Before more than 400 students received their degrees at the Grand Rapids Community College commencement Friday night, Grand Rapids Mayor Rosalynn Bliss made them all a job offer.
“The jobs I am offering you actually have the best benefits anyone could ask for,” Bliss said. “They make you happier, they make other people happier and believe or not, they are proven to make you live longer.”
Bliss was the commencement speaker for graduation. She asked the students who were in attendance two simple questions.
“How many of you received your degree … with the hope of soon getting a job, or getting an even better job than what you already have?” Bliss asked.
The response was an enthusiastically charged, “yes.”
The second question was similar, but a little more personal for the mayor.
“If I told you that I would like to hire you, to give you a job to do, right now, how many of you might be interested in that offer?” She asked the students.
The students roared back at Bliss with excitement.
But Bliss wasn’t talking about a paid position, she was talking about a job much more important.
Bliss was referring to volunteerism.
“These jobs are about giving back to the community through volunteerism,” Bliss said. “I am here to tell you that from my experience, giving back to our community is incredibly rewarding.”
“It is volunteers who helped us build playgrounds, helped us build parks, helped us plant trees,” Bliss said. “At St. John’s, where I work everyday, volunteers are the ones who come in and mentor children. They come in and they teach yoga … they tutor our students who are struggling. I can say with absolute certainty that the world would be a far more challenging place if it were not for the power of people.”
The mayor’s address seemed to resonate with the graduates celebrating the end of their studies at GRCC.
“It’s a great honor to receive the award for graduating in the top five percent,” said culinary graduate Nathan Westgate, 37, of Grand Rapids. “Since I got a degree in culinary arts, I already had a graduation ceremony for that. It was a lot of fun actually. There was a great assortment of food and desserts and then we went over to Fountain Street church and we had a nice ceremony there… My wife made me attend (commencement) graduation and looking around, I’m kind of glad she did.”
Military veteran and Corrections major, Nick Humphries, 30, of Newaygo, was happy to complete his education, too.
“I’m feeling pretty excited right now,” said Humphries. “I’ve spent three years of my life doing this and now that I’ve completed it. I’m ready to enter the workforce.”
Humphries was previously in the military and he says adjusting from military to civilian life has been “tough” to say the least. However he thinks his background in military will help him do a better job while being a corrections officer.