The Grand Rapids Community College Foundation hosted its 11th annual SCHOLARfest Tuesday at Devos Place in downtown Grand Rapids.
The GRCC Foundation originally established SCHOLARfest in 2007 to help raise money for scholarships for GRCC’s Secchia Institute of Culinary Arts. SCHOLARfest is now able to raise money for all GRCC scholarships, and all proceeds from Tuesday’s event will benefit those scholarships.
Tuesday’s proceedings kicked off with dinner and a performance from the Yellow Brick Road Dueling Pianos in the ambient, candlelit ballroom with blue and yellow lights behind the stage giving it a GRCC touch.
Following the performance, GRCC President Bill Pink took the microphone and acknowledged GRCC students, both current and past. He pointed out that SCHOLARfest was supposed to “be a party, so don’t think this is a sit down evening.”
Pink later went on to give credit to his success to past GRCC presidents,Juan Alavarez and Steven Ender, who were both in attendance. Pink said that he “was not foolish enough to think that this institution I walked into has anything to do with me. These men draw from the past, and shape the future.”
Tuesday’s keynote speaker, Judge Sara J. Smolenski, was introduced by former GRCC Chairman, Gary Schenk. Smolenski was the 2003 Distinguished Alumna as voted by GRCC. Smolenski attended Grand Rapids Catholic Central High School and graduated from GRCC in 1977 and has served on the 63rd District Court since 1990, and she was most recently re-elected to the seat in 2014.
“It’s a fabulous feeling, I just think the focus should be on the students,” Smolenski said. “While I feel so celebrated by people telling me congratulations, it’s exciting and fun. I’ve had a chance to talk to several students who are scholarship recipients, and I love that they appreciate what the foundation does.”
Smolenski was full of thanks as she gave her speech to the audience, she thanked current students, past professors, coaches and her third grade music teacher, for setting her on the path to a law degree from the University of Michigan and finally a seat on the bench of the 63rd District Court.
To cap off the evening’s formal festivities, the Executive Director of the GRCC Foundation Kathy Mullins took a turn at the podium and shared that the Foundation had raised $232,125 for the next school year.
“(SCHOLARfest) brings attention again to not only what our college does in terms of graduates like Judge Smolenski, it also calls attention and calls to action for folks to understand what our mission truly is,” Pink said after the festivities concluded. “As important as our past students are to us, our alum mean a lot to us, but this tonight is about our students who are here today and those who will come. The funds we raise tonight are the funds that go to helping our students be able to finish school.”