Three Noorthoek Academy students to receive honorary degrees

April 19, 2018 GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. Grand Rapids Community College will award honorary Associate of Arts degrees to three Noorthoek Academy students who share a lifelong love of learning. 

Katie Aubert, Leetrice Souza and David Wolven have attended Noorthoek since fall 1995; each has completed 46 semesters. Noorthoek is a private organization that works in partnership with GRCC to provide a post-secondary, college experience in the arts and sciences for people with special needs. 

Aubert, who attended Kent Occupational High School until 1995, volunteers at John Ball Zoo, Ronald McDonald House, Senior Meals, Vista Springs retirement community and Degage Ministries. She worked for 13 years at McDonald's, completing its training program, and now helps to clean two local churches.

"Katie is most happy when she's busy," said Sandra Barraza, Noorthoek's director of education. "Her older sister was one of Noorthoek's earliest students, and Katie wanted to follow in her footsteps."

Aubert excelled in social studies at Noorthoek, Barraza said, adding: "She provides humor and energy to each class."

Souza attended Creston High School and then Kent Occupational High School. After completing high school in 1991, she attended the Community Based Occupational Training program until 1999. She has worked at DECC Co. for the past 13 years. 

Barraza said Souza likes learning about different countries and enjoys immersing herself in other cultures and trying native dishes. 

"She is always the first to show up for class, and she immediately begins to arrange tables and chairs to make it easier for her classmates with mobility or sight issues to navigate the classroom," Barraza said.

Wolven graduated from Rockford High School in 1992 and went to Kent Occupational High School until 1995. He has worked for Mr. Burger for the past 16 years and, as a member of the Knights of Columbus, helps that organization with pancake breakfasts and other activities. 

"David has excelled in many areas but is especially gifted with science units," Barraza said. "He epitomizes what it means to be a lifelong learner. He is quick to share his knowledge with the group and has been a leader among Noorthoek students."

President Bill Pink will award the honorary degrees during GRCC's commencement, which will take place at 7 p.m. April 27 at Ford Fieldhouse, 111 Lyon St. NE.

Grand Rapids Community College has been offering educational opportunities in West Michigan for more than 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.

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