The Grand Rapids Community College Student Leadership Banquet was held on Thursday and student athletes Kendra DeJonge, Sammie Ryans and Stephanie Kruskie were awarded for their academic and athletic achievements.
The 2018-2019 school year has been a successful one for the athletic program. DeJonge helped lead the Raiders’ volleyball team to another national tournament appearance and a sixth place finish. DeJonge was honored for her excellence on the court by being named a first team National Junior College Athletic Association All-American. During the Student Leadership Banquet, DeJonge was named the Donald R. Black Female Athlete of the Year.
GRCC athletic director Bill Firn talked about DeJonge’s time at GRCC including her accomplishment that no other student athlete has ever achieved in school history.
“Kendra DeJonge is the first two-time All-American in school history,” Firn said. “(She) will go down as one of the best student athletes to ever lace up her shoes for GRCC in any sport.”
DeJonge helped the Raiders to the state championship in both seasons playing for GRCC. She was also named a first team NJCAA Academic All-American in her freshman year for maintaining a 4.0 GPA.
Sammie Ryans was the captain for GRCC’s men’s basketball team this past season and helped them win the Michigan Community College Athletic Association Western Conference Championship for the first time since the 2003-2004 season. Ryans received the Donald R. Black Male Athlete of the Year award at the banquet.
Firn talked about Ryans’ work ethic and how he developed as a leader over his two seasons at GRCC.
“Sammie Ryans was an afterthought, until he blossomed into our leading scorer and an all region player,” Firn said. “Sammie (Ryans) did it through hard work and perseverance. He proved a lot of people wrong along the way and will receive a scholarship offer to a four-year school next year because of it.”
In addition to a conference championship, Ryans helped the Raiders win the district championship during the 2017-2018 season, as well as an eighth place finish in the NJCAA DII national tournament. This past season, he was named NJCAA DII All-Region and first team All-Conference.
Kruskie of the GRCC softball team received the Merle Storr Award during the banquet. The Merle Storr Award is given to a student athlete who demonstrates outstanding athletic achievement, leadership and character.
Kruskie spoke about the honor of receiving the award and talked about much she’s enjoyed her time at GRCC and how good the city has been for her.
“I’m very thankful to be recognized for the hard work that I put in on the field, off the field and in the classroom,” Kruskie said. “I was raised to put maximum effort into everything that I do and it’s wonderful to see how that has paid off.
“My time at Grand Rapids Community College has been wonderful,” Kruskie continued. “It has been nice to move to a different area and be exposed to the city life, which is completely opposite to where I grew up. I chose GRCC because… I was able to continue my softball career for a couple more years. I have built great friendships through being on the softball team at GRCC and I couldn’t be more grateful for the people that Grand Rapids has put in my life.”
Firn also talked about Kruskie’s time with the program, commenting on how hard she works and the kind of leader she is for the softball team.
“Steph Kruskie is a leader and one of the hardest working young people I know,” Firn said. “She will be awarded her second All-Academic award this spring and is a true leader for her softball team. Stephanie (Kruskie) is selfless and does whatever is needed of her (on the) softball field.”
Kruskie is a distinguished scholar and during her freshman year, Kruskie was named an NJCAA Second Team Academic All-American, as well as being named to the academic All-MCCAA and academic All-Conference team. On the field, she earned an Honorable Mention All-Conference nod during the 2018 season.
Firn believes all three of these athletes have exemplified what it means to be a Raider during their brief time at GRCC.
“I have been fortunate to be the athletic director for the careers of these three student athletes,” Firn said. “Each of them are special in their own right and will leave their mark on GRCC athletics for a lifetime.”