Lifestyle Editor Tommy Allen offers up his first Throwback Thursday, tipping his hat to the future of Grand Rapids Community College on the occasion of their 100th Anniversary.
You can often tell how long a person has lived in Grand Rapids when they start to speak. Sometimes it's when someone says, "I've seen ArtPrize's Time-Based winner DITA perform at Wealthy Street Theatre for years." (It was officially renamed Wealthy Theatre after the Community Media Center secured Wealthy Street property.) Sometimes it's when they give directions: "Head north of the old Herp's building and then turn left at the former Art Museum." Both references are sure to raise a confused eyebrow to any new transplant to our region.
Another indicator is when someone references attending the Grand Rapids Junior College, which is correct if they went there pre-1991. But after locals voted to expand the boundaries beyond Grand Rapids to include 20 districts within the Kent Intermediate School District, it became the Grand Rapids Community College. It also ushered in, for the first time, a Board of Trustees elected to serve a six-year term.
The payoff for the expansion of our local community education asset returned a value to us in the form of an expanded main campus (DeVos Campus on Heritage Hill); the addition of a Lakeshore Campus in Ottawa County with five facilities; the Leslie E. Tassell M-TEC in SE Grand Rapids; the Learning Corner on Wealthy; and six regional educational hubs all across Kent County. Since 1991, GRCC has even expanded into the distance learning market, removing barriers in education via an array of online classes.
Through the years, our GRCC Trustees have been advocates for academic excellence, access for all, and a low-cost point of entry for area residents seeking degrees, proficiency certifications, or just a single-class personal improvement course load.
Jesse Buttrick DavisCentennial Throwback Thursday
My first foray into the Throwback Thursday (#TBT) phenomenon must begin with the founder of the Grand Rapids Junior College, Jesse Buttrick Davis, who exhibited at the start in 1914 something we have all come to embrace today. Davis sought to elevate our community while responding to the challenges of modern life -- in his case, the early 1900s.
Davis realized, in order to be relevant to our society, we must first and foremost be willing to innovate on all levels as well as believe that education is quite possibly an on-going endeavor (not something just for twenty-somethings) and should be open to all. His visionary drive to instill these principles has resulted, a hundred years later, in a fine example of what is possible when we commit to these goals.
The decades that follow 1914 have not always been storybook when it comes to the city or the college, but as we celebrate GRCC's 100 years of being inclusive, affordable, and able to provide what our community needs to survive in a rapidly changing world, we have to be educated before we make a very important election decision concerning the college on Nov. 4, 2014.
It is not a secret that within the pages of Rapid Growth we aim to celebrate and laud individuals who hitch their vision and talent to our city to create the public education jewels that many take for granted. Every "student of history" knows you can't move forward without being a lifelong learner, and we make no apologies for standing up for the local artistic and inclusive institutions that continue to challenge our thinking.
As ArtPrize comes to a close, look very closely at the top awards, jury nominees, local awards, and the topics they have touched upon in the public arena and it becomes very clear we are living in the great melting pot of America as a modern city willing to take chances, explore new topics for discussion, and create room for new voices.
But not everyone likes that we encourage such intellectual dialogue; GRCC has witnessed attempts to shut down such programming and access to a diversity of voices. This is not good behavior for a community college charged to serve so many.
Luckily, by showing up and raising their voices, GRCC's students have demanded to be heard on divisive topics, whether it be the protest of 1961 when they smashed 65 parking meters to protest the extreme increase in parking fees, or a more recent example, when students took offense at one elected trustee's threat to eliminate or alter the diversity programming of the college and they lobbied civilly to be heard on this topic within the trustee's chambers.
GRCC is contributing in other ways to the changing face of our community, as the college has joined more than 80 area business leaders (many CEOs of Fortune 500 companies) representing over 75,000 employees across all industries and education institutions with the TALENT 2025 group. This group's mission is to explore what's lacking in our region, to be proactive with solution-based policy, and to advocate for practices that will see West Michigan emerge as one of the top 20 regions of our country in which to conduct business. In all of these areas, the TALENT 2025 teams, along with their educational partners, are striving to hit their goals for what we will need in our region to remain relevant in the future.
So what does this have to do with GRCC's 100th anniversary?
It matters a lot when you consider that our whole region benefits from having a healthy community college in our midst. As we look to the college's next hundred years, there are four trustees seeking your vote in the November election, and this lifestyle editor hopes you won't let politics as usual prevent you from making a good choice. Education and talent are two top items that are impacting our region for better or worse and it's time to examine each candidate with a keen eye as to what they bring to the table.
Our region has a chance to elect Debra Bailey
, director of global corporate relations for Steelcase, to the seat she filled after Trustee Terri Handlin stepped down in 2013. Bailey was appointed and elected by her fellow trustees to this vacant seat and truly represents a vital voice from our business community. Her unwavering, visionary
service in our community can be seen on her resume, and her long record of engagement and success makes her the best choice to be returned to the board.
Another part of the pipeline that our region must always be attending to is the role of our area's education institutions in preparing students for what comes after high school has ended. Superintendent Mike Paskewicz
of Northview Public Schools has labored for years not only to ensure that critically important education standards are met but that public schools are being financially responsible and using their funds to their fullest.
Both of these candidates have shown they fully comprehend the challenges of the field, can quickly address and respond to changes in our world, and have experience in their professional careers that will greatly benefit the college. Bailey and Paskewicz serve so many in our community by their professional and volunteer contributions. We are fortunate to have two highly qualified candidates who truly understand the role that education plays in our region's ability to attract and retain talent and to create a stronger community.
From left, Mike Paskewicz, Bert Bleke and Debra Bailey.
This is a year to be very serious about whom we send to GRCC Board of Trustee chambers, ensuring that our area students are getting a timely education at a great rate. The other candidates, James Harvey and Cynthia Bristol, are individuals with nice civic talents on their resumes, but they should consider other areas of society where these skills could be best applied to the service of our community.
The best throwback Thursday status in a just over a decade will be when we hit that magic TALENT 2025 goal -- and we can say that, in 2014, on the occasion of the 100th
anniversary, we remained committed to GRCC's founder Jesse Davis' vision of a college where we create a renaissance for our region. Cheers to the next hundred years.
The Future Needs All of Us.
For a curated collection of events to consider attending, please visit G-Sync Events: Let's Do This!
Photos for this week's editorial endorsement of Deb Bailey and Mike Paskewicz have been selected from a set provided to Rapid Growth by their campaign. Historical images are from the Grand Rapids Community College Archives.