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Our place, your voices: The Rapidian's citizen journalism provides rare guide to Grand Rapids

As a content intern, The Rapidian didn't just give me education and experience in the world of online journalism- it introduced me to the city I live in.
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/Courtesy of Whitney Pavlica

I moved to the greater Grand Rapids area as a freshman at Grand Valley State University in 2009. Besides the college visit, I had never been to Grand Rapids. My college years were mostly spent at the main campus in Allendale, with only three classes at the downtown campus in four years. Throughout the span of my college years, I associated Grand Rapids with three things: Artprize, bars and the Van Andel Arena.

My first major was English Secondary Education, but that changed when I became aware of the politics and realities of working in a classroom. Instead of choosing a practical major, I went with my passion and declared writing as my major, enjoying the opportunity to grow and explore as a writer without worrying about the marketability of my major.

I graduated December 2013 and was accepted into The Rapidian’s internship program. I took the internship in hopes of gaining more professional writing experience. I acquired the skills of citizen journalism, but working with The Rapidian did more than that.

The Rapidian set me upon the journey of knowing the city that I live in.

One of my first stories was about how GR Makers were helping an innovator’s idea become a reality by giving him the tools to create the first all-aluminum iPhone case that doesn’t negatively affect reception. I encountered other businesses and organizations with just as unique missions, such as A Pleasant Dog started by Jenn Gavin to help Grand Rapids dogs and their owners thrive within an urban environment. In addition, I learned how FoodCircles partners with local restaurants to help send meals to malnourished children in West Africa.

Reporting for The Rapidian also exposed me to the wonderful organizations Grand Rapids hosts, such as The Network, an organization that provides valuable support groups for the LBGTQA community. I also learned about organizations like Degage Ministries' Open Door Women’s center, which provides homeless women with the resources to get back on their feet, and the Stockbridge Boiler room provides a space for people of all walks of life to come together and share a meal with their Love Feast.

Along with the businesses and organizations in Grand Rapids, I learned about the people who live and make their home in this city. Shane “SuGR” Sloan is a music producer who works to successfully use Grand Rapids as a way to cultivate musical talent locally. Aerial Tactic, a group of boys ranging from middle to high school, find their discipline to excel in all areas of their lives by breakdancing at the Grandville Avenue Arts & Humanities.

I also learned that Grand Rapids is filled with local restaurants and coffee shops. I met someone for an interview at The Lantern coffee shop and I experienced one of the best burgers I’ve ever eaten by writing a review of The Choo Choo Grill. Before office hours, I would often stop at The Sparrows to grab a cup of dark roast.

While my goal was to gain professional skills, my biggest reward was to actually discover and fall in love with the city I live in. No longer do images of bars and a big arena summarize Grand Rapids for me. Because of my time with The Rapidian, my mind’s mental picture is filled with the businesses, organizations and people I met through my internship with The Rapidian.


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