Four GRCC students receive leadership awards



Leah Nixon

Director of Communications


Four GRCC students receive leadership awards

April 8, 2014 GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. Grand Rapids Community College is proud to recognize the achievements of its students with awards that note their leadership skills, academic excellence and campus involvement.

Students winning GRCC’s leadership awards were honored during a ceremony on April 4, 2014 and include:

Arielle Brown received the Cedric and Sandy Ward Leadership Award, which goes to a student who demonstrates leadership skills throughout the community and college. During her time at GRCC, Brown has served as president of the Black Student Union and as communications director for both Women’s Issues Now (WIN) and College Democrats. She also is a member of the Strategic Leadership Team, the Student Leadership Advisory Council and the Progressive Student Alliance. She served as the mistress of ceremonies for this year’s Martin Luther King Day observance.

“Arielle has maintained a high level of campus leadership despite her rigorous academics and the recent loss of her beloved grandmother,” said one GRCC faculty member. “The BSU is one of the most active student organizations on campus, and without Arielle’s leadership, I am certain the union would not have been as successful as it has been.”

Another faculty member added: “Arielle implemented a discussion series between BSU members and GRCC faculty. The goal is to provide a safe forum for important matters to be voiced in the spirit of campus unity. Topics included minority education and career success, campus support and the impact of race on the educational experience.”

Yolanda Cruz-Olguin, a nursing major, received the Benham Service and Civic Engagement Award, which goes to a student who is active in community service and civic engagement. In addition to serving as vice president of the International Student Organization and her membership in the Hispanic Student Organization, she is a mentor in GRCC’s TRiO program, which provides support for first-generation college students. She also worked at the 2014 Latino Youth Festival. Off campus, Cruz-Olguin works with Kids Food Basket, the Grand Rapids Home for Veterans and the Power of Education Foundation. She does all this extra activity while commuting from Grand Haven and working a part-time job at Spectrum Health.

“She has a passion for the groups she is a part of and always invites others to learn more and join her in her activities on campus and in the community,” a faculty member said.

Todd Johnson received the Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Award, which goes to a student who exemplifies the civil rights leader’s spirit through community involvement and campus life. Johnson, who also received the 2014 Milo M. Brown Memorial Scholarship presented by the Grand Rapids Community College Foundation, plans to become an addictions counselor. He does volunteer work through City Life Church and Guiding Light Mission. He also is a member of GRCC’s Alpha Beta Omega group, a leadership development group for African-American men.

“For many years, I have watched Todd commit himself to not only his personal success but the success of others,” a faculty member said. “He consistently speaks on issues related to social justice and has committed himself to using his career as a means of securing equality and empowerment for others. I have no doubt that he will be an even greater agent of change as he leaves academia and enters the world of criminal justice.”

Rafael Pastrano received the Brian Kloet Campus Involvement Award, which goes to a student who has helped promote the overall college experience through outstanding citizenship. For many GRCC students, Rafael is one of the first people they meet as part of their college experience: He served as an “ambassador” during summer orientation. Pastrano, a Venezuelan majoring in music, is president of GRCC’s International Student Organization and a member of the Guitar Ensemble and Mariachi Band. He also has received the Kenneth R. Morris Guitar, Closson-Jones and Crescendo scholarships.

“His pleasant personality makes him very approachable to new students, and he’s always willing to help staff with projects, events and outreach,” a GRCC staff member said.”

Another nominator added: “Rafael has made himself available to (ISO) members on a personal level, assisting students with homesickness and other adjustment issues — often on his own time.”

President Dr. Steven C. Ender said the awards ceremony is a chance to highlight the countless contributions of GRCC students to their campus and community.

“I continue to be amazed by the impressive accomplishments of our students,” he said. “It is a proud moment for the college to see today’s students blossom into tomorrow’s leaders. Their journeys are inspiring. I commend these students for their hard work and dedication not only to their studies but to their communities.”

Also awarded at the ceremony, which is available on GRCC’s YouTube channel, were the Music, Social Science, Campus Dining, Athletic, Business Professional and Biology Awards.

 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.