GRCC helps student stay on track



Leah Nixon

Director of Communications

(616) 234-4213

April 27, 2015 GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. — A Grand Rapids Community College student refused to let grief derail her dreams but instead allowed it to push her toward the Associate of Arts degree she’ll receive at this week’s commencement.

Detroit resident Arielle Brown came to GRCC with plans to study dental hygiene and then transfer to Grand Valley State University to prepare for dental school as a biomedical sciences major. She quickly became a leader on campus, serving as president of the Student Alliance and working with the Black Student Union, College Democrats and Women’s Issues Now. But her activities weren’t limited to just those groups — she can be found at most big GRCC events, lending a hand to keep them running smoothly and encouraging her fellow students to attend.

“Arielle fully immersed herself in the GRCC community by getting involved in several clubs and organizations and by seeking student employment opportunities,” said Sara Dorer, director of Student Life and Conduct. "She contributed great energy to the process of redeveloping and launching a new and improved Student Alliance organization, replacing what had been Student Congress. Her passion and commitment helped see this process through from early development stages to successfully leading the inaugural year of the Student Alliance as president.

“Her story supports the importance of getting involved and building connections on campus, as those activities can truly help a student be more successful both while here and in their future endeavors,” Dorer added.

But when Brown’s beloved grandmother died, she decided to stop.

“I felt it would be too hard to continue on,” she said of her college plans.

She found unexpected resistance to her plans for a leave of absence from school.

“My advisers — Sara Dorer, Evan Macklin and Dr. Andre Fields — encouraged me to come back and finish my degree,” she said. “After conversations with them, my family and close friends, I decided to stay and finish, like my grandmother would have wanted. I know if I hadn’t listened to that advice, I would not be receiving my associate degree in May.”

Faculty and staff members didn’t stop with just keeping Brown in class. She learned that she had support and advice whenever she needed it.

“Staci Dever, Deb Vilmont, Chiquital Clay, Khalia Twork-Daniels and Liz Tyrell — these women are always willing to share some wisdom and kind words with me – even during the busiest times of the semester.” Brown said. “I know the insight they share with me is heartfelt and genuine because when I phone home to my mother in Detroit, the advice lines up almost exactly. I have laughed and cried with these phenomenal women and I value the bonds I have formed with them. I thank God for all their help, love and guidance while I have been here. I know these are lifelong friendships.”

Brown was one of four people honored at GRCC’s 2015 Salute to Women celebration and also received the Cedric and Sandy Ward Leadership Award in 2014. She received the 2014 Then & NOW Feminist Activist Award from the National Organization for Women-Grand Rapids.

She will receive her Associate of Arts degree during GRCC’s commencement at 7 p.m. May 1 in the Van Andel Arena, 130 Fulton St. W. After graduation, she now plans to study biology (pre-dental path) at the University of Detroit-Mercy and eventually become an orthodontist with her own practice.

“Graduating with my first college degree and being honored in the 2015 Salute to Women celebration — I never imagined reaching these heights before becoming a student at GRCC,” she said. “One thing is for sure: The prayers of my mother, grandmother and my Grand Rapids family have carried me on this journey toward success.”

Grand Rapids Community College has been offering educational opportunities in West Michigan for 100 years. Established in 1914, the college offers degree courses, certification and training programs, and workshops and personal enrichment classes. Offerings are held on GRCC’s downtown Grand Rapids campus, and at several locations throughout Kent and Ottawa counties, as well as through distance learning.