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Elliot Grandia: From Rockford to Rockford

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He may have come from Michigan, but this morning show news anchor is finding himself quite at home in the Forest City.

Elliot Grandia started his career at 13WREX as an intern, then became a videographer and eventually a reporter. He joined the crew of the morning show earlier this year. (Samantha Ryan Photo)

Elliot Grandia started his career at 13WREX as an intern, then became a videographer and eventually a reporter. He joined the crew of the morning show earlier this year. (Samantha Ryan Photo)

In many of the places that Elliot Grandia visits in Rockford, people recognize the 13WREX morning and noon anchor, but not always from his work on the local news.

“People always ask me if I grew up in Rockford,” he says. “Well, yeah, just not this one.”

Grandia grew up in Rockford, Mich., a small town outside of Grand Rapids. He was familiar with Rockford, Ill., however. On many occasions, Grandia and his family passed through Rockford when visiting his grandmother in Iowa. “It was our halfway point, so we usually stopped at the Belvidere Oasis, and we’d see the Clock Tower on our way through town,” says Grandia. “From what I could see, it was a pretty nice place.”

Ironically, Rockford, Ill., would be the first stop in Grandia’s career, when he was hired as an intern two years ago, straight out of college. Even his boss at 13WREX was confused by Grandia’s place of origin. “He suggested I live with my parents for the time being,” Grandia says. “He didn’t realize I was from Rockford, Mich.”

It didn’t take Grandia long to acclimate to his new home, as he quickly moved up the ranks at 13WREX. At age 23, he couldn’t have written a better script to start his career.

“I thought I might be a good fit one day, but there were times I had self-doubt, especially working all those long hours as an intern,” he says. “I’m super blessed to be in this position.”

Grandia led a typical childhood in Rockford, Mich., a farming community of 4,000 people. “There’s a river that runs through town, similar to the Rock River, and plenty of small ma and pa shops,” he says. “Rockford is a close-knit community.”

Grandia still gets home occasionally to visit his dad, Roger, a church consultant, and his mom, Diane, a high school teacher. He also spends time with his two older sisters, Leticia and Rachelle, his two nieces and a nephew. “I’m just a kid at heart,” he says. “My sister always jokes that she can leave her kids in a room with me for hours and know they’ll always be entertained.”

Grandia developed a keen interest in the news at a young age, by reading the Sunday newspaper with his parents. “I loved those moments,” he says. “We would trade sections of the paper with each other and then discuss the stories we read.”

Summers were an especially memorable time for Grandia, as he was growing up. He spent hours outside building forts, riding his bicycle and hanging out with friends. The Grandia family enjoyed neighborhood cookouts and spent long days tubing, swimming and jet skiing at one of the many nearby lakes.

He and Rachelle also got into some occasional mischief, like the time they were playing hide-and-seek with their babysitter and decided to hide in the church next door to their home. “We even brought snacks because we wanted to see how long we could hide,” he says.

Another time, the pair decided to take the family car out so they could get ice cream. The only problem was that Grandia was in sixth grade, and his sister was in eighth. “Rachelle could never get the car started but it rolled to the end of the driveway, so we just left it there,” he says, laughing.

Grandia graduated from Rockford High School, where he ran track and cross country on teams that consistently made it to the state finals. He also participated in choir, student council and musical productions. He played tennis and beach volleyball with Rachelle; the siblings have teamed up to win several tournaments.

After high school, Grandia fulfilled a dream by attending Michigan State University, where he majored in broadcast journalism. “I bleed Michigan State green and white,” he says. College was a busy time for the outgoing Grandia, who thrived on the sprawling Big Ten campus. From kickball tournaments to attending Spartans basketball games to leading campus tours for prospective students, Grandia immersed himself in a number of extracurricular activities. He’s equally proud of the fact that he ate in all 22 cafeterias on campus during his freshman year. “I take pride in that,” he says. “College students like to eat.”

College is where Grandia got serious about a journalism career. Working on the public access television station and learning from experienced professors ignited his passion for news. “My professors really taught us good reporting and writing skills,” he says. “It was hard work and many times I thought, ‘This isn’t what I want to do.’ But the more I learned, the better I got, and I realized this is what I wanted to do with the rest of my life.”

Coming to a smaller market like Rockford gave Grandia a golden opportunity to hone his skills and learn various aspects of the news business. Three weeks into his internship at 13WREX, he was promoted to videographer; he worked his way into a reporter positon six months later.

As a reporter, Grandia has tackled a number of stories that have made an impact on viewers. He’s profiled a Holocaust survivor, reported on a murder suspect and followed the devastation caused by major storms in Lena, Ill.

“When you work in this business, you get access to things other people don’t,” he says. “I was grateful to be one of the first reporters to talk to those storm victims and share their stories with our viewers. Just seeing what those people went through was a real eye opener. They emerged from their basements to find nothing, but realized there was still hope. These are real-life instances that I get to see up close.”

All those experiences helped Grandia when he was asked to fill in as the morning and noon anchor, earlier this year. His determination paid off when he was promoted to anchor of both shows on a permanent basis.

He’s thrilled about the opportunity.

“I want people to know I care about the news we’re giving them every day,” he says. “In the morning, I get to show them a little more of my personality. Hopefully I can send them off to work in a good mood.”

His colleagues have no doubt Grandia will shine in his new role. “Elliot works really hard, both on and off camera,” says Morgan Kolkmeyer, meteorologist and Grandia’s co-host. “He’s genuine, lighthearted and carefree. And he’s so positive. When Elliot gets stressed, he doesn’t let it affect his attitude. He’s always in a good mood. His bubbly personality really gives us and the show a lift. I think his persona is great for morning television. The chemistry on our morning show feels natural and comfortable, thanks to Elliot.”

Grandia gives much of the credit to his family. “My parents always instilled a strong work ethic in their kids,” he says. “I’m working hard on things like being more professional, being more conversational, and connecting more with viewers. I’m definitely growing in confidence every day.”

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