MEDIAN INCOME: $102,507
MEDIAN HOME PRICE: $246,500
HOUSEHOLDS WITH CHILDREN: 46%
GREATSCHOOLS RATING: 9
For Cathy Oosse, 47, a stay-at-home mom who works three hours a week at an elementary school lunchroom, and husband Mike, 50, a medical sales representative, their best days are the ones spent walking or riding around town with kids Brendan, 17, Brady, 16, Brielle, 15, and Brooklyn, 12.
Pedestrian power is the primary mode of transportation in East Grand Rapids, which is just 5 miles east of Michigan’s second-largest city. The simple small-town ethos is what brought Cathy back home. She says, “Most people come here for the school system. But you quickly get hooked on the lifestyle and the community, family feel, and you just don’t leave.”
East Grand Rapids, located 30 miles east of Lake Michigan, packs a lot of punch in its 3.4 square miles, and according to Cathy, nothing is more than a five-minute drive away. This proximity to the recreation center, school, downtown, parks and athletic fields has allowed the Oosse kids to participate in multiple activities. There are the movies and concerts at John Collins Park, pickup games at the athletic fields, strolls around 4.2-mile Reeds Lake Trail—all part of the 176 acres of public-use land. East Grand Rapids’ three elementary schools plus one middle and one high school rank in the top 5% of schools in the state. The district earned a spot on the AP District Honor Roll in 2013, and last year 94% of students scored 3 or higher. In addition, the high school will soon introduce an International Baccalaureate program. Cathy and Mike also like how the schools work to foster cross-cultural competencies. One elementary school, for example, partners with a school in Haiti via Skype for classes in which students learn about each other’s culture.
Good Deeds: As part of East Grand Rapids Middle School’s annual Day of Caring this May, more than 700 students volunteered for an afternoon of service. They helped with yard work at a local hospital and pitched in at soup kitchens.