It all started with a turquoise Easy-Bake Oven.
“My parents bought it for me when I was 7 and I baked everything with it. It was the coolest gift I ever had,” said Jodi Holland, now 58.
Never in a million years did that little girl dream she’d one day be baking at the Secchia Institute for Culinary Education at Grand Rapids Community College.
“It never occurred to me to go to college,” she said. “I’m the youngest of eight children and while our parents never discouraged college, they never really encouraged it either.
“Then earlier this year a friend posted something on Facebook about the Michigan Reconnect program and I knew this was a golden opportunity for me to do something I should have done a long time ago: get a college degree.”
Michigan Reconnect is a state scholarship program providing free in-district tuition for those ages 25 and older who don’t already have a college degree. This fall, 998 students at GRCC are enrolled through Reconnect.
Holland enrolled at GRCC this summer and is working toward an associate degree in culinary arts with a baking and pastry arts certificate.
“I’m so lucky not to be racking up a bunch of student loans at my age. I’ve paid for a few books, but that’s it. Reconnect has taken care of everything else,” said Holland, who’s worked her entire life, often just earning enough money to get by and raise her three children.
But she’s not pursuing a college degree just for herself. She also hopes to inspire her 15-year-old grandson, Gavin Lietz.