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My GRCC Story: Ruben Watson credits TRIO program for providing the support he needed to succeed

July 10, 2023, GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. – Ruben Watson is thankful for the good advice he’s received at key times in his life.

“I didn’t want to go to GRCC after graduation, but my grandmother convinced me to go,” he said. “It was a more affordable option for me, and, in retrospect, it was the foundation to my college career.”

Start at Grand Rapids Community College and go anywhere. Every former student has a story to tell about how GRCC gave them the education and opportunity to be successful. 

After withdrawing from a freshman math class because of low grades, Watson talked to his advisor in the TRIO program, which provides academic advising, tutoring, mentoring, financial guidance, counseling and other supports to help students from disadvantaged backgrounds. Fátima Nieves told him he just needed some extra help and found him a tutor.

“I re-enrolled in the class the next semester and attended every tutoring session,” Watson said. “I ended up passing that class with a B – which is a grade I would not have received without the right supportive services.”

Watson has built his post-college career around improving access to higher education, currently as assistant director of Corporate and Foundation Relations at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. He credits GRCC with giving him the key skills he needs in his job.

“Communication and public speaking are two vital skills that I acquired by attending GRCC classes,” he said. “I passed those classes because I had great teachers who challenged me to step outside my comfort zone and learn and fail until I mastered professional communication strategies.”

After graduating with an associate degree in 2004, Watson earned a bachelor’s in communications from Western Michigan University and a master’s in K-12 education administration from Michigan State University.

In addition to his work at UNC, he volunteers as a mentor and development committee co-chair with 100 Black Men’s Triangle East chapter and serves on the national board for Learning Heroes.

In between his career and volunteering, he also found time to establish a publishing company, Watson Family Literacy, and write two children’s books: “Where Is My Grandpa?” and “Friendly Skies and Sunny Days.”

A self-described  “proud Raider,” Watson credits GRCC for a good start on higher education: “GRCC is a launchpad into the ‘real world’ and a supportive place where focused students can succeed!”

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