Press release: Student builds portfolio while attending GRCC


Leah Nixon

Director of Communications


April 30, 2013 GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. — A Muskegon native is graduating from Grand Rapids Community College with honors program recognition and a portfolio of his writing to show possible employers.

Even with several acceptance letters in hand after his high school graduation, Justin Dawes decided that he needed to start at a community college. He wasn’t sure what degree he wanted to pursue and wanted to save money while determining what career path was best for him. He’s a Muskegon native but decided to attend GRCC because he wanted to experience something new.

Initial doubts about his plan were quickly replaced with once-in-a-lifetime experiences: connections made in honors program classes, a trip to Morocco through GRCC’s Study Away program, performances with the Shades of Blue vocal jazz ensemble.

But it was his work with The Collegiate, GRCC’s student-run newspaper, that helped him decide that writing has to be part of his future.

“I think my biggest accomplishment would be the work I’ve done as editor-in-chief of The Collegiate,” he said. “I can be proud of several articles I’ve written and will be able to use them as part of my portfolio while trying to get into the workforce.”

Mr. Dawes was just named Journalist of the Year by the Michigan Community College Press Association; he also won GRCC’s Cedric Ward Leadership Award for his work on The Collegiate.

He said he quickly learned to appreciate GRCC’s small class sizes and the connections they allowed him to make with his fellow students as well as English department instructors Joan Gearns, Kellie Roblin and Scott McNabb. He found Collegiate adviser Jennifer Ackerman-Haywood an invaluable guide.

“Justin is a hard-working student who did a great job leading The Collegiate as editor-in-chief this school year,” Ms. Ackerman-Haywood said. “Despite all the challenges he faced as editor, he remained dedicated to serving his readership. It was a pleasure to watch him develop his journalism skills and improve as a reporter and writer during the two semesters that I advised him. He stepped up to meet his challenge and exceeded my expectations.”

Mr. Dawes, who will receive an associate degree in liberal arts with a designation from the honors program, said he will probably attend the University of Michigan this fall — although he hasn’t made his final decision.

“Wherever I go, I plan to work on the campus newspaper as well as continue to pursue music and theater,” he said.

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.