GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (GRPS) — The first annual Alumni Classic home opener football game drew more than 3,000 people to Houseman Field Saturday to celebrate the start of a new school year. 

Festivities included a tailgate, giving those in attendance the chance to socialize before the start of the rivalry game between Ottawa Hills and Union High School.

Grand Rapids Public Schools alumni from all years were invited to attend. Former schoolmates were seen reconnecting and reminiscing at the stadium.

The home opener is typically a Friday evening game, but this year district leaders opted for a Saturday afternoon “college-style” matchup to encourage broader participation of alumni and families.

GRPS Superintendent Leadriane Roby, Ph.D. attended the event with her husband.

“We never know what to expect when we try something new. The turnout for this game exceeded my expectations,” Dr. Roby said. “This support is so important for our scholars and it’s important for our staff too. It is clear that the community has our backs when it comes to uplifting the Grand Rapids Public Schools.”

Tickets to the game were $5 each. Proceeds go toward supporting GRPS athletic programs.

Union won the football game with a final score of 59-12.

“This game was not only a win for every athlete on that football field, but every scholar who participates in sports throughout the district,” said Kurt Johnson, Executive Director of Athletics for GRPS. “This game raised funds for our programs and more importantly it boosted the spirits of our scholar-athletes.”

The Grand Rapids Public Schools Foundation was instrumental in hosting this event — a collaborative effort to increase community and alumni engagement with our schools. 

“This is what the Grand Rapids Public Schools Foundation is all about — championing GRPS scholars and making sure their schools and programs are positioned for success,” said Stephanie Andrews, President & CEO of the GRPS foundation. “It was wonderful to look out into the stands and see so many people joining us in this mission.”

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In ticket sales alone, the event brought in more than $13,000 for GRPS athletics. District leaders are already working on plans for next year’s Alumni Classic.