April 20, 2020, GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. – Krista Steffens overcame great challenges to become an inspiration to classmates and gain in-demand welding skills through Grand Rapids Community College’s Metallica Scholars program – earning recognition from the Michigan Department of Education.
Steffens is one of 62 students honored with a 2020 Breaking Traditions Award, given to students who overcame obstacles and stereotypes to succeed in career and technical education programs.
“Being a Metallica Scholar opened up endless possibilities,” Steffens said. “It’s been a great experience, so different from what I was doing before. I really have to thank Metallica and GRCC for what this program has done for me.”
GRCC was one of 10 colleges selected nationwide for the initial Metallica Scholars grant in 2018. Metallica’s All Within My Hands Foundation has teamed up with the American Association of Community Colleges on the project, which provides workforce training for community college students and reinvests in cities where the heavy metal band has toured.
“Krista is the perfect example of someone who took advantage of an opportunity to transform her life through education,” GRCC President Bill Pink said. “We’re proud of her, and know she is a role model for others who may be wondering if they, too, can take that next step. Our partnerships with All Within My Hands and AACC – and local employers -- make these opportunities available and dreams a reality.”
GRCC launched an intensive welding program that takes less time to complete than traditional courses. It also features smaller class sizes with flexible scheduling options and career preparation assistance. Students also gain hiring skills and meet with area employers.
The college partnered with All Within My Hands and AACC for a second Metallica Scholars grant this year.
GRCC worked with the Women’s Resource Center and Hispanic Center of West Michigan to identify potential students who were looking for new careers and education opportunities after experiencing difficult life circumstances.
Steffens was “a force to be admired in the program” and a natural leader, said Lynnae Collard, who oversees the Metallica Scholars program.
Collard said Steffens overcame many challenges, heading back into the workforce to support her family of four when her husband became seriously ill.
“The strength she showed while putting her dreams on hold, being the head of the household, tending to her husband through his illness, trying to better the circumstances of her family, and being a role model for her kids throughout all the trauma and changes is something more than admirable,” Collard wrote in her nominating letter.
“It’s something all of us at GRCC hope that we can do when bad times happen. She has been a model of calmness under fire and her empathy for others going through struggles motivated college staff. Krista has not only persevered through difficult circumstances but has earned the respect from teachers, peers and her employer.”
Steffens completed the Metallica Scholars Welding Program and was approached by her employer, Moiron, a division of Leggett and Platt Furniture, to keep growing her welding skill set.
She is currently an apprentice with Moiron and has begun taking classes at GRCC with plans to obtain her associate degree. She has dreams of continuing beyond that, possibly in engineering or management.
“Krista has re-entered the workforce as a woman of character, one that other women look up to,” Collard said. “She gives hope to other women that there is work in the manufacturing sector that pays well and that a person can use their talents to create a work of art that builds things, that makes our community, country, and nation stronger.”
The 62 students earned in three awards levels: Excellence, Merit, and Recognition.
“Building talent has long been a priority in Michigan and we take time to recognize such positive achievements,” State Superintendent Michael Rice said. “These 62 students overcame perceived barriers to achieve success in career and technical education programs that are nontraditional to their gender, which makes them role models for their peers who may be considering such a career path.
“Michigan benefits from Breaking Traditions Awards through an increasingly diverse workforce necessary to meet the challenges when we start the recovery process of the current COVID-19 pandemic,” Rice said.
Grand Rapids Community College offers learners of all ages opportunities to gain credits for degrees or transfer and in-demand career skills leading to rewarding careers. GRCC was established in 1914 – Michigan’s first community college -- and offers affordable classes on weekdays, evenings, Saturdays and online at locations throughout Kent and Ottawa counties.