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Newly endowed scholarships for 2022-2023

Many donors choose to name their endowed scholarship after a person they love or to establish a permanent legacy. We are so thankful for our newly endowed scholarship funds, which will help countless students for years to come.

  • Margaret Bowles Scholarship
  • Women in Philanthropy Scholarship

New Scholarship for 2022-23

  • Schwanda Family Scholarship

I Belong Here

Scholarship helps Joel Reyes Hernandez build a new future in the United States.

Joel Reyes Hernandez was studying and working hard, with no plans to leave his native Dominican Republic. But a vicious late night assault by two men on a motorcycle changed everything.

“I was knocked to the ground, and I couldn’t understand why this was happening to me,” he said. “It was the worst day of my life. I felt so vulnerable, so fragile, so unprotected, just for being gay.”

Hernandez, deciding he was no longer safe in the country he’d lived in for almost three decades, arrived in the United States in August 2020 seeking asylum. After more than a year of hard work
adjusting to a different language and culture, he decided he was ready to return to the classroom.

“I decided to continue my education, even though I knew it would not be easy for me,” he said. “I started the process, and from the first time I walked into GRCC, I felt I belong here.”

Hernandez’s new start meant challenges in the classroom and hard work the rest of the time – all without any family guidance or support.

“I knew the experience could be a little bit more complicated for me because I was not eligible for financial assistance due to my immigration status,” he said. “So I started to work more hours, and there was a moment when I was working three part-time jobs and attending school full time.”

But just as he wondered whether he could keep going, help arrived.

Sarah Rose, director of the college’s Occupational Support program, told him about scholarship opportunities with the GRCC Foundation.

“Receiving the Grand Rapids Community College Foundation Scholarship gave me a feeling of relief,” Hernandez said. “This has been a huge plus in my life. I feel powerful and able to achieve everything I want in life.”

After receiving his associate degree, Hernandez plans to transfer to the University of Michigan and pursue a bachelor’s degree in sociology. Serving on GRCC’s Student Advisory Council increased an interest in mental health.

“We’re so excited to work together and develop programs and tools to create awareness about mental health,” Hernandez said of the council. “It’s OK to not feel OK, but sometimes we can’t solve the situation by ourselves, and it is time to ask for help.

“I want to be supportive to anyone who is struggling in life and let them know that hope is at the end of the way.”

Expanding the Reach

Doug Klein steers asset growth for more scholarships.

For 15 years, board Treasurer Doug Klein has kept careful oversight of the GRCC Foundation’s assets.

Dick Bezile and Judy Bezile honored for 43 years of generosity

The recipients of the 2023 Armen Oumedian Consecutive Giving Award spent a combined 91 years in service to GRCC and its students.

Creating Connections speakers share how scholarships gave them fresh starts

New college leaders added to the excitement of the GRCC Foundation’s Creating Connections breakfast this year.

Erin Van Egmond, named the foundation’s new executive director in March, led the event, which allows students to meet the donors who make their scholarships possible. New GRCC President Charles Lepper welcomed the more than 170 guests, saying: “It’s not lost on me that without your support, we couldn’t do what we do as a college: supporting our students and helping them achieve their dreams.”

The foundation honored Phyllis Fratzke, an alumna who joined GRJC’s faculty in 1968. She started the Child Development program and the preschool in the early 1970s to support women re-entering the workplace after starting families. The Phyllis Fratzke Early Childhood Learning Laboratory was named for her in 2015.

Students Jamila Williams and Joel Reyes Hernandez shared how foundation scholarships have helped them make a fresh start after their lives were thrown off track. Williams earned an associate degree this spring with help from the Plastic and GRCC Foundation scholarships, which will assist in her new career at Cascade Engineering. Hernandez, who also received a GRCC Foundation Scholarship, plans to transfer to the University of Michigan to study sociology.


Phyllis Fratzke Child Development Scholarship

  • Started in 1986.
  • Supports students pursuing a degree in early childhood development and students with children enrolled in GRCC’s laboratory preschool.

Plastic Scholarship

  • Supports enhancements to the Plastics Manufacturing Technology program and financial awards to students pursuing a degree or certificate in plastics.
  • 2.0 GPA required. Full- and part-time students are eligible.

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