Luther King, Jr. had on not only us as a foundation, but on students like Marshall. We also remember how important our public schools are in the trajectory of our scholars.

Anita Gilleo, World Citizen, Securing Mathias Alten’s Legacy at Home

By Anita Wallgren, Hillcrest Elementary Class of 1966, Central High School Class of 1972

As I made plans to visit Grand Rapids for my 50th class reunion, I decided to reach out to a woman who had been part of an indelible childhood memory: Anita Gilleo. “I’m 198 years old,” she said on the phone when I called. I smiled and thought, “she means 98 - but she’s sharp as a tack” as we made plans to meet.

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Arnold Gingrich

#51 Class Wit Fulfills Prophecy—Central Grad Launches Lifelong Publishing Career

It seemed only fitting that Arnold Gingrich graduated from Central High School in 1921 as the recording secretary of the Iconoclast Club. A brash young man named Class Wit by schoolmates, Gingrich followed his own path—from the concert stage to the trout stream to the editor's office—on his own terms. In addition to the Iconoclast Club he was a co-founder of the Druid Club, had a chair in the orchestra, beginning as second violin as a freshman, and was a member of the Philharmonic Club. His reputation was
secured by his senior year, summarized next to his yearbook photo: "I have a natural taste for books." He attended the University of Michigan graduating as a member of Phi Beta Kappa. 


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