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Transparency Reporting

Grand River Prep Drives Students to be Upstanders, Not Bystanders

During lunch at Grand River Preparatory High School, a minor verbal altercation between students became a shining example of positive intervention.
A few upperclassmen noticed an incident and helped de-escalate the situation. The students who were involved, later said the upperclassmen told them not to fight because “we don’t do that here.” 
It’s part of a school culture behavior initiative called “Upstanders vs. Bystanders,” in which Principal Mike Irwin and staff meet with each grade level and talk about the importance of standing up for the right things at all points during the school day, no matter the instance. 

Staff talking to group of students.
Principal Mike Irwin speaks to students during the school’s “Upstanders vs. Bystanders” assembly.
The lunchtime incident is an example of how Grand River Prep is cultivating a high-expectation culture with a Moral Focus-based curriculum while outperforming the local district in all subjects.
“When you see something happening that should not be happening, my expectation is that you are going to do something,” Irwin said. “What that something is might change based on who you are, but you are going to do something to help the situation.”

Irwin and Achievement Behavior Support Specialist Paris Manuel Jr. spoke to students about being an upstander or a bystander in instances from tardiness to bullying. In a school with more than 600 students, incidents involving a small percentage of people can affect many.
Because students are closer to these situations than teachers or staff, it’s up to them to respond early to prevent it from escalating. Students are not being asked to tattle or to put themselves in harm’s way, but in each instance, they can be proactive as opposed to passive, and do something to make the school a better place.
It’s turned into an excellent way for peers to model Moral Focus virtues like self-control and courage as well.
Manuel Jr. reminded students that the positive habits they develop during their time at Grand River Prep can take them wherever you go after time at the school. He gave students advice to help put them in the right situation each day, such as:
  • Be where you’re supposed to be.
  • Be on time for where you’re going.
  • Follow directions the first time.
The assembly concluded with a new tradition: each student signed a large banner as a pledge to graduate Grand River Prep. The banner will hang in the building in perpetuity as a reminder to those past and present of the positive relationships students and teachers strive to build each day.

Students signing banner.Grand River Prep students sign a banner as their pledge to graduate.
Great work, Grand River Prep students and staff!

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About Grand River Prep
Grand River Preparatory High School is a tuition-free, public charter school in Kentwood, Michigan, serving students in ninth through twelfth grade. It is part of the National Heritage Academies network, which includes more than 100 tuition-free, public charter schools serving more than 65,000 students in kindergarten through 12th grade across nine states. For more information, visit

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