Grand Rapids Community College hosted its 106th commencement ceremony on April 28 in the Ford Fieldhouse. The event celebrated 2023’s GRCC graduates earning their associate degrees from GRCC. Two ceremonies took place, one for the School of Liberal Arts and School of STEM and another for the School of Business & Industry and School of Health Sciences with around 1,000 graduates between the two.
The ceremonies included live band performances from GRCC’s wind and jazz ensembles as well as vocal performances from the GRCC concert choir. Two awards were also given out at the events, one to former instructor Stephen Abid and another to alumna, Olivia Margo Anderson. Abid received the Faculty Emeritus Award and Anderson accepted the Distinguished Alumni Award.
Among the faculty attending the ceremonies was GRCC President, Charles Lepper who gave a speech congratulating the graduates.
“I’m very proud to be here and proud of the role our college plays in this community. As I look out upon our graduates today I see students who’ve traveled many different paths to get here… So many different types of students with something in common. As of today you are Grand Rapids Community College graduates.”
The events concluded with students walking on stage to accept their degrees before being dismissed outside to meet with their families and loved ones in the outdoor plaza. The weather was just barely holding up with dark rain clouds looming in the sky. Despite that, there was a palpable excitement as students were cheered on by their supporters, receiving hugs, flowers and well wishes for the next leg of their professional journeys.
The Collegiate caught up with a few grads to ask about their future plans and reflect on their GRCC experiences.
Torrin Colunga is a 28-year-old welding technology major who, despite receiving his diploma, wants to continue his education at GRCC.
“I’m probably pursuing a culinary arts degree after this at Secchia,” he said. “Just cause it’s well known and everything like that. And a lot of my coworkers and ex-head chefs I’ve had in the past have all graduated from Secchia.”
Colunga said that he’s had some great experiences at GRCC and specifically wanted to shout out one of his professors.
“My main welding professor Nick, he’s super awesome. Just a really solid teacher and everything like that,” said Colunga.
Daniel Knoblauch is a 21-year-old culinary arts major whose experience at GRCC has already landed him a professional cooking job.
“Right now I’m currently working as a personal chef so I’m probably just going to pursue that, see where that takes me,” said Knoblauch.
Knolauch reflected on his experience at GRCC saying, “All my teachers were great, super informative. Always willing to help even outside of class.”
Alex Rae is a general studies major who also decided she wanted to return to GRCC after completing her first degree.
“My plan is to come back and finish off my associates degree in social work,” said Rae. She explained that her time at GRCC was forever marked by one amazing professor she had.
“I want to give a shoutout to my communications teacher. He was such an awesome person and I was able to write him after I completed his class to thank him for how much he meant to me.”
Rae said that after returning to GRCC, she will be pursuing a career in social work, specifically working with disabled individuals.
GRCC President Charles Lepper met with graduates in the plaza after the ceremonies to speak with and congratulate them. This was Lepper’s first graduation ceremony as GRCC’s president.
Regarding the event Lepper said, “I think it was a great celebration and a great day to be with our students and our faculty and staff to really just celebrate their accomplishments because they’ve all worked so hard for this moment and despite the weather it’s a joyous occasion.”