GIANT Awards 40th anniversary celebration will honor decades of leadership while looking to the future

Eight past GIANT Awards winners standing in a line, smiling.

Grand Rapids Community College is celebrating the 40th anniversary of the GIANT Awards with an evening saluting the leaders of the past and present while inspiring the next generations.

Since 1983, GRCC has hosted the annual awards recognizing African American leaders and organizations for their exceptional contributions in shaping the history and quality of life in Grand Rapids and West Michigan.

The 40th anniversary celebration will highlight the past GIANT honorees and present a special anniversary award, with recipients revealed at the event.

“GRCC is tremendously proud to host the GIANT Awards each year, recognizing the people who have played key roles in making West Michigan a stronger, better place to live,” GRCC President Charles Lepper said. “The 40th anniversary milestone is a perfect time to pause and reflect on those who have been honored over the decades – to hear again their stories, appreciate their impact, and celebrate their important places in our history.”

The gala is planned for 6 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 25, at DeVos Place’s Exhibit Hall, 303 Monroe Ave. NW. Individual tickets are $100, with eight-seat tables available for $1,000. Proceeds will support the Milo M. Brown Scholarship and the Junior GIANT Fund and can be purchased online.

The keynote speaker for the event is Dr. Jacqueline Walters – better known as “Dr. Jackie” – a philanthropist, health expert, women’s advocate, television personality and award-winning doctor of obstetrics and gynecology.

A two-time breast cancer survivor, Walters founded the 50 Shades of Pink Foundation, an organization focused on treating the inner and outer beauty of survivors. The Atlanta resident is featured on the Bravo hit reality series “Married to Medicine” and is a frequent speaker on the topics of women’s health, wellness and self-esteem.

Local media personalities Jamal Spencer, Eddie Rucker and Jennifer Moss will serve as emcees.

The event is being planned by a community committee that includes Vanessa Greene, Larry Johnson, Tempy Mann, Darius Quinn, Faye Richardson-Green, Misti Stanton and Shannon Wilson, and facilitated by GRCC President Emeritus Juan Olivarez and GRCC leaders.

“The GIANT Awards are special to so many people in our community,” Olivarez said. “It’s an honor to work with leaders who are devoted to recognizing what we have done to this point, but also making sure this important work continues long into the future.”

Mann said the awards are an opportunity to look back, but are also a call to action.

“The people who have been honored over the last 40 years are the ones who built our community,” Mann said. “When we tell their stories, we reflect on their legacy. But we also remind ourselves that there is so much more to do. We stand on the shoulders of our Giants, but we need to continue to carry on the work they started.”

The annual GIANT Awards, last presented in October 2022, salute 11 leaders. Each award is named after a local person who has demonstrated excellence and serves as a perpetual memorial to those notable contributions.

Honorees have made meaningful contributions to Grand Rapids in a variety of areas, including justice, education, religion, medicine, humanities, business and labor.

The Junior GIANT Award, named in honor of GIANT founders Dr. Patricia Pulliam and Cedric Ward, are presented to students of African American heritage who have demonstrated leadership, community involvement and impact. The Milo M. Brown Scholarship is presented to at least one male and one female African American GRCC students returning as full-time sophomores for the following fall semester.

The World Affairs Council’s Great Decisions program: Reckoning on War Crimes

Please join the Social Sciences Department, in coordination with The World Affairs Council of Western Michigan, to the Great Decisions programs opening night speaker: Deborah Amos, International Correspondent for NPR.

‘Reckoning on War Crimes’
Monday, February 6, 2023
6:00 – 7:15 p.m.
ATC Auditorium, Room 168

Great Decisions is America’s largest discussion program on world affairs. The program provides background information and policy options for the most critical issues facing America each year and serves as the starting place for dialogue and discussion with the community.

Questions can be directed to Stacey Herrick at (616) 234-4283 or

GRCC, University of Michigan team up to provide students with cutting edge research fellowship opportunities

Three students in a lecture.

Grand Rapids Community College is teaming up with the University of Michigan to provide students with cutting edge research opportunities.

GRCC students have until Feb. 10 to apply for the 2023 statewide Community College Summer Fellowship Program, a 10-week, paid fellowship at U-M. 

The program runs May 30 to Aug. 4 and offers research projects with mentors representing all 19 colleges/schools at U-M. The fellowship is offered by the Undergraduate Research Opportunity Program at U-M and is open to any currently enrolled community college student interested in transferring in the future to any four-year university, not just Michigan.

The fellowship is a great chance to do research at U-M, gain professional networks and opportunities, and attend professional training workshops teaching the latest research techniques, said Michelle Ferrez, director of U-M’s Undergraduate Research Opportunity Program.

“We see the real-world assets that community college students bring to the program, which is invaluable,” Ferrez said.

Many GRCC students have taken part in the research program through the years.

“The summer program has strengthened not just their academic skills, but their confidence as scholars and prepared them for a more successful transfer experience,” said Leanne Challa, GRCC program manager for the Transfer Bridges partnership between GRCC and U-M.

Student access to these programs removes barriers to learning which often exist between the two- and four-year institute experience, she said. 

“By encouraging and supporting the exploration of fields of study, connecting students to professionals in these fields, and providing the ability to engage first-hand with the four-year institute experience, these partnerships help build the bridge for successful transfer,” Challa said.

Research fellows receive a $3,000-$6,000 stipend for their part- or full-time participation in the program, and there are both in-person and virtual opportunities.

CCSFP seeks to attract a diverse student population, including women and historically underrepresented students, first generation college students, students from low-income backgrounds, and veterans.

Applicants must have:

  • Completed at least 18 credits (or two semesters) at the community college level and must have already graduated from high school or earned a GED
  • Completed 30 credits at the community college if you are a dual enrolled in high school
  • Enrolled and in attendance at a community college in Michigan

The CCSRP is one of many opportunities available to GRCC students available through the Transfer Bridges U-M grant relationship.

For more information, GRCC students can visit the U-M Community College Summer Fellowship Program page here, or reach out to Leanne Challa, program manager, Transfer Bridges to the Humanities U-M, via email at

This story was reported by Beth McKenna.

Danyel Bibbs leads GRCC men’s basketball team to victory over tough Muskegon rival, women’s team falls short

Danyel Bibbs getting ready to shoot a free throw.

Danyel Bibbs celebrated his birthday by leading the Grand Rapids Community College men’s basketball team to a win over a tough Muskegon Community College team on Wednesday.

With the 83-74 victory, the Raiders are 13-4 and 2-2 in MCCAA Northern Conference play.

The women’s team snapped a two-game win streak to move to .500 in the conference after a tough, 62-35 loss.

The men’s team was back and forth all night with Muskegon, with a season-high 26 lead changes. But Bibbs’ and-one with five minutes to go was the final lead GRCC needed to secure the victory.

“It’s so great to go on the road and get a win against a good team,” coach Joe Fox said. “I was very happy with our execution down the stretch, and I thought our guys really picked their spots well. Isaac Warning played his best game as a Raider and Danyel Bibbs also was great. I can’t say enough about how excited I am about our execution of the game plan tonight.”

Bibbs finished with a team-high 22 points while grabbing eight rebounds and dishing out four assists.

GRCC led in just about every statistical category, including field goal percentage, three-point shooting, rebounding, blocks and steals.

Chris Coleman and Issac Warning also had solid outings, scoring 30 total points and grabbing 15 rebounds.

The women’s team never could get into any rhythm on the offensive end, scoring a season-low 35 points while shooting just 1-of-19 from behind the arc.

“Tough loss to a good Muskegon team,” coach David Glazier said. “We will have to get much better as the year continues to compete with the teams atop the North.”

Sophomores Sally Merrill and Marlene Bussler led GRCC with nine points while Grace Lodes added eight points and team highs with seven rebounds and four assists.

Both teams will be back on the road on Jan. 28, visiting Kirtland Community College.  The women will tip-off first at 1 p.m.  

Help spread the word to GRCC students: Over $1,000,000 in scholarships available to them from the GRCC Foundation

Kristi Welling helping a student.

Please encourage the students you teach and support to complete the GRCC Scholarship application.

They can fill out a single application to be considered for over three hundred scholarships!

These scholarships can provide them with free money to help cover 2023-24 GRCC tuition, books and fees. 

Students should apply for GRCC scholarships on our  Scholarships webpage.

The priority deadline is March 15, 2023. In order to maximize scholarship opportunities, students should also complete a 2023-24  FAFSA.