Press release: Donor awards innovative experiential learning that impacts community


Leah Nixon

Director of Communications


April 26, 2013 GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. — Projects that educated pregnant teens about oral hygiene, promoted a healthy lifestyle to children, and improved access to The Collegiate student newspaper were named winners of Grand Rapids Community College's 2013 Armen Awards.

Longtime GRCC supporter Armen Oumedian created and funds the awards as part of his commitment to innovative practices. This year's challenge asked teams – comprised of at least one faculty member, one community partner and up to three GRCC students – to sustainably meet a need in the community while fulfilling course requirements.

"It was inspiring to see the variety of ways that GRCC students and faculty helped community organizations reach more people," said Mr. Oumedian, who retired as a part-owner of Pinnacle Automation and served as co-chairman of the alumni division of the GRCC Foundation’s recent Open Door Campaign. "All of the teams met the challenges of their projects with creativity."

The top three projects, receiving the $3,000, $2,500 and $750 in cash prizes, were:

First place: Community Dental Health course students teamed up with Salvation Army-Booth Family Services to provide oral hygiene education to pregnant teens and teen mothers.  Faculty member Deb Schultz and students Nancy Kyser and Kaley Sherwood worked with Angela Scott, from Salvation Army-Booth Services.

Second place: Principles of Physical Education course students worked with East Leonard Elementary School on an "Organ Wise Guys" program to promote a healthy lifestyle to children.  Faculty member Melanie Schiele Gady and student Samantha Fredrick teamed up with Kathy Sainz, of East Leonard Elementary, and Stephanie Marino from Michigan State University Extension.

Third place: Mobile Device Security and Development course students worked with The Collegiate on a mobile app to increase access and readership for the GRCC student newspaper.  Faculty member Szymon Machajewski and students Adam Logue, Quentin Reader and Jason Fedewa partnered with Collegiate adviser Jennifer Haywood.

These three projects were selected from eight finalists, which included:

• The Child Psychology course partnered with Family Promise to provide child-care services to homeless families seeking respite or time needed to seek employment.

• The Community Transcultural Nursing course, who teamed up with the American Red Cross to teach GRCC students the life-changing skill of CPR.

• The College Writing course, who worked with the Grand Rapids Public Library to administer the "One Book, One City for Kids" program in Grand Rapids Public Schools.

• The Consulting with Writers course, who partnered with GRCC’s Writing Lab to train students to serve as tutors.

• The Community Transcultural Nursing course, who worked with the North End Community Ministry to educate its clients on healthy meal planning and recipes when they select items from the food pantry.

In addition to the projects' impact, judges looked at the teams' ability to design and implement a service learning project and to work collaboratively.

Michael Schavey, associate director of GRCC's Department of Experiential Learning, approached Mr. Oumedian with the idea of focusing on service learning during the awards' third year.

"All of the teams were outstanding, which made for a difficult judging experience," Mr. Schavey said. "It was evident that all of the participants – faculty, students and partners – were positively impacted on so many levels. Faculty members said the projects helped them better connect course content to real life situations; and the students appreciated being able to apply their learning and hone their skills; and the partners were so amazed at how much was accomplished in such a short period of time.

"The impact of this year's Armen Awards will be felt for years to come. Those who participated will remember this experience for a lifetime and, through their efforts, GRCC and the community now have a model of working together. Service learning is another example of what makes GRCC distinct,” said Schavey.

Grand Rapids Community College, established in 1914, offers opportunities for more than 30,000 students annually in degree courses, certification and training programs, workshops and personal enrichment classes. GRCC holds classes on the downtown Grand Rapids campus as well as several locations throughout Kent and Ottawa counties.