Here to Help: Garrett Esper helps students connect with placement assessments

Garrett Esper smiling.

Always remember, at GRCC, you are surrounded by people who want you to be successful and are ready to walk with you on your educational pathway. We are here to help!

Meet Garrett Esper. Garrett is here to help new students who don’t have recent ACT or SAT test scores, letting them know what English and math placement assessments they need.

He also helps students schedule those assessments. As the placement specialist for GRCC’s Student Services office (formerly Enrollment Center), Garrett oversees the coordination and administration of academic placement testing at the college.

As a student employee at GRCC, Garrett learned that helping students is fulfilling work, and he continued at the college in different positions as he earned his associate degree from GRCC, and his bachelor’s degree from Ferris State University.

“It makes me feel good to know I am helping someone take steps to begin a new chapter of their life,” Garrett said. “My passion for our students to succeed is what drives my effort to always go the extra mile to ensure each student feels welcomed and supported.”

Garrett chose GRCC after high school for the affordability and student support that set the college apart from others in West Michigan.

He planned to become a high school English teacher when he began college, but then switched to marketing.

“I completed my Bachelor of Science in Marketing at Ferris State University in 2020,” he said. “While completing school, I began working as a student ambassador for New Student Orientation, and found the work to be fulfilling. That role made me want a career working in higher education. In 2018, I began working in the Enrollment Center, and finally transitioned to the placement specialist role in 2021.”

In the six years that Garrett has worked at GRCC, he has learned all about the services and resources available to students. He’s ready to help each semester’s new students confidently complete assessment testing so they can be placed in the math or English class that is right for them.

“I have great experience with helping students navigate the steps to completing admissions and enrollment at GRCC and encourage anyone with questions to connect with me,” he said.

Learn more about how Garrett’s team can help you become a GRCC student at

GRCC Foundation creates new Board of Directors Excellence Scholarships to make education more accessible to students in Kent, Ottawa counties

Student on Juan Olivarez Plaza.

Two incoming high school students will attend Grand Rapids Community College tuition-free through a new scholarship opportunity from the GRCC Foundation’s board of directors.

The GRCC Foundation Board of Directors Excellence Scholarships, announced today, will go to two students – one each from Kent and Ottawa counties, who are nominated by high school counselors.

“Foundation board members are always moved when they hear students sharing how a scholarship helped them overcome financial challenges and move forward with a life-changing education,” said Dr. Kathryn Mullins, vice president of College Advancement and executive director of the GRCC Foundation. “We’re proud to offer this new opportunity and work with counselors in schools across our region. Together, we can change lives.”

The foundation plans to distribute $1.4 million in scholarships this year to more than 1,000 students.

The new Board of Directors Excellence Scholarships will pay tuition and all fees associated with registered classes. If tuition and fees are already covered by other grants or scholarships, $1,500 will be awarded each semester to cover books, transportation, and other education-related expenses.

This award is available for one full academic year: Fall 2022, Winter 2023 and Summer 2023. Students must maintain full-time enrollment of 12 or more credits during the fall and winter semesters to receive these scholarship funds. Summer enrollment is optional; however, students wishing to use this scholarship in the summer semester must be enrolled in six or more credits.

High school counselors have until April 1 to nominate a senior based on the following criteria:

  • The student will graduate from a high school in Kent or Ottawa counties in spring 2022.
  • The student has been admitted to GRCC with plans to start classes this fall.
  • The student currently has a GPA of 3.0 or higher.

Counselors can consider other factors, including barriers and obstacles the student has faced, involvement in community service, and leadership activities or qualities.

U.S. citizenship is not a requirement for this award.

Counselors can find additional information and the nomination forms at

GRCC partners with Amazon’s Career Choice program to help employees earn degrees, career skills

GRCC students standing on Juan Olivarez Plaza.

Grand Rapids Community College is partnering with Amazon’s Career Choice program, providing Amazon’s hourly employees access credits for transfer or degrees and career-focused certificates.

The Career Choice program is an Amazon education benefit empowering employees to learn new skills for career success at Amazon or elsewhere.

GRCC is one of 140 colleges and universities in the nation, and one of four in Michigan, to partner with the company.

“Amazon and employers across West Michigan partner with GRCC to help residents gain in-demand skills and grow a talented work force to strengthen our economy,” GRCC President Bill Pink said. “We are proud of our mission and history of being the place students of all ages turn to for degrees and career certificates to advance in their careers and support their families. GRCC students know we will walk with them and support them along the way to help them thrive.”

The program meets individual learners where they are on their education journey through a variety of education and upskilling opportunities including full college tuition, industry certifications designed to lead to in-demand jobs, and foundational skills such as English language proficiency, high school diplomas, and GEDs.

In the United States, the company is investing $1.2 billion to upskill more than 300,000 employees by 2025 to help move them into higher-paying, in-demand jobs.

Amazon’s Career Choice program has a rigorous selection process for third-party partner educators, choosing partners that are focused on helping employees through their education programs, assisting them with job placements, and overall offering education that leads to career success.

“We’re looking forward to GRCC coming on board as an education partner for Career Choice, adding to the hundreds of best-in-class offerings available to our employees,” said Tammy Thieman, Global Program Lead of Amazon’s Career Choice program.

“We’re committed to empowering our employees by providing them access to the education and training they need to grow their careers, whether that’s with us or elsewhere. We have intentionally cultivated a partner network of third-party educators and employers committed to providing excellent education, job placement resources, and continuous improvements to the experience. Today, over 50,000 Amazon employees around the world have already participated in Career Choice and we’ve seen first-hand how it can transform their lives.”

Additional information on Amazon’s Career Choice is here.  

Breaking out in a big way: GRCC baseball snaps skid with 15-5 win over Columbia State Community College

Grand Rapids Community College baseball team.

An eight-run fourth inning led the Grand Rapids Community College baseball team to a 15-5 victory over Columbia State Community College on Thursday, snapping a 10-game losing streak to start the season.

The win concluded the team’s annual southern trip to start the season, where it challenges itself by  facing tough non-conference teams that have been playing outdoors in warmer climates.

“We are very happy with the development of our players,” Coach Mike Eddington said. “Our players learned they can compete with the top D1 community colleges in the country, which should give them confidence.”

Eddington said the team learned it has to do little things to win close games, such as getting bunts down, improving base running and situational hitting.

“We also learned our guys will compete and not give up and can move on from a close loss,” he said. “We need to continue to try to getter better each day. I think we will our players are together and are motivated to be good.”

Dylan Chargo, Zacarias Salinas, Caleb Engelsman, Jacob Gumieny, and Ryan Dykstra all contributed in GRCC’s big inning with RBIs.

Jerad Berkenpas was the winning pitcher. The righthander lasted five innings, allowing five hits and four runs while striking out one. Eliott Traver and Jeremy Marble entered the game out of the bullpen and helped to close out the game.

Patrick Green took the loss for Columbia State, with the southpaw surrendering eight runs on eight hits over two and two-thirds innings, striking out three and walking one.

Nicholas Neighbours started the game for Columbia State, lasting three and a third innings, allowing five runs on four hits and striking out one

GRCC had 12 hits. Dykstra, Luke Huerta, Xander Reisbig, and Salinas all had multiple hits, with Dykstra getting a single, double, and triple in five at-bats.

GRCC’s next game is March 20, facing University of Northwestern Ohio’s junior varsity team in Lima, Ohio.

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GRCC In the News 03/04/2022

Amazon partners with Michigan universities to provide tuition to employees

3/3/22 WZZM

MICHIGAN, USA — Amazon announced Thursday that it is partnering with 140 universities and colleges across the nation to provide fully-funded college tuition to employees. 

In Michigan, employees can choose to attend Eastern Michigan University, Grand Rapids Community College, Grand Valley State University, Henry Ford College or online universities partnering with Amazon.

GVSU, GRCC among colleges in Amazon free tuition program

3/3/22 WOOD TV

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — Amazon announced Thursday that it is partnering with more than 140 universities to provide fully-funded college tuition for its employees.

… Grand Rapids Community College and Grand Valley State University are two of the schools partnering with Amazon, according to press releases from both schools.

Amazon employees can now get free tuition at Grand Valley State, Grand Rapids Community College

3/3/22 MLive

GRAND RAPIDS, MI – Amazon is partnering with four Michigan colleges and universities, including Grand Valley State University and Grand Rapids Community College, to provide its employees with fully funded college tuition.

Amazon workers can now attend these 180 colleges for free

3/3/22 Fortune

As COVID-19 and modern tech advancements have changed the way we work, more Fortune 500 companies are putting millions—even billions—of dollars behind efforts to help their employees get the education they need to develop their careers. In fact, 69% of U.S. adults who are either employed or have plans to return to work say they’re likely to leave their current gig for an employer who offers upskilling opportunities, according to a June 2021 poll conducted by Amazon and Gallup. 

… Michigan

… Grand Rapids Community College

Amazon giving employees free tuition at 4 Michigan colleges & universities

3/3/22 WXYZ

Amazon employees in Michigan are able to get free college tuition to four schools in the state, the company announced on Thursday.

… According to Amazon, Michigan employees will have access to education from Eastern Michigan University, Grand Rapids Community College, Grand Valley State University and Henry Ford College.

Unmasked: Dozens of colleges halt COVID-19 mandates as stealth variant rises

3/3/22 University Business

Even the earliest and staunchest proponents of COVID-19 protocols in higher education are relenting on mask-wearing, prompted largely by state and local health officials’ decisions to lower COVID-19 risk levels.

… Other institutions are also lifting some mask policies. The State University of New York system is allowing individual colleges to make their own calls on removing them. Jamestown Community College was one of the first to sign on. A pair of institutions in Michigan also ended mandates – Grand Rapids Community College and Flint Hills Technical College. Meanwhile, the University of Arkansas, the University of Colorado at Boulder, the University of Mississippi, Boston University, Elon University, Colgate University, Quinnipiac University all have or will adopt mask-optional policies.

Culinary Conversation speaker series returning to Grand Rapids Downtown Market

3/3/22 MLive

GRAND RAPIDS, MI — The Culinary Conversation speaker series is returning to the Grand Rapids Downtown Market on March 9 after moving its events online in early 2020 amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

… The discussion will be moderated by Jenn Struick, executive chef of Root Farmacy and adjunct instructor for Grand Rapids Community College’s Secchia Institute for Culinary Education. Panelists include Mallory Squibb, co-owner of Squibb Coffee and Wine Bar; Tressa Johnson, sous chef at the Fulton Street Pub and Grill; Marisela Sierra, third-generation owner at Navarro’s; and Kalene McElveen, owner of Tastefull Vegan Desserts.