U.S. Education Secretary Cardona calls GRCC an ‘exemplar’ in helping students hit hardest by pandemic

Grand Rapids Community College was saluted by U.S. Education Secretary Miguel Cardona for its outreach and support for students facing challenges during the pandemic.

GRCC President Bill Pink was asked to participate in a call with Cardona with national media to discuss $36 billion in emergency grants provided by the Education Department under the American Rescue Plan Act for post-secondary education.

About 60 Michigan colleges and universities are expected to receive grants. GRCC is slated to receive about $25 million to help students overcome obstacles created by COVID-19 and to launch programs to help the region recover. Funding also can be used to offset costs related to the pandemic and prepare the campus for additional students.

Cardona said he invited Pink to participate because he is impressed by how GRCC used previous federal support efforts to help students.

“They’re actually an exemplar in how they reach out into the community and get those students who were hit the hardest – including students from rural communities, which were impacted greatly by the pandemic,” Cardona said.

GRCC transitioned largely to remote classes after the pandemic struck. Many students struggled financially when their work hours were reduced or their jobs eliminated. The transition to online learning also revealed that many students did not have access to computers, strong internet service and the equipment needed to participate in classes.

“This pandemic has been hard on our state, and this institution has been focused on how we can support our students, no matter where they come to us from,” Pink told Cardona and the media.

GRCC distributed about $3.4 million in federal CARES Act funding directly to students to help them with food, health care, child care and technology and is in the process of distributing additional resources made available through the Coronavirus Response and Relief Supplemental Appropriations Act.

GRCC provided more than 630 loaner laptops, about 400 internet Wi-Fi hotspots, and other equipment. The college also partnered with the Kent District Library to provide Wi-Fi in 20 branches around the county, including in parking lots so students could connect and complete assignments after hours.

The college also worked with community partners to replenish its food pantry for more than a year, providing thousands of packages to students facing food insecurity, work that still continues.

“This American Rescue Plan funding will give us the opportunity to continue this work and relieve some of the barriers we know our students are experiencing,” Pink said.

“These funds will help us, and it will help these students. We know many students told us this school year, ‘We’re sitting it out. We’re not even going to college.’ Now that we’re able to get these types of funds in place, it will help us in helping those students re-engage because now, these funds can take some other barriers off the table.”

The American Rescue Plan grants will help over 5,000 institutions of higher education, including historically Black colleges and universities, tribal colleges and universities, and Hispanic-serving institutions provide emergency financial aid to millions of students and ensure learning continues during the COVID-19 national emergency.

“These funds are critical to ensuring that all of our nation’s students – particularly those disproportionately impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic – have the opportunity to enroll, continue their education, graduate, and pursue their careers,” Cardona said. “With this action, thousands of institutions will be able to provide direct relief to students who need it most, so we can make sure that we not only recover from the pandemic, but also build back even stronger than before.”

Inhale … Exhale … Repeat — “Just Breathe” HR learning opportunity

Explore the power of one of our most basic physiological functions. Learn about the physical, mental, and emotional benefits of deep, meditative breathing. This course will cover the latest research on the power of the breath and you’ll leave with tools and techniques to incorporate a breathing practice into your daily routine.

“Breathe in deeply to bring your mind home to your body.” — Thich Nhat Hanh

Register via the Professional Development tile in your Online Center account.

Mental Health Awareness Month

Employee Assistance Program

Life can be challenging, but it doesn’t have to become overwhelming. The Employee Assistance Program is here to help you and your family through complicated or difficult times. Grand Rapids Community College has contracted with Pine Rest to provide professional counseling services to all employees (except student employees), their spouses and children living in their household. We encourage employees to take advantage of the services offered. EAPs deal with a variety of issues such as depression, anger management, anxiety and physical illness.

How do you use EAP benefits?

EAP provides access to counselors, resources, and referrals to assist employees and their family members. EAP services received by employees or family members are confidential and the services are provided at no cost.

How do I contact the EAP?

You can call 24-hours-a-day, 7-days-a-week to either speak to a counselor or schedule an appointment at any Pine Rest clinic. Appointment hours vary by clinic. Evening and Saturday appointments may be available. When calling, please remember to identify yourself as an EAP member. EAP services hotline number is (800) 442-0809 or (616) 455-6210. You can also schedule a virtual Teletherapy appointment: Pine Rest Telehealth

Tech Tip: Google Tasks feature update

Google has updated the Tasks quick tool in Gmail allowing you to modify the due date and edit additional details right from the task view. To get started using Tasks, open your Gmail inbox, then click on the tasks tool from the right-side panel and select “Add task”. You can add details to an existing task by selecting the task and inputting new details in the expanded fields.

A checkmark icon and the "add task" bar at the right are circled in a picture of an open GMail account.

For more information and helpful tips, please visit the IT Customer Support Portal or contact the IT Customer Support Desk at x4357.

If you have a suggestion or a Technology Tip you think can be useful, you can submit them by emailing techtips@grcc.edu 

CTE Session – Trauma Informed Teaching and Learning – May 21

Don’t forget to sign up for Trauma Informed Teaching and Learning through the Center for Teaching Excellence.

Continued discussion from the 2021 GRCC Learning Day on Trauma-informed Practices: Helping students feel safe, empowered and connected. The focus of this session will be to explore and brainstorm campus-wide and classroom-specific trauma-informed strategies based on the Principles of Trauma-informed care. This session will take place on Friday, May 21st from 10:00 a.m. to Noon. Registration ends Friday, May 14. To register, please follow these instructions.

Excellence in Education Award deadline is approaching!

Have you been working on a nomination or thinking of nominating a colleague for this special award? It’s easy!

GRCC Excellence in Education Awards – Adjunct, FT Faculty, Staff

Here’s simple steps:

1. Select a deserving member of the GRCC family.

2. Complete the online nomination form and upload your narrative document.

3. For full time faculty and staff nominations, send the signature of support form link via email to at least twelve or more colleagues to endorse your nomination. For adjunct nominations, email the respective Department or Program Director (or Assistant Dean if the nominator is the Department Head or Program Director) and request them to endorse the nominee via the Adjunct Nomination Endorser Form.

4. Confirm number of signatures submitted – contact angelasalinas@grcc.edu (for the Staff award) or provost@grcc.edu (for the FT Faculty and adjunct awards).

This year’s deadline is May 14.

For questions or more information, please contact angelasalinas@grcc.edu (Staff award) or provost@grcc.edu (FT faculty and adjunct award).

GRCC student takes 1st place in MWest Challenge

Grand Rapids Community College student Heidi Garland won first place in the MWest Challenge student venture competition in the Innovation Showcase Pitch Round. 

Garland pitched her idea for Bugs B Gone, a startup to create an all-natural bedbug and flea solution. Garland won $1,500 for her first-place Innovation Showcase Pitch for a business that would take care of home pest solutions without chemicals.

Through MWest Challenge, students can develop and grow new ventures based on their own ideas. This year, 108 student teams from nine West Michigan colleges and universities competed for $12,000. GRCC led the way with 65 of the 108 student team. The next-closest college had 10 student teams apply for the competition. The competition also includes opportunities for students to network with investors.

“This experience meant an opportunity to have designated funding to use going forward and patent my product recipe — as well as having an opportunity to communicate with actual investors and learn from their words of advice,” Garland said. “I won a cash prize of $1,500 that will go directly back into my business for growth. I will be using this money to get patent information before going on to look at things like mass production or selling the product to someone else for production. I was also put in front of ‘angel’ investors who could reach out to me at any point with interest in my idea — not to mention the guidance I received from the judges and my professors.”

Garland got involved in the competition through classes with professor Felix Pereiro, head of the Business Department, and adjunct instructor Brent Alles.

Pereiro was impressed as he watched Garland handle some technical difficulties with audio during her virtual pitch to the judges.

“Heidi kept her composure and maintained her patience,” Pereiro said. “She was asked to return and be the last presenter because of the technical problems she encountered delivering her pitch. Most people would have quit — but not Heidi. She believed in her idea and was not going to let a technical glitch stand in her way.”

GRCC student Michael Powell placed in the top eight teams, earning a spot in the competition’s finalist level. He presented his idea for the Start Small Promo, an exclusive social media marketing and bookmarking website that caters to small businesses and is fused with a promotional service provided by the website.

“I gained confidence in my own vision of life, and what I think I can do,” Powell said. “The reward of trying something that takes you outside of your comfort zone is immense in life, and I think that more people should try it because of the perspective it gives a person.”

Powell, who was a frontline worker at a senior care facility during the pandemic, said he understands the challenges his idea works to address because his family lost their business during COVID-19.

“Michael faced tremendous adversity and challenges in the last month as he prepared to present to the panel of judges,” Pereiro said. “The judges were beyond impressed with him. They marveled at his tenacity, ‘stick-to-itiveness’ and courage. He has true grit, character, and an entrepreneur’s spirit and drive that will help him succeed at anything he puts his mind to now and in the future.”

Three other GRCC students competed in the showcase idea pitch round: 

  • Jared Seng placed ninth place with Landscape Match, a startup and app that allows consumers to post an ad looking for mowing and plowing services, and connect with businesses and independent contractors.
  • Kerry Johnson placed tenth with Johnson Equestrian and Critter Farm, an equestrian center and animal petting farm.
  • Alexandria Viveen placed thirteenth with Wavy Cravings, a startup to deliver restaurant food to customers while they are boating.

The students’ MWest achievements are the culmination of hours of practice and preparation, Pereiro said. 

“Heidi, Michael, Jared, Kerry, and Alexandria put in the hours necessary to compete against the very best college students in West Michigan – facing juniors, seniors and MBA students from top four-year universities in West Michigan — and their work and dedication paid off,” he said.

GRCC was scheduled to host this year’s MWest Challenge before the competition moved completely online because of COVID-19. Pereiro said the campus will instead host the 2022 MWest Challenge.