GRCC remembers Bishop Dennis J. McMurray, a giant in our community

West Michigan has lost a Giant Among Giants with the passing of Bishop Dennis J. McMurray. We are grateful we were able to share our admiration and appreciation of his visionary leadership at last month’s Giant Awards.

“Bishop McMurray was a wonderful leader in our community who always wanted to create opportunities for people to overcome obstacles and be successful,” GRCC Interim President Juan Olivarez said. “He was a caring, dedicated servant leader, and will be missed. He lives on through all the people he mentored, guided and supported. That’s a tremendous legacy.”

Bishop McMurray last year established the Bishop Dennis J. & Dr. E. Jean Lackey-McMurray Achievement Scholarship, awarded to two Tassell MTEC students who are currently enrolled in either credit or noncredit workforce development programs.

The scholarship is meant to assist students 25 years and older from underrepresented populations, to help them gain new skills.

GRCC’s Tyler Zahnke one of 10 blind music students selected for SongSight mentoring retreat with Scott MacIntyre of ‘American Idol’

Probably no other GRCC student has “American Idol” finalist Scott MacIntyre’s cell phone number. But Tyler Zahnke does.

That’s because Zahnke is one of only 10 blind musicians in the nation selected to attend the first SongSight music mentoring retreat this weekend in Scottsdale, Ariz., featuring blind singer-songwriter MacIntyre.

“We’re going to be doing some songwriting, singing, and we get to record an original song at the end of the weekend,” said Zahnke, a GRCC music major. “But I’m most excited about hanging out and networking with famous artists like Scott MacIntyre.”

MacIntyre was the first blind “American Idol” finalist and a fan favorite for viewers for optimism in the face of adversity.

This weekend’s retreat is just the latest in Zahnke’s lifelong quest to make music.

Blind since birth, the 25-year-old Grand Rapids native said his love of music began as a toddler when his family would listen to classical music and his mother played the piano. After teaching himself piano basics as a young boy, he began taking lessons at age 10.

While taking online classes at Northview Alternative High School, he began composing, singing, recording and editing his own music at home.

But it was GRCC that changed his world.

Zahnke enrolled in 2017 and has consistently pursued his associate degree in music ever since.

“GRCC has helped me develop a deeper understanding of music, what a musician does, and has helped me get more in tune with different genres of music,” he said.

The best part, though, is performing.

Zahnke, who considers himself equal parts singer and keyboardist, has been singing with GRCC’s vocal ensembles since he started five years ago.

“Performing makes me so happy,” he said.

Although still charting his career, Zahnke said he’d like to eventually record an album, perform live concerts, compose production music for TV or commercials, and create music-related software for the blind.

“Living this life has made me more resourceful, and I think a lot of the challenges I’ve faced are being eliminated,” he said of his blindness.

For now, he’s looking forward to this weekend’s SongSight retreat and making even more friends in the music world.

“It sounds like a terrific program, and I am thrilled for Tyler,” said Debora DeWitt, GRCC professor and piano department chair.

This story was reported by Beth McKenna.

GRCC volleyball team wins two games to advance in NJCAA Region XII tournament

The Grand Rapids Community College volleyball team advanced to the NJCAA Region XII-District A winners bracket final after two wins to open up tournament play on Thursday.

In the team’s opening match, GRCC won convincingly 25-14, 25-18, 25-15, defeating Southwestern Michigan College, which finished in fourth place in the Western Conference this year.

GRCC hit .316 as a team, and was led by Eliza Thelen, who hit .444 with 14 kills on 27 swings.

In the later match GRCC played a very good St. Clair County Community College team, which tied for the Eastern Conference Championship, and came out victorious in four sets, 25-23, 23-25, 25-23, 25-11.

“We dug deep and pulled out a win as a team,” sophomore Karissa Ferry said.

GRCC struggled offensively up until the final set, where it had just one error.  The team finished .222 for the match and was led by Audrey Torres, who had 14 kills and hit a team-high .306.

Shannon Russell dished out 45 assists and added eight digs and a team-high four blocks.

Audrey Gower had 16 digs and Kara Hecht had the lone double-double, with 12 kills and 10 digs.

GRCC, ranked No. 13 in the latest NJCAA Division II poll, improved to 22-3 overall, and will play Kalamazoo Valley Community College at 5 p.m. on Friday, Nov. 4.  A win would allow the team to advance to the championship match at 1 p.m. on Saturday.  

GRCC taps veteran coaches Lizzy Hornack, Demiekco Smith to guide inaugural soccer teams

Grand Rapids Community College’s first soccer coaches are bringing more than 40 years of experience, championships and personal success to the jobs.

Lizzy Hornack, a two-time All-American at Davenport University, and Demiekco Smith, who has ties to the University of Michigan-Flint program, will guide the new GRCC teams when they take the field in fall 2023.

“We’re starting these programs on the right foot with excellent coaches,” Athletic Director Lauren Ferullo said. “We’re not just fielding a team. We’re building a program and a culture. Lizzy and Demiekco have years of experience working with student-athletes, helping them be successful on the field and in the classroom.”  

Hornack, a native of Manchester, England, is a 2014 Davenport University alumna and is assistant coach for the university’s women’s team.

She was a two-time All-American at Davenport, earning the honors in 2010 and 2013. She is atop Davenport’s leaderboard in nine categories, including points, with 131; goals, 55; and game-winning goals, 14.

“I’m very excited to start GRCC’s women’s soccer program,” she said. “It’s an honor to be the first-ever head coach. I’m excited to get to work on building this program and having a positive impact on the lives of student-athletes.”

After college Hornack played two years in a semi-pro league with Grand Rapids Football Club, winning the national championship in 2017.

She has served as assistant coach and the junior varsity head coach for Davenport in 2014 and 2015, then became girl’s director of coaching for the Soccer Club of Rockford. She was director of operations two years later. She coached a girls’ team to a State Cup championship in 2022, and coaches two National League teams.

Hornack also coached at CATS FC in Caledonia and Vardar West in Byron Center. She was the head junior varsity coach at Rockford High School and the assistant varsity coach at Grandville High School.

She has a bachelor’s degree in Marketing and a master’s degree in Human Resource Management from Davenport.

Smith has 27 years of soccer coaching experience, including serving as head women’s coach for University of Michigan-Flint and the assistant for the University of Michigan-Flint men’s soccer program.

Smith has led several successful programs, including winning three indoor national championships with his 2 Designs All-Star Team. Those teams were undefeated in 30 games. He also coached his high school to a Conference Championship leading his team to a 20-0 regular season record.

He was presented the High School Boys and Girls Conference Coach of the year award and the High School Boys and Girls District Coach of the Year award.

He most recently was head coach for the Wellspring Prep High School girls’ soccer team.

Smith earned a master’s degree from the University of Michigan-Flint in Public Administration and a master’s degree from Bowling Green in Criminal Justice. He earned bachelor’s degree from Central Michigan University and an associate degree from Ferris State University.

Smith works for the Department of Health and Human Services as a section manager in Kent County.

“I’m excited to be the first head coach of the GRCC men’s soccer program and I’m looking forward to building a competitive team,” he said.

With the addition of both soccer programs, GRCC now offers 10 athletic programs, including men’s and women’s cross country, golf, volleyball, men’s and women’s basketball, baseball and softball.

Students interested in participating can fill out a questionnaire here.

Learn From the Best: Brandi Miller transitioned from engineer to nurse, and enjoys working with students

Brandi Miller, a Grand Rapids Community College nursing professor, says GRCC feels like home after taking on the role of both a student and an educator. 

Nursing is a second career for Miller. After graduating from Michigan Tech and working for 14 years as a licensed, professional engineer, Miller took a leap-of-faith and began attending GRCC to pursue a new career in nursing. 

She continued her education at Ferris State University where she received her Bachelor of Science in Nursing and her Master of Science in Nursing certifications. 

Almost 10 years later, she now teaches students in the same GRCC nursing program she once studied in. 

Miller said the best part of teaching is working with students. Most GRCC nursing students are non-traditional – they have had other careers, are raising families, or are working simultaneously. 

These students are able to bring a diverse perspective to the program and are determined to succeed. 

Miller mentions, “It makes it really easy to do my job when I see how hard they’re working,” she said. 

The nursing program (the practical nursing certificate and associate degree) has had nearly perfect passing rates on the national licensure exam for the past four years. 

Miller notes that many of these students were once turned away from other selective nursing programs; yet these students are now thriving at GRCC.

“It says a lot about our culture at GRCC, students can come as they are, work hard, and succeed,” she said.  

Miller’s best advice to incoming students? “It’s okay to be a novice – everyone has a first day. It takes time to gain experience and fulfill potential. The first step is to show up and try.”

Additional information about the GRCC nursing program is here.

GRCC In the News 11/04/2022

Bishop McMurray of Renaissance Church of God in Christ dies at 63

11/2/22 WOOD TV

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — Bishop Dennis J. McMurray of Renaissance Church of God in Christ has died, the church confirmed Wednesday.

… In October, McMurray was honored for his social activism and leadership for social change in the area with the GIANT among Giants award. He served on the Michigan Community Corrections Board, the National Board of Bethany Christian Services, Kent County Community Mental Health and Spectrum Health Executive Patient & Advisory Board. He was previously honored with the Religious Life GIANT Award and the Who’s Who Award in Black Grand Rapids by the Black Chamber of Commerce of Detroit.

Grand Rapids pastor, community leader Bishop McMurray passes away

11/2/22 FOX 17

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. — The congregation of Renaissance Church of God in Christ has lost their senior pastor, and Grand Rapids has lost a community leader.

… Only a month prior to his death, Bishop McMurray was honored for his leadership in his church and beyond, when Grand Rapids Community College named him the 2022 GIANT Among Giants on October 1.

Restaurant Week returns to Grand Rapids with over 40 specialty menus, foodie prizes

11/2/22 MLive

GRAND RAPIDS, MI – Back by popular demand, Experience Grand Rapids is kicking off its 13th annual Restaurant Week GR with more than 40 participating restaurants.

… Additionally, Experience Grand Rapids will donate $1 for every check-in to a scholarship fund for the Grand Rapids Community College Secchia Institute for Culinary Education.

Restaurant Week celebrates local culinary scene

11/2/22 Grand Rapids Magazine

One of the best opportunities to try Grand Rapids restaurants kicks off this week.

… Each check-in to the digital pass also results in Experience Grand Rapids donating $1 to the Grand Rapids Community College’s Secchia Institute for Culinary Education. Since Restaurant Week GR began in 2010, it has contributed more than $150,000 to the local culinary education program.

Grand Rapids Community College announces coaches for new soccer teams

11/3/22 FOX 17

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. — Grand Rapids Community College has announced the coaches for the school’s new soccer program. They are Lizzy Hornack and Damiekco Smith.