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GRCC students share hopes, dreams, and advice in The Collegiate’s hand drawn photobooth


A flood of students came to the Grand Rapids Community College Student Block Party on Aug. 26 to get prepared for the fall semester. Free food, t-shirts, and stickers were handed out as students checked out booths for academic programs and student organizations. 

At The Collegiate booth, the staff recruited students to write for this student publication. It was my job as the illustrator to draw portraits of incoming students who stopped by the booth. While I was drawing, I  interviewed them about how they felt about the upcoming semester and if they had any advice for fellow students. After drawing for three hours straight I got 32 portraits done and got to meet some very cool people. Thank you to everyone who talked to me and let me draw their face! Also special shoutout to Editor-in-Chief Blace Carpenter and staff writer James Herold for helping me transcribe all the interviews! 

Without further ado, let me introduce you to some of the GRCC students who are going to be on campus in the fall! 

Abby Haywood | The Collegiate Live

Casey Tett, 17, of Grand Rapids, is an incoming psychology student looking to earn credits to transfer to Northern Michigan University. Despite being new to GRCC, they already have some familiarity with the campus. 

“I’m working at the (GRCC) library so I’ve been going around campus this whole time and I’m just really excited to meet all my teachers and get into classes,” they said.

Tett said they felt isolated during the pandemic but they are looking forward to getting connected to the campus community now that they’re in college. 

“(I’m excited about) meeting everyone, meeting all the people, and joining as many clubs as possible… My senior year (of high school) was my breakout year, when I started hanging out and going to football games and doing all the after-school activities. COVID really messed me up and now I’m getting back in my groove.”

They have some advice for anyone trying to make new friends at GRCC. 

“I think, what I really wanted to do in high school that I didn’t really get the chance to was just joining everything and meeting everybody,” Tett said. “So I would say just get out of your shell a little bit and just do what you wanna do even if it’s scary.”

Abby Haywood | The Collegiate Live

Liliana Radosevich, 18, from Grand Rapids, is an incoming freshman who is looking forward to the semester starting. 

“I really like this city, and I want to meet more people, and… I want to get my gen eds out of the way so I can transfer somewhere… I’m thinking Northern Michigan…” she said. 

Radosevich loves to spend time out in nature and is pursuing a degree in environmental science. 

“I have no shame in saying I’m a horse girl,” she said. “I had a horse girl phase when I was 8 and it never ended… I’m thinking (of becoming) a national park ranger… and some national parks have mounted park rangers so then I would get to ride also. That’s my ultimate goal.”

Abby Haywood | The Collegiate Live

Emma Kleis, 18, is an incoming freshman who moved to Grand Rapids from Italy this year. She grew up surrounded by art of all mediums. She is looking forward to taking the classes she chose, meeting new people, and getting connected with the campus community. 

“I’m ready for it to start, but it’s finally becoming a reality where it’s like schools in a week, schools in two weeks, schools like two months out, and I’m just chilling,” she said. “And now it’s like school is in two days! What?! So I’m excited, but the anxiety is kind of like setting in…” 

Kleis has some advice for not getting overwhelmed by college. 

“Take it one day at a time, everything can be overwhelming… I had a lot of things on my plate, and I still do. And what keeps me going is just taking one day at a time, one thing at a time. Step by step, you’ll get where you wanna be.”

Abby Haywood | The Collegiate Live

Noe Mendez, 20, of Grand Rapids, transferred to GRCC after a year at Grand Valley State University. 

“I’m from Grand Rapids but I’ve never been (around) GRCC,” Mendez said. “I’m excited to meet new people, see some clubs I might be interested in… I’m excited to see what this year will bring me.”

Mendez said he is looking to join the men’s soccer team here at GRCC and got some experience coaching intramural soccer teams last year at GVSU. 

“For the full year I did two teams, I was acting as a player and then started to dabble a little bit in coaching which is something that I really wanted to do for a while.”

As a second-year college student, Mendez has some advice for college newcomers. 

“What I learned from my first year is to be more outgoing… when I was in high school I was a really shy kid, I only had one or two friends,” he said. “When I got to my first year of college I decided to change myself. I ventured out, I met a lot of new friends, joined a lot of clubs. It was a great first year. And I think it will be a good year (for you) as long as you try to get out of your comfort zone.” 

Abby Haywood | The Collegiate Live

Monserrat Mendez, 17, of Grand Rapids, is an incoming freshman who chose to attend GRCC so she could stay local and close to her family. She hasn’t settled on a major yet, but she knows she wants to go into something STEM-related. Her current dream is to work for Sony as a video game programmer, which she got into because of her love of the video game Call of Duty. 

“I only play (every) once in a while with my brothers, but it’s because when I was younger, I used to play a lot…” she said. “I don’t play as much as I used to, but that’s why I want to start working in this line of work… because it’s nostalgic for me.”

Abby Haywood | The Collegiate Live

Alexis Collard, 19, of White Cloud, came to GRCC to join the dental program in hopes of becoming a dental hygienist. She was inspired by her family to go into the field.

“My aunt, she’s been (a dental hygenist) since she was pretty young… She tells me things about it… and I think I’d enjoy it,” she said. “My siblings, we didn’t have good dental insurance, and they didn’t get what they needed. So, like I want to be able to help them out in the future if they need it.”

Abby Haywood | The Collegiate Live

Yasmine Meza, 18, of Grand Rapids, is a freshman going into Pre-Spanish. She is looking forward to taking in-person classes at GRCC after COVID threw a wrench in her high school experience. 

“It was rough. I didn’t start a normal year of high school because we got locked down in March when I was in ninth grade… Going into 10th grade was all virtual,” she said. “It was a unique high school experience.”

GRCC was a good choice for Meza because of its location and cost. 

“It’s local,” Meza said. “Also the GRCC Promise Zone, it’s a pretty good deal, you know? Can’t turn it down.”

She chose to pursue a Pre-Spanish degree for more job opportunities and to be able to communicate better with her family. 

“I’m hoping that with a degree in Spanish and being bilingual I’ll be able to get more job opportunities while I figure out what I want to do for the rest of my life,” she said. “My dad is from Mexico but he never taught me Spanish. I want to talk to my family that’s down in Mexico, but I can’t speak Spanish.”

Abby Haywood | The Collegiate Live

Lucero Orduna, 19, is a second-year student at GRCC. She’s looking to be more engaged in campus life this semester and wants to join campus clubs “because last year I was mostly online for a majority of the year. So, I just wanna be in person. I want to meet everyone.”

Lucero encourages all the other busy college students out there to stay on the grind. 

“No matter how hard it is, just keep pushing,” she said. “By the end of it, you will realize how much it was worth. I did work and school full-time last year, and it was really stressful and I wanted to quit. But, I mean, I got through it, I saved up a lot of money. It was worth it.”

Abby Haywood | The Collegiate Live

Kayla Fricke, 22, of Comstock Park, is going into elementary education and finishing up her last semester at GRCC as part of the 3+1 program with Ferris State University. She said she dreamed of becoming a teacher ever since elementary school. 

“I grew up playing school with my sister in our basement and we would literally do mock school,” she said. “My teachers in elementary school would give me old paperwork that had (been) recycled and I would take it home and teach my younger sister how to do that.”

Fricke recommends that new students get involved on campus and familiarize themselves with GRCC.

“Don’t be afraid to meet new friends, ask for help, get to know your school, and be involved. I wasn’t really involved in a whole bunch of stuff when I was here and I think that was something I really wanted to do but I just didn’t know how to start. And then, also looking for other resources to help you.”

Abby Haywood | The Collegiate Live

Lindsey Soet, 17, of Grand Rapids, is a dual-enrolled student who we won’t be able to interview again because she is joining our Collegiate staff this fall. She said she’s looking forward to making some connections at GRCC. 

“I’m just excited to meet new people,” she said. “I just really want good friends because I didn’t have those at my other school, and it’s not good for me mentally. So I’m just really excited to meet people that like doing what I do… Actually, talk to people and be around people that have shared interests with me.”

Since her high school classes started up last week, Soet said she’s in a back-to-school routine. 

“My high school started last week so I’m already in the rhythm,” she said. “But it’s been weird though because I have one class there and it’s first thing in the morning… so I just… show up, sit there for an hour, and then I leave. But it feels weird because I feel like I’m breaking the law by just leaving the building after one hour.” 

She encourages other dual-enrolled students to reach out to their peers at GRCC. 

“Talk to people, even if that’s not your thing, since it’s not my thing either,” she said. “Honestly, don’t be afraid to talk to people cause… The worst case scenario is that they don’t respond, and then you’re like, ‘okay’ and you move on.”  

Abby Haywood | The Collegiate Live

Kaleb Gomez, 17, of Holland, is a first-generation college student studying music theory with the hopes of one day becoming a music professor. In the meantime, he composes music and performs in his family’s mariachi band.

“I’m performing actually today, in Zeeland,” he said. “I perform for everything. I perform for weddings, quinenceras, (and) funerals… The performance today is four hours.” 

He said he doesn’t like to play the same songs every time so he writes new music to keep performances fresh. 

“I try to add a lot of new songs. I write down all the music for the whole band. I am a composer also, I compose orchestra works also.” 

Gomez said he really enjoys performing in his mariachi band with his family.

“I’ve been working with my dad and my little brother… he’s 8 years old and he plays the violin very well and he sings.”

Gomez said his family is excited that he’s going to college but he has to support himself through college. 

“I’m not getting too much support for them because I’m going mostly on my own,” he said. “I pay everything with cash, I don’t have a debit card or anything. I just paid off the college in cash. It was like $89.” 

Abby Haywood | The Collegiate Live

Elisa La Barge, 22, of Grandville, is back for another year of classes at GRCC after transferring from Michigan Technological University. 

“I dropped out of Michigan Tech Engineering school because I had a lot of health issues,” La Barge said. “So I just started taking classes one at a time at GRCC, and I found that I really liked it here. So now I transferred into our art program and now I’m going for my associate’s.”

They said they are looking forward to their classes this upcoming semester. 

“I’m very excited! I’m taking sculpture, pottery, and descriptive astronomy,” they said.

La Barge has some advice for incoming GRCC students. 

“It doesn’t matter where you come from or what your past is, just keep your nose out of trouble and work hard and you can get where you wanna go”

La Barge is part of StandOUT, an organization that focuses on offering support to any student who is part of the LGBTQ+ community. 

“StandOUT is awesome, we are doing great,” said La Barge. “We have a cupcake and coloring event planned for (Sept. 6). We are going to have some rainbow cupcakes and going to do some coloring, so I’m excited for that.”

Collegiate Editor-in-Chief Blace Carpenter and staff writer James Herold contributed to this story.

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