The beautiful colors of El Puente

The El Puente building received a wonderful gift in the last few months of winter. A beautiful, vibrant mural by Dominican native, Erick Picardo was recently unveiled.

Not only will it be a brilliant experience for all visitors of El Puente to enjoy for years to come, it has an educational component. During the creation of the mural, principal Lloyd Gingerich, captured a time-lapse video of the mural being completed and also produced a video of Picardo speaking about the mural in Spanish as a teaching tool for the Spanish immersion students.

El Puente families were also given the opportunity to contribute their individual art, communicating how they feel about the El Puente community. An 8×10 canvas from multiple families will soon be incorporated into Picardo’s work to complete the project.

Proud of his rich Carribbean heritage, Picardo intentionally incorporates culture and bright colors into his work; conveying energy and joy. He also lovingly calls Grand Rapids ‘home’ and is about to celebrate 20 years living in the United States. You might recognize his work from other murals around Grand Rapids. For more information about Erick Picardo, check out this magazine story and television news story.

Watch Erick Picardo create the El Puente mural masterpiece right before your eyes!

The finished product is stunning! Thank you to Erick Picardo for sharing his talent and to the El Puente Parents Club for sponsoring this beautiful gift to the school.


Wheels n’ Reels at El Puente

Creative problem solvers are providing some real special opportunities to experience social activities these days. Remaining connected while keeping our friends and families safe is a win win!

The ‘Padres del Puente’ (Parent Club of El Puente) arranged a special night for families to enjoy some socially distanced fun with their first ever drive-in movie night. About 50 cars showed up to the school parking lot ready to get cozy in their vehicles and enjoy the double feature for the night.

The movies included Coco and Addams Family, and clear sound was available through the FM tuning on car stereos.

The excited movie goers included students who are part of in-person classes as well as those who are Extended Traditional Learners.

There was at least one battery that needed some friendly help but in the end, movie reviewers of all ages gave this event many thumbs up!

Silly Staff Supporting Students

Friday nights are great for family fun around our community, and April 12 was no exception! We have seriously smart educators at JPS who aren’t afraid to let their hair down and get silly for a good cause. Staff members of Sandy Hill and Kids First engaged in a good old fashioned basketball game – along with a few crazy twists. Brandon Graham (principal of the Jenison High School) and I had a great time – not to mention some of the best seats in the house acting as referees for the event.

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The Sandy Hill Hot Shots were really dominating the court until the last minute when the Kids First Krew had a come back and won by 1 point in the end! Families in the stands brought their posters and were cheering alongside the kazoo band. The players persevered through silly antics like playing with oven mitts, dressing up in costumes, swapping the basketball for a football! It was one surprise after another and the energy was high! The students really loved joining the staff on the floor for a full court dance party! The reason behind the fun was to bring awareness to and raise money for the Jenison Parent Liaison program.

140109493dc194d009e64a2e454cedb1ba36ac66.jpg“Our mission is to promote student success by building bridges between home, school and the community. Events like these are so amazing as we see time and time again, the community show up and take care of their own in a big way.” says Mary Veldink, Jenison Parent Liaison. “Funding for our services comes from grant money and the generosity of the community. We are constantly overwhelmed by the support of the community to make a difference for the Jenison families we serve.”

With a donation of nearly $2,000, Sara Melton, Principal of Sandy Hill calls the night a success. “We’re proud to be able to support the Parent Liaison program with this fundraiser as they do so much for the community, including Sandy Hill and Kids First families. We had such a great turnout! It was a tough competition and a fun night!”

If you would like to connect with the Jenison Parent Liaison team, you can learn more here: Meet the Jenison Parent Liaisons and check out their website. They also offer a monthly newsletter that is packed with family resource ideas. Currently, their largest requests have come for food, gas cards and mental health services/counseling. Going strong in their second year, I am incredibly grateful for this connection to our student families and for the loving outreach the Parent Liaison team.


Elise Meeusen – 3rd grader at El Puente, dressed up in her El Puente tee shirt and attended the game with her grandparents. “It was so fun seeing our teachers be so silly! They were playing basketball but shooting tennis balls and footballs – and we still won!”
Maelynn Gamble – 4th grader at Sandy Hill had a great time sitting with her friends Carmen and Harleigh. “I thought it was hilarious when they were trying to play with the tiny tennis ball! It was very funny! I busted out so many moves on the dance floor too. We had a great time!”
Julie Betancourt – Kindergartner at El Puente attended the game with her family.
“I had so much fun cheering for Mr. Gingerich and my teachers! They were doing the silliest things! And I can’t believe Mrs. Giere had to crack an egg on her head!”