Skip to main content

A family milestone: GRCC’s Sondra Davis will graduate with her daughters

April 24, 2024

They’re going to need a bigger graduation cake.

With three members of the Davis family receiving their diplomas Thursday night at Grand Rapids Community College’s Commencement, there’s a lot to celebrate. Sondra Davis, 49, will accept her diploma arm-in-arm with two of her daughters: Alexis Truax, 31, and Kathrynn Davis, 20.

It’s another completed milestone for the mother of four who’s attended college off and on since 1997, but never completed a degree program. Until now.

“I wasn’t originally planning to finish my degree since I’m already nearly 50,” said Sondra Davis, who lives in Holland with her husband, Adam. “Now I’m on a path alongside my children and I couldn’t be more proud of all four of them.”

The Davises will also celebrate their son, Jeffrey, who earned his Welding/Fabrication Technician certificate at GRCC in November, as well as their youngest daughter, Karalynn, who graduates in May from West Ottawa High School. She’ll begin pursuing her own degree at GRCC this summer.

Once a single mother of two, Sondra said her degree was a long time coming. 

In the late-1990’s, she studied two years at a community college in Florida before returning home to Michigan and attending Grand Valley State University from 2000 to 2003. After marrying Adam Davis and while raising their young children, she returned to GVSU in 2011 for two years. Although she earned enough credits to attain senior status, family obligations sidetracked her from finishing her bachelor’s degree.

Fast-forward to 2022 when Sondra began working as a support professional in GRCC’s College Success Center. Her daughter Kathrynn was already enrolled at GRCC and Sondra decided to follow in her daughter’s footsteps.

“Kathrynn is actually the reason I started working at GRCC,” Sondra said.  “As a full-time employee, I’m eligible for tuition reimbursement for myself and my dependent children. After witnessing Kathrynn’s positive experience with GRCC, I decided to pursue the Michigan Transfer Agreement at GRCC to help me complete my bachelor’s degree in integrated studies at GVSU.” 

The Michigan Transfer Agreement allows the transfer of up to 30 semester credits to meet many of the general education requirements at participating Michigan four-year colleges and universities. GRCC students can complete the requirements as part of the Associate of Arts or Associate of Science degrees or as a stand-alone package.

Two years ago, Sondra encouraged her eldest daughter to enroll, too. Although Alexis attended GRCC and GVSU in past years, she hadn’t completed a degree. She qualified for financial aid to restart her education through the Michigan Reconnect scholarship because she was over the age of 21 and didn’t already have a college degree.

“The Reconnect program was a lifesaver,” said Alexis, who is raising her 7-year-old son. “And GRCC made it as easy as it could be to take classes while working and parenting.”

When Sondra’s son, Jeffrey, began looking for a new career, Sondra urged him to explore GRCC’s Job Training program. Jeffrey started — and completed — the Welding/Fabrication Technician certificate program in 2023.

“I was really impressed by the amount of help I got in class and outside of class,” said Jeffrey, 29, who just started a five-year union apprenticeship for plumbing, pipefitting and welding. “I do feel (GRCC Instructor Nathan Haney) set me up for what I will encounter in the field.”

Kathrynn said her professors were phenomenal over the past three years, especially those in GRCC’s Music Department. She will graduate with her associate degree in Music this Thursday and transfer to Michigan State University this fall. She plans to pursue a Bachelor of Music degree in music performance and, eventually, begin a career as an opera singer.

All four of Sondra’s children said they are proud of their mother’s hard work. 

“I’ll never really know how much my mom has gone through, but to see her coming out victorious makes me emotional,” Kathrynn said. “I am so lucky to be earning my degree alongside my rock, best friend, and mom.”

Alexis said she’s thrilled with how the life paths of her sisters, mother and brother all intersected at GRCC. And she looks forward to the next step in their educational journeys.

“Mom and I are enrolled in the same program at GVSU, so here’s hoping we get to graduate from Grand Valley together, too,” Alexis said.

This story was reported by Beth McKenna. The photo was provided courtesy of Carlos Marroquin-Lozada.