When Brandon and Deb Ridenour relocated from the east coast to Denver in 2011, their move came with its share of challenges.
Let’s start with the logistics of transferring a household across the country with two children under 4 years of age. The oldest of five siblings, Deb was also adjusting to living away from her close-knit family and to her new role as a stay-at-home mom after years in the corporate world. Brandon was starting a new job at a different company, and together the couple was learning their way around an unfamiliar city.
“The first few months were pretty difficult and lonely at times,” Deb admits.
Not long after their arrival in Denver, it was time to look at schools for their oldest, Jackson.
“Being newcomers to Denver, we really went through an exhaustive process when it came time for Jackson to begin kindergarten,” Deb remembers. “Obviously, the campus and facilities at Graland are incredible, but what really differentiated Graland for us were the people. The teachers and faculty that we interacted with were just amazing; it was clear to us that they loved teaching and learning and they loved the community.
“Our top priority was to find a school that would help our kids develop a lifelong love and appreciation for learning, and we knew Graland was that school for our family.”
Early on, the Ridenours made extra effort to meet new people through fun events like back-to-school potlucks, the Birch Street Bash, class field trips and parents-only activities. A few families in particular became dear friends, filling in for faraway family members. The next step for Deb was becoming a volunteer with the Graland Parent Association; in 2017-18 she served on the executive committee as the communications chair.
“I enjoy giving back from my professional and personal experience and have met so many wonderful, amazing people through the GPA,” she says. “The GPA really relies on volunteers to help make all its community events successful. A person's time, no matter how small, has a great impact for everyone.”
Brandon supports her involvement and makes time to participate in special events like the Graland Gallop and Donuts with Dads and Special Friends. “Who doesn’t love donuts?” he asks.
Deb says that being a volunteer at Graland has allowed her and Brandon the opportunity to better understand how the school operates behind the scenes. “We've learned more about how decisions are made and the resulting impacts for our children,” she shares.
As their engagement in school activities deepened with now three children at Graland, the Ridenours also recognized how the educational environment at Graland has been incredibly effective for their kids. “We have three very different children, and their teachers have met their individual needs in ways that have been impactful for each of them,” Deb says. “All three kids love going to school and are always excited by the educational challenges and the progress they’re making.”
Their appreciation for Graland’s culture inspired the Ridenours to give generously to the annual fund to ensure the school continues to achieve a high level of excellence.
“It’s been clear to us from the beginning that one of the things that makes Graland special is the amount of community support and involvement,” Brandon says. “We are continually impressed with the work teachers and staff do with our children and how much they are learning -- and loving to learn -- and we want to support that.”
Both avenues of giving, volunteering and financial support, have made a difference in the Ridenour family’s experience at Graland. “It’s about contributing to a community that we know does good and makes a positive difference in the lives of many,” Deb says. “Ensuring Graland is able to continue attracting great teachers while keeping up with emerging trends in technology and education are important goals that every contribution from the community helps support.”
Deb also has great advice for other new families who are interested in getting involved at Graland. “One of the easiest ways to participate is to volunteer in your child’s classroom, since this gives you a common ground with other parents. Offering time or treasure for an event and even just attending school activities are other ways to get to know fellow parents, teachers and staff.
“I truly believe that stepping up and volunteering when we first joined Graland opened the door to meeting new people and has helped us make lifelong friendships. What has exceeded our expectations is how important the Graland community has become to us. Being so new to Denver, meeting such wonderful families has really enriched our lives.”