School News Network: GRCC Collegiate illustrator Abby Haywood earns national awards for telling stories through art

Goofy, funny and random items have become fodder for Abby Haywood’s cartoons, which include appearances by a vintage Garfield phone and a huge rubber duck.

But she also draws inspiration from serious material: news headlines and issues affecting the world and teenagers. Her bubbly, big-eyed characters provide commentary on relationships, the pandemic, politics and more, serving as an outlet for her own perspective on things.

“I kind of just latch onto anything that I think is kind of funny,” she said. “I try to make fun of it, I guess, with pictures.”

Abby graduated from East Kentwood High School this week, and has been dual enrolled at Grand Rapids Community College, working on The Collegiate, the campus news outlet.

She created a cartoon about a character listening to CDC guidelines and removing her mask before noticing an enormous virus labeled “Delta Variant” looming ahead. Another features a student tallying up major costs for a community college course after boasting about “saving so much money.”

Abby is a two-time national winner of Scholastic Art & Writing Awards for cartoons published in The Collegiate. She earned the Herblock Award for Editorial Cartoons scholarship in 2021 for an editorial cartoon about President Trump.

The award recognizes three students nationally who exhibit exceptional skill in editorial cartooning and provides each with a $1,000 scholarship. She is invited to attend the national awards ceremony at Carnegie Hall in New York this summer.

Abby has also won several other awards for her illustrations through the Scholastic competition. East Kentwood art teacher Le Tran has watched Abby develop her craft.

“Abby’s style is definitely very distinctive and unique. She has a real vision and I love seeing how all of that comes together,” said Tran, a GRCC alumna. “When I see her work, it gives me a feel of looking at vintage art, and I feel like I am traveling back in time, yet her ideas are so relevant and connect with her peers.”

Abby plans to continue courses at GRCC and to start at Grand Valley State University in the fall to pursue illustration and eventually make it a career.

A Pandemic Outlet

A longtime art student, Abby got involved in editorial cartooning as something to do while she was staying at home during the pandemic. Her mom, Jennifer Ackerman-Haywood, a former Grand Rapid Press journalist who is the adviser for The Collegiate, approached her about getting involved with the paper through cartooning. She started during the summer of 2020.

“I was like, ‘You know what? This is actually kind of fun,’” Abby said about seeing her work published.

She describes her style as influenced by American cartoons and anime. She remembers as a young child watching Pokémon, pausing the screen and drawing the scene.

Last school year in AP Art, she created her biggest project to date, a 30-page cartoon book, called “Love with Strings Attached.” She won a Scholastic Gold Key award for it.

Whether it’s a personal issue or one grabbing the headlines, Abby said illustrating is a great way to work through her thoughts about what’s going on.

“There’s a lot of stuff happening. I don’t journal or anything. It gives me an outlet to be like, ‘OK, things are happening. I’m going to draw a picture,” she said. “Hopefully, it’s funny and it’s going to help me process what is going on. (For others), it can maybe make it less intimidating than a news story. They can just see a picture and be like, ‘Oh, yeah! I know what’s happening.’”

Publishing also helped her connect with others during the school closure. “Everybody knows virtual school and being stuck at home – the pandemic in general – sucks. It’s not fun. There was a lot going on. Everybody was in kind of a bad place, mentally. It was really important when I was literally physically stuck in my house, just to be able to do something.”

She’s learned her comics resonate with others who see themselves in the characters and experiences, from having anxiety about making phone calls to uncertainty about life in a pandemic. Friends and even strangers at Grand Rapids Zine Fest, where she had a booth, have told her they can relate.

“A lot of people would come up to me and say, ‘Oh, my gosh! I love this one. I experience this!’”

This story was reported by Erin Albanese of the School News Network

My GRCC Story: Futures for Frontliners helps Jason Reckner get a degree, a job, a raise – and become an inspiration for his family

What does the Futures for Frontliners scholarship mean to GRCC graduate Jason Reckner?

Well, there’s his recently completed degree in Tooling and Manufacturing for one. He said without the scholarship he probably would not have finished that degree.

There’s also the work he was doing as an HVAC technician for a local hospital. That work was definitely made better by his GRCC degree, he said.

And, oh yeah, there’s that new job he just took.

That position, which came with a nice raise, will see him doing maintenance, repairs and diagnostics on injected plastic mold machines, including being directly involved with installing and setting up the latest expansion of his new employer, West Contract Manufacturing, a subsidiary of Pennsylvania-based West Pharmaceutical Services.

That job, he said, would not have happened without his GRCC degree.

“I have always been very mechanically inclined, a problem solver,” he said. “But I would never have gotten this interview, let alone the actual job, without having my degree. Yay for Futures for Frontliners!”

Futures for Frontliners is a state program that covered the cost of in-district tuition for people who worked in essential fields during the state’s COVID-19 shutdown. A similar program, Michigan Reconnect, is available for residents age 25 and older who have not completed a college degree. Additional information is available at

Futures for Frontliners, he added, was critical in that it removed the largest obstacle that previously had stood in his way: money.

“I was motivated when I saw a chance to open my possibilities with this scholarship,” he said.

And he admitted he had a little extra motivation at home.

“I also felt it was very important that my daughters see me graduate and be a part of the hard work it took to get it all done,” he said.

Those daughters have seen him for the past few years as Coach Jason, a dedicated softball and basketball coach for their teams in Northview Little League and elsewhere. They now can also see him as a college graduate, and that brings a smile to his face as he talks about it.

“For them to see what happens when you’re given an opportunity, and that if you meet that opportunity with hard work and dedication you can flourish, is pretty special,” he said.

Jason first started taking classes at GRCC in 2009, transferring in credits he had earned during a short stint at Defiance College after his 1992 high school graduation. A graduate of Morenci Public Schools, he headed to Defiance to play baseball but ended up on academic probation after, he said, spending too much time on baseball and not enough on academics.

He soon slid into a career in construction.

“It was what I grew up with and felt comfortable with,” he said, “but I was never really pushing my limits or excelling in other areas.”

He got married in 2008, and they began their family in 2010 which put a halt to his first return to the classroom.

But, as his daughters got older, Jason felt more and more of a push to finish the degree he had begun almost three decades earlier.

When the Futures for Frontliners program was announced there were no reasons not to make it work he said.

“Education is very important, but it is very hard to validate a degree that you are not completely sure will pay off,” he said simply. “This program was a way to have no excuses to make it happen.”

This story was reported by Phil de Haan.

GRCC In the News 05/27/2022

 13 Reads: GRPL hosting writing, reading workshops with national and regional authors

5/26/22 WZZM

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. — The Grand Rapids Public Library (GRPL) is hosting a series of workshops over the summer that pairs regional and national authors and aspiring writers.

… Thursday, June 23

Guests: James McBride and Mursalata Muhammed

James McBride is a New York Times bestselling author who recently released his new book, “Deacon King Kong.”

Mursalata Muhammed is an English professor at Grand Rapids Community College.

2022 Annual Magazine from Michigan Brewers Guild Celebrates 25 Years in the “Great Beer State”

5/26/22 West Michigan Tourist Association

(LANSING, Mich) — The 2022 edition of “Michigan. The Great Beer State” magazine was recently released by the Michigan Brewers Guild, which celebrates its silver 25th anniversary this year.

… Another noted story, entitled “Educating the Next Generation of Michigan Brewers” by Wensdy Von Buskirk, focuses on the various colleges and universities in the state offering brewing programs including Schoolcraft College in Livonia, Central Michigan University in Mt. Pleasant, Kalamazoo Valley Community College in Kalamazoo and Grand Rapids Community College in Grand Rapids.

Payroll Memorial Day reminder

As we prepare for the long holiday weekend, the Payroll Team has a reminder about your timesheets for the 6/10/22 pay date (for the pay period of 5/16-5/29/22). We don’t want the due dates to sneak up on you!

Because of the Memorial Day holiday on Monday, 5/30/22, timesheets will be due one day later than normal, on Tuesday, 5/31/22.

We know some of you may be taking some extra time off. Please take whatever steps are necessary to ensure that the most accurate version of your timesheet is submitted on or before Tuesday, 5/31/22.

And, supervisors, if you’re out for any additional time around the holiday, please ensure you have a backup approver in place to review and approve timesheets by the deadline of Wednesday, 6/1/22 (also one day later, as approvals are usually due by the Tuesday following a pay date).

More information on setting up a backup approver can be found on the Supervisor Back Up Delegation & Back Up Approver Instructions form on the Employee Forms webpage.  

As always, please reach out to us with questions at