GRCC President Lepper: Michigan Reconnect has provided access and opportunities for students across West Michigan

GRCC President Lepper standing with two roundtable members, smiling.

Grand Rapids Community College President Charles Lepper said the Michigan Reconnect program has provided access and opportunities for students across West Michigan, and encourages lawmakers to thoughtfully consider Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s call to expand the program.

Whitmer in her State of the State Address on Wednesday called for expanding the Michigan Reconnect program to include residents age 21 and older. The program, now for residents ages 25 and older, covers the cost of in-district tuition, helping remove financial obstacles for residents looking to start or restart their education.

“Reconnect has already helped more than 1,000 students at GRCC, and we find them on our campus gaining a quality education and in-demand career skills,” Lepper said. “Our mission as an open access college is to serve as many people in our community as possible. Our entire region grows stronger when more people have access to a life-changing education. We appreciate that our lawmakers have supported Reconnect in the past, and we encourage thoughtful consideration of this proposal in the months to come.”

Dr. Lepper on Monday heard about the successes of the Reconnect program from students Andre Broussard and Jodi Holland on Monday at a roundtable hosted by Lt. Governor Garland Gilchrist II at GRCC’s Wisner-Bottrall Applied Technology Center.

Reconnect, launched in Feb. 2021, is aimed at students 25 and older who have not yet earned a degree. Frontliners was available in 2020 for residents who worked in essential fields during the state’s COVID-19 shutdown.

The two are part of Gov. Whitmer’s Sixth by 30 goal, hoping to have at least 60 percent of the state’s adults have a college degree or career certificate by 2030.

Lawmakers last year approved an additional $6 million to help pay for other expenses, such as daycare or transportation.

Andre Broussard said he used the Reconnect program to enroll in GRCC’s Computer Support Job Training program. He recently was awarded the first-ever MTEC Leadership Award, which recognizes a student who has gone above and beyond expectation.

Jodi Holland is a first-generation college student, who came to GRCC at age 58 to gain skills to follow her dreams of being a baker – and also to inspire her grandchildren.

As of September, 9.5 percent of all state Reconnect and Futures for Frontliners students were at GRCC.

Of the winter semester that started this month, 9, 2,584 students were accepted to GRCC through Reconnect, and 1,141 are enrolled for the winter semester. Others can start in the summer or in the fall.

About half of the enrolled Reconnect students — 556 – are taking classes for the first time. And 464 students are returning after more than two years away to complete their education.

Additional information is available at and

GRCC Communications wants to tell your story

We’re proud of the people who serve our students and community at GRCC. Telling your stories helps show potential students the experience and expertise we have, and makes them aware of the resources and opportunities available to them.

Will you help us share your story? 

Every week a new faculty or staff story is shared in GRCC Today, on the GRCC homepage, and on GRCC social media. Faculty are highlighted in “Learn From the Best” stories, and staff are featured in “Here to Help” stories. 

Please fill out this form. We will reach out if we need additional information.

Thank you for your help! 

February 6, 2023 Economic Club of Grand Rapids opportunity for GRCC students

The Economic Club of Grand Rapids has gifted us with the opportunity to have GRCC students participate in an upcoming luncheon FOR FREE.

The next event is with Governor Gretchen Whitmer (“Building a Brighter Future”) on February 6. 

Limited seats are available so please complete this google form and get more information here:

GRCC In the News 01/27/2023

New executive director hopes to use business smarts to lead Festival of Arts

1/26/23 Grand Rapids Business Journal

As the Grand Rapids Festival of the Arts’ 2023 season approaches, its new executive director hopes to reinvigorate the event. 

… (Missy) Summers, a Grand Rapids Community College alum, has 10 years of experience in the banking and finance industry with Bank of America. She most recently served with JAMGL for over seven years as director of development and chief rural officer. 

Faculty cap, gown orders due by February 10

The GRCC Bookstore is taking orders for caps and gowns for staff and faculty through February 10.

If you are in need of any commencement regalia, please stop in the bookstore and fill out the form to order yours today! Please fill the form out entirely – we will need both your height and weight to submit the order for the correct size.

Due to turnaround time and production needs, all orders and prepayments must be in by February 10 to be ready in time for the April GRCC Commencement ceremony.

We are open Monday-Thursday 9 a.m. – 5 p.m. and Friday 9 a.m. – 3 p.m.  Payment is due at time of order. We accept cash and credit cards. 

Faculty gowns are solid black with black cap and black tassel. 

Hoods are custom to your school and degree. 

See the order form below for reference. 

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.

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.

Welcome Grace Morgan

Grace Morgan smiling.

We are excited to welcome to the Department of Experiential Learning team, Grace Morgan, as the full time Support Professional.  

She’s a GRCC alum and recent graduate from GVSU earning a Bachelor’s degree in English Literature and Language.  Grace is familiar with assisting students in her previous role as a professional tutor in the Language Arts Tutorial Lab.

As the Experiential Learning Support Professional, Grace will support our faculty and students participating in the Honors Program, Study Away experiences, and Service learning.

Please send her an email or stop by to see her in Ender Hall to say hello.

My GRCC Story: Sally Merrill found opportunities to grow and thrive with GRCC women’s basketball team

Sally Merrill holding a basketball, smiling.

Sally Merrill started playing basketball in third grade and had been around the game all her life because of her dad, who played collegiately.

She remembers loving to hoop when she began but also remembers with a smile that “I wasn’t very good. My first couple seasons I never even scored and that discouraged me a lot as a kid.”

Things have changed a bit since then!

Last year, Merrill, a sophomore 5’10” combo guard and forward, averaged 15.8 points per game for the Grand Rapids Community College women’s basketball team, while playing 36 minutes per contest. She also pulled down an average of 8.1 rebounds per game as the Raiders ran their way to a 20-11 record, reaching the championship game of the NJCAA Great Lakes A District tournament.

And she finished the season as an All-Region, All-MCCAA, First Team All-Conference and All-Freshman Team honoree.

She has picked up where she left off in 2022-23, averaging a double-double with 13.5 ppg and an even 10.0 rpg through GRCC’s first eight contests.

Merrill admits that after a good high school career at Hamilton High, she didn’t necessarily see this level of success coming at the collegiate level.

“We won regionals twice,” she said, “and we made it to the Final Four. We always had a really good record. But last year, here at GRCC, I had to step up and contribute more, and I found that the ball was in my hands a lot more than it was in high school. This was a big transition for me and helped me gain a ton of confidence as a player.”

GRCC coach David Glazier said there’s a good reason Merrill found herself with more touches last season.

“I had seen her play a couple times prior to her joining us, and it was her drive, her never-take-no-for-an-answer mentality that she had that made me realize how much benefit our program could get from Sally being a part of the family,” he recalled.

“But there is an added level of introspection that I have a respect for because I am that way at times. Basketball is a sport that demands leadership which is typically most valued if the leadership is loudly vocal. I think Sally’s ability to be introspective will help her find continued success as a player and as a person.”

For her part, Merrill said she loves playing for Glazier.

“Coach definitely has a more relaxed coaching style,” she said. “He lets his players play and create. He also does a good job of finding sets that work well for the players and for the strengths we have.”

Her experience in the classroom has also been stellar.

“Overall, I have had a great experience at GRCC,” she said. “I am currently studying exercise science, and I plan to get a four-year degree in exercise kinesiology in the future. My classroom experience has been positive. I have had many kind professors who care about me.”

One of her favorites, she added, is Melanie Schiele-Gady of the GRCC Exercise Science department.

“I had her for an Introduction to Exercise Science class and now I am in a second class with her,” she said. “She is so kind and always takes the time to say hello whenever I see her.”

Next year Merrill hopes to continue her education, and to play basketball, at a four-year National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics school.

This story was written by Phil de Haan.

GRCC In the News 01/25/2023

Vicegobernador Gilchrist: “Más trabajo por hacer” para mejorar el acceso a la universidad

1/24/23 El Vocero

GRAND RAPIDS, Michigan (GRCC/EVH) – El programa Michigan Reconnect ha ayudado con éxito a los residentes a comenzar o reiniciar una educación universitaria, pero los líderes estatales “tienen más trabajo por hacer” para hacer que un título o certificado de carrera esté al alcance de otros, dijo el vicegobernador Garlin Gilchrist II.

Gilchrist realizó una mesa redonda el lunes pasado con el presidente de Grand Rapids Community College (GRCC), Charles Lepper, estudiantes, administradores y profesores del Centro de Tecnología Aplicada de Wisner-Bottrall, diciendo que quería escuchar cómo el programa ha sido efectivo, pero también cómo el estado puede continuar haciendo cambios y ayudar a más residentes.

(GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (GRCC/EVH) – The Michigan Reconnect program has successfully helped residents start or restart a college education, but state leaders “have more work to do” to make a degree or career certificate within the reach of others, said Lieutenant Governor Garlin Gilchrist II.

Gilchrist held a roundtable discussion last Monday with Grand Rapids Community College (GRCC) President Charles Lepper, students, administrators and faculty from the Wisner-Bottrall Center for Applied Technology, saying he wanted to hear how the program has been effective, but also how the state can continue to make changes and help more residents.)

Michigan mom goes back to school at same college as daughters, creates art business

1/24/23 WTSP

COMSTOCK PARK, Mich. — A stay-at-home mom of 18 years decided to go back to school to set an example for her daughters. Along the way, she combined two of her passions — geology and art — to create a product for sale right now at the Grand Rapids Public Museum.

… (Cassandra) Tiensivu now goes to the same school as her two daughters: Grand Rapids Community College.