Home Featured News An Inside Look at the GRCC Experience

An Inside Look at the GRCC Experience

Gage Dionne and Savannah Havens in front of the Main Building. Photo by John Rothwell.


Gage Dionne and Savannah Havens in front of the Main Building. Photo by John Rothwell.
Gage Dionne and Savannah Havens in front of the Main Building. Photo by John Rothwell.

By Kayla Tucker – Managing Editor

This fall, roughly 3,000 students will begin their freshman year at Grand Rapids Community College. Within weeks, they will learn how to manage their education, work and social life as they explore their new independence. The Collegiate plans to document the freshmen experience by following two students through the ups and downs of their first semester.

Family tragedy inspires Byron Center graduate

Just months ago Gage Dionne did not have it all together, passively coasting through high school, unmotivated about his future. But last October, he was faced with a reality that changed his perspective on life.

“My uncle, he was really more my brother… he got cancer a couple years ago and unfortunately lost his fight,” said Dionne about his uncle, Jordan Dionne, who was seven years his senior. “So I guess I have a bit of a vendetta against cancer.”

Dionne has a concrete plan on where he wants to go in life, beginning with his pre-requisite classes at GRCC. Eventually he plans to transfer to a university to major in pre-med, and then eventually medical school to become an oncologist, a doctor who specializes in treating people with cancer.

“He and his uncle were very, very close and it really derailed him for a long time,” said Alicia Velting, Dionne’s mother. “For months, he was inconsolable, and he just came to me one day and said, ‘Mom, I think I want to be a cancer doctor, and then maybe someday I can help save somebody else’s Jordan.’ And that just made me cry.”

Dionne said he wants to start off strong this year and one of his goals is to prove to himself that he can complete the classes successfully.

“I’m intimidated but I’m ready,” Dionne said. “I just know that it’s not going to be easy and I have a long time ahead of me.” “I overthink things, so I’m more worried than I should be. But I’m hoping to accomplish passing these classes with the best grades that I can.”

Dionne chose to attend GRCC because he said it was the most affordable to take the pre-major classes. He said that he was impressed with the science building and has only heard good things about GRCC.

“Despite the fact that it’s a community college, it has a really great quality of education,” Dionne said. Dionne’s mother completed the nursing program at GRCC in 2001 and now works at Mercy Health Saint Mary’s Hospital as an emergency room nurse.

“I remember just yesterday when he was walking around with his pacifier in his mouth and asking if he can have a popsicle, and now I’m sitting here enrolling him in college classes,” Velting said. “I know that it is God working in his life … because I’ve never seen this kind of passion in him before.”

Student plans to walk six miles round trip to school

As the summer is quickly wrapping up, 18-year-old Savannah Havens is boxing up her possessions to move out of her parent’s home in Sand Lake, and into a house with her best friend in Grand Rapids. A roughly three-mile commute to and from campus takes minutes by car, but Havens plans to make the six-mile round trip four days a week.

“I’ve thought about taking the bus but I’m pretty dedicated to just walking,” Havens said.

Havens signed up for 15 credits this semester and plans to transfer to Michigan State University with a major in dietetics.

“I personally think America has a really bad obesity issue and (people) don’t know how to eat correctly and I just want to be able to help people,” Havens said.

In her spare time, the 2015 Cedar Springs High School grad likes to play soccer and hang out with friends, whether it be shopping or at the movies.

“I chose GRCC because it’s a lot cheaper to get your basics done here,” Havens said. Havens heard that GRCC is not like a four-year school with dorm life and university culture, but that because it is a downtown campus, there’s always something going on.

Ready to be on her own, Havens is looking forward to making new friends during her first year of college.

“I’ve never been so excited,” Havens said.

Havens has just one worry going into her first year of college.

“My only fear would be failing at something,” Havens said. “I’ve never failed a test or a class before…but I’m always worried about that in general.”

Share your story

The Collegiate invites students to share their stories and experiences.

Contact Kayla Tucker at kaylatuckercollegiate@gmail.com.


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