Love of learning brings student to GRCC



Leah Nixon

Director of Communications


April 29, 2014 GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. Going to prison could have been the end, but for a Grand Rapids Community College graduate, it was the chance to reinvent himself.

Jahaun McKinley said his 19 years in prison came about through “bad direction, bad choices and bad decisions.” And when he was released in 2009, he was determined to start on a fresh path, one that included a college education.

He didn’t need the degree to land a job: He works for Cascade Engineering in its continuous improvement department.

“When I started GRCC, I wanted to attend school for no other reason but to have a degree,” said McKinley, who received an associate degree in business administration this fall. “My position was not predicated on my degree, but it has helped me — particularly the business classes, such as ethics and communications.”

Dennis Sutton, a professor of communications studies in GRCC’s language and thought department, said McKinley is one of his most memorable students.

“When I think of Jahaun, who was an outstanding speaker in my public speaking class, I am reminded that sometimes it’s students who inspire the teacher, rather than the other way around,” Sutton said. “His character and determination, as well as his love of learning, is something that really impressed me.”

That love of learning means that McKinley isn’t finished with classes — or GRCC — just yet: In April, he started a job training workshop in advanced manufacturing.

“The best advice that I would give to new students entering GRCC would be to utilize the resources and value the people — both students and professors — as though you were in a university,” McKinley said. “Many students ‘underplay’ GRCC due to it being a community college. But you have professors who work in the fields that they are teaching and are not just academics; you have students like myself who offer a wealth of experience in the workforce as well. So treat GRCC as though it was Harvard!”

Grand Rapids Community College’s 2014 commencement will take place at 6 p.m. May 2 in Ford Fieldhouse, 111 Lyon St. NE. Tickets are required to attend.

 Grand Rapids Community College, established in 1914, offers opportunities for more than 30,000 students annually in degree courses, certification and training programs, workshops and personal enrichment classes. GRCC holds classes on the downtown Grand Rapids campus as well as several locations throughout Kent and Ottawa counties.