Giving in Action: Creating Connections

Alek Zapata, Carmela Zapata, and Areli Berlanga.

10th annual breakfast highlights Alek and Alexa Zapata Scholarship

On Feb. 15, the GRCC Foundation marked a decade of the Creating Connections breakfast, where scholarship "owners" connect with recipients. 

After welcomes from Kathryn K. Mullins, foundation executive director and vice president of College Advancement, and GRCC President Bill Pink, guests learned about the Alek and Alexa Zapata Scholarship and heard from two scholarship recipients.

Carmela Zapata (pictured center in the top photo with Alek Zapata and Arelia Berlanga), now a Spanish instructor at GRCC, started the Alek and Alexa Zapata Scholarship to honor her children and to pay forward the help she received while a GRJC student. In a video, first-generation student Areli Berlanga, who plans to go into elementary teaching, said that receiving the scholarship was a "light in a dark tunnel."

Ellen James, Raymond King, and Elias Lumpkins

Raymond King, (pictured center in the right-hand photo with Ellen James and Elias Lumpkins), who is majoring in political science and sociology, told guests how he has dedicated himself to helping kids at the Boys & Girls Club of Grand Rapids Youth Commonwealth after his suicide attempt and bipolar diagnosis in 2017. He said the impact of the Dr. Phillip Sigel Peace and Justice Scholarship he received goes beyond the financial help it provides: "These generous donations to GRCC are a continued investment of a greater community, a greater Grand Rapids."

Amanda Barnett described how the fulfillment she felt running an afterschool cooking club motivated her to quit her full-time teaching job and enroll in the Secchia Institute for Culinary Education. Her former students are eager for the cooking club to start again, and the two scholarships she's received -- the Marcille Dalgleish Hospitality Education Scholarship and the Restaurant Week Scholarship -- are helping her reach that goal: "Your financial support is helping me to accomplish this culinary goal both for myself and for so many of the youth in our city."

Dr. Jim Buzzitta, vice chair of the foundation's board, said donors at the breakfast want to give scholarship recipients encouragement as well as financial support: "I know that all of you will be successful. And when you are successful, you'll remember that somebody along the way helped you. And there will be great joy in your heart to be able to return that."