The Rapidian

Grand Rapids Community College celebrates 10th annual Creating Connections Breakfast

The annual event brought donors and recipients together to experience the tangible results of scholarships.
Donors and recipients enjoying breakfast together

Donors and recipients enjoying breakfast together /Melody Sheridan

Opportunities for you to be involved with scholarships

Planning to be a GRCC student during the 2018-19 academic year? Don’t miss the opportunity to fill out the 2018-19 scholarship application to be considered for hundreds of scholarships. The priority deadline is March 15, 2018. Note that you must have been accepted into the college before you can apply.

Interested in becoming a donor? You don't need to be wealthy to make a difference in a student's college experience. GRCC accepts any financial gift, no matter how small it may seem to you. For more information, visit GRCC’s website or call the GRCC Foundation office (616-234-3939) to discuss your interests and where GRCC sees the greatest student need.

Dr. Kathryn Mullins welcomes guests at the Creating Connections Breakfast

Dr. Kathryn Mullins welcomes guests at the Creating Connections Breakfast /Melody Sheridan

A taste of the meal

A taste of the meal /Melody Sheridan

On Thursday, February 15, 2018, Grand Rapids Community College brought scholarship donors and recipients together through their 10th annual Creating Connections Breakfast. While enjoying eggs, bacon, and other delicious morsels prepared by GRCC’s culinary arts faculty and students, donors and recipients had the opportunity to interact and share their stories.

According to Dr. Kathryn Mullins, Executive Director of the GRCC Foundation which distributes the scholarships and organizes the breakfast, the event was established to connect donors to the students who receive the scholarships they fund. She said it ensures that “they are able to meet each other and forge a relationship.”

It also provides students with an in-person opportunity to express their gratitude. At the same time, it benefits donors by “validat[ing] the reason that they give” because it allows them “to put a face to the scholarship,” Mullins stated in an interview prior to the event.

Before the establishment of the Creating Connections event, there was no organized opportunity for donors and recipients to meet, though some donors asked for that to be part of their scholarship agreement. Mullins believes that the event stemmed from such donors.

“My predecessor saw those donors that were connecting with their students and their scholarship recipients, were much more engaged with the college than the donors that weren’t connecting with students," she said. 

Thus the event was made so that many more donors would see the tangible results of their giving and would be more engaged with the college.

Following the meal, there was a brief program in which guests heard from Dr. Mullins and Dr. Bill Pink, GRCC president, as well as Dr. James Buzzitta, the vice chairperson of the GRCC Foundation Board. They had the privilege of listening to a donor and four recipients share their experiences with scholarships through a video and two in-person student speeches.

In the video, Carmela Zapata, a GRCC alumna and current faculty member, explained how receiving scholarships herself led to her decision to establish the Alexa and Alek Zapata Scholarship.

“There were five of us in my family, and all five of us were blessed to attend college because we did have some financial support through scholarships and such, and I thought, you know, I want to pay it forward," Zapata said.

Emotionally overwhelmed with gratitude, Areli Berlanga, a first-generation college student and the 2017-18 recipient of the Alexa and Alek Zapata Scholarship, talked about how much the scholarship meant to her.

“I don’t think the donors really realize how much of an impact this meant for me because financially, I was struggling. So even something like this was like a light in the dark tunnel. And I don’t mean to sound dramatic or anything, but it just—financially, it was just like a big weight off, and I am so thankful and grateful for all the donations to that scholarship ‘cause I was really struggling," Berlanga said.

Amanda Barnett, a culinary arts student shared how all the scholarships she has received are allowing her to give more attention to her studies.

“Thanks to you, I am able to work a couple of days less each week and have more time and brain power and energy to focus on and remember all that I’m learning each week," Barnett said.

To watch the morning’s program in full, you can visit GRCC’s Youtube channel, GRCCtv.

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