Tag Archives: Grand Rapids Community College

West Michigan PMI delivered over $5K in prizes to student project managers


BY LAURA BERGELLS
PHOTOS: BRYAN ESLER, JEREMY KUHN, DIANE CARROLL BURDICK

How will 15 teams of talented Michigan college students solve one of the state’s most pressing educational challenges? That was the question at the heart of THE Project.

The West Michigan chapter of the Project Management Institute (PMI) hosted its annual Inter-Collegiate Competition at the Pinnacle Center in Hudsonville on Monday, April 13, 2015. This year’s event was dubbed THE Project — The Higher Education Project. Student teams from 11 Michigan colleges presented proposals and plans to improve the affordability of higher education in Michigan. Area hiring managers and PMI members attended two public components of the day-long event: 1) a reverse job fair featuring student project managers and 2) an evening networking/dinner program announcing the $5,000 winner of the competition. The evening program also included a keynote address by Michigan Lieutenant Governor, Brian Calley.

Dematic North America and Spectrum Health were sponsors for the annual event. But why a project management competition and reverse career fair?

Project management skills are critical for organizations, explained Andrew Gill, head of Software Application Engineering at Dematic North America in Grand Rapids.

Dematic is a global company. We essentially live or die on project management. Everything that we do regarding how we deliver our systems to our customers — it’s all in project form. Without project managers and the art and science of project management, we really don’t survive as a business.”

THE Project showcased the importance of project management and PMI to the West Michigan business community.

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“PMI supports the project management profession,” said Gill. “That’s hugely important to us. We put a lot of credence in that Project Management Professional (PMP) certification. We require all of our project managers to attain that certification. It obviously makes sense to support an organization locally that supports our project managers.”

The competition also serves to introduce a younger generation to project management as a viable career track. In his introductory address, Brian Krajewski, the Director of Enterprise Portfolio Management at Spectrum Health, said that WMPMI has developed a great learning opportunity that allows collegiate students to engage their right and left brains while developing “shovel ready” projects that will address “real opportunities” in our state. Krajewski explained that Spectrum Health chose to be THE Project sponsor to “…create a pipeline of talent streaming into our organization.  We need to expose students early in their careers to the opportunities in healthcare, in technology, in project management and in West Michigan.”

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PMI member Brian Gleason, Campus Director at University of Phoenix, has played a key role in recruiting mentors for the annual competition. He sees THE Project as a way to give students needed experience and mentorship with project management.

“There is no younger generation of PMPs,” said Gleason. “If a company wants a project manager, they either go out and get an existing project manager or they don’t have one. There is no grooming of younger people to get into project management. PMI and THE Project helps fill that gap.”

Students and mentors take months to prepare for the grueling competition. Many sign up as early as September to form teams. On the day of the event, each team presented to a panel of Michigan business leaders for judgement. The first place team won $5,000, second place $3,000, third place $2,000, and fourth place $1,000.

Event coordinator Jeff Kissinger, Senior Project Manager at Grand Rapids Community College, noted that the experience of the competition remains the biggest reward for the students. Students who have this competition on their resume, he said, demonstrate that they have powerful project management and team experience.

“It’s a lot of work for students,” Kissinger said. “I have so much respect for them, because they really work to get this done and done right. The (PMI) panelists are very picky. They are following the rule book to the T. They really make the students work. And the mentors? They go out of their way to help the students.”

That’s why West Michigan companies looking for high caliber recent grads that have exposure to project management methodologies eagerly attended the reverse career fair. Over 80 students who participated in THE Project sat in booths and interviewed with hiring managers and recruiters.

“This is not only a group of high caliber students, but they’ve had at least four months of  exposure to what project management is all about,” said Gleason. “They’ve put together a portfolio of work, essentially. That’s a unique thing for a recent grad.”

And as an IT recruiter mentioned about her experience with the reverse career fair: “It’s nice to be on the other side of the table for a change.”

Beyond the excitement of a high-stakes competition and the reverse career fair, the theme of THE Project offered a strong draw for the business community.

“Last year, the theme of the competition was all about supporting the veterans,” said Andrew Gill. “That resonated very strongly with Dematic. This year, it’s all about improving higher education. Keeping our talent in Michigan. That resonates with us as well. It’s not just the chapter, it’s also the business problems that students are trying to solve as part of the competition.

The future of project management as a career track is bright. THE Project brings awareness of project management and PMI to both students and the West Michigan business community.

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The year, the top prize went to the student team at Cornerstone University. Madison Drew, James Hardman, Nathan Mahoney, and Julia Martin took home the $5,000 prize.  For more details about membership and the opportunities the West Michigan Project Management Institute brings to our community, visit http://wmpmi.org. Also, be sure to LIKE them on Facebook for their latest updates!

Encore: Starting A Community Conversation About Life After Retirement

 

BY TERRI FINCH HAMILTON
PHOTOS BRYAN ESLER
Man, retirement sounds pretty good, doesn’t it? Sleeping in, golfing all day, lazing around the pool.

That sound you hear is Tom Rademacher and Nancy O’Brien saying, “Whoa, whoa, whoa.”

If you haven’t had a conversation with these two about life after retirement, don’t worry — you will.

The dynamic duo will have a conversation with the entire Grand Rapids community in the coming year, as the two new Encore Fellows at the Grand Rapids Community Foundation.

Their mission: spread the word that there’s a whole new way to share your talent, skills and time after age 60 or so.

They’re working with encore.org, building a movement to make it easier for millions of people to pursue  “encore careers” – jobs that combine personal meaning, continued income and social impact in the second half of life.

Visit encore.org for more about the philosophy, and to see examples of men and women doing extraordinary things in their “encore years.”

Massachusetts tech executive David Campbell, 72, used his management savvy to build a nimble, effective nonprofit that has dispatched 28,000 volunteers to 45 global disaster zones.

Texas telecom veteran Charles Fletcher, 76, used his ranch to launch a global network of 91 therapeutic riding centers serving 5,000 children with disabilities – free of charge.

New York child psychiatrist Dr. Pamela Cantor, 66, leads an organization that helps schools counter the effects of poverty on student learning, reaching tens of thousands of teachers and children in low-performing public schools.

And the list goes on.

Photos by Bryan Esler for stellafly

“It used to be you turned 65 and that was it — you disappeared,” says Rademacher, 60, a longtime columnist at The Grand Rapids Press. “Encore is changing the rules about how we retire.” He took early retirement in 2009 to pursue other writing endeavors but continues to write his award-winning column for The Press and mlive.com as part of his freelance writing career.

“Encore teaches people how to reconfigure that free time they’ve earned,” Rademacher says. “What gifts do you have? And how can you use them to help the rest of us?”

Photos by Bryan Esler for stellafly

O’Brien, 54, an experienced public relations professional, opted for early retirement from Grand Rapids Community College in 2010 after spending 10 years there as executive director of communications. Before that she was a public relations consultant with clients all over town, from The Grand Rapids Ballet to the Amway Hotel Corp. to Wedgwood Christian Services.

Through their Encore fellowships hosted by the Grand Rapids Community Foundation, they’ll work as a team to get the word out about Encore.

Rademacher will gather and tell the stories of area people and organizations that exemplify the Encore philosophy. Then O’Brien will use her PR skills to get those stories out in the community, through print, radio, television and social media.

“We want to capture the stories that embody the spirit of Encore, and set the table for conversation,” says Kate Luckert Schmid, program director at the Grand Rapids Community Foundation, which has long supported the Encore movement. “We want to give it a voice.”

The conversation about how to spend your “second life” is already simmering, Schmid says.

“These conversations are happening at coffee houses and at brew pubs,” she says. “Everybody who’s approaching retirement age is asking about what’s next.  But there’s no label, no name for it.

“At the Foundation, we see the potential of engaging experienced adults in critical community issues,” Schmid says. “The wealth of knowledge and expertise out there is just incredible. If we can engage them in our community’s issues, we’ll be better off.”

Rademacher has spent his career telling the community’s stories. He’s looking for people doing great things in their later years in the same places he’s searched for subjects for his many popular columns. Everywhere.

“Wherever I go,” Rademacher says, “I have this question in my back pocket: ‘I understand you just retired. What’s next?’”

He can’t wait to hear the answers.

“As people age, and collect wisdom, they become less and less afraid of the next step,” he says.  “They’re not afraid of the new, of reinventing, they’re not afraid of what people think of them, they’re not affected by peer pressure.

Photos by Bryan Esler for stellafly

 

Photos by Bryan Esler for stellafly

“They’ve dealt with death and sacrifice and tragedy. They seem unstoppable. They breed optimism in others. I’ll be looking for those kinds of people. And they’re everywhere.”

O’Brien sees her Encore Fellowship as a professional and personal mission.

“I’m walking through the journey myself,” she says. “I’m looking for a second act, a way to utilize my expertise.

“For my parents’ generation, you retire, you go to Florida, you play golf,” she says.

That’s what her parents did, at first.

“They retired to Marco Island, Florida, and they soon said, ‘We’re bored,’” O’Brien says. “My dad said, ‘It feels like we’re just playing golf and waiting to die.’”

So they moved to a small town in North Carolina and started shaking things up, doing outreach for an area prison and a local church.

“Suddenly, they felt vital,” O’Brien says. “They felt involved.”

That’s what everybody wants, she says.

“Never has there been such a huge generation moving into this 60-plus age,” O’Brien says. “We’re all so vibrant and have something to offer.

“It’s not the end of our purpose — we want something else.”

Want to hear more? Stay tuned.

“We’ll be blogging, posting on Facebook, sharing these stories on TV, radio, magazines, newspapers,” O’Brien says.

“The community is going to start hearing some great stories.”

Do you have a great “encore career” story? Contact Rademacher or O’Brien:

trademacher@grfoundation.org

nobrien@grfoundation.org

Spoonlickers Stands Apart from FroYo Crowd with its Unique Made-from-Scratch Toppings

BY BRIAN VANOCHTEN
PHOTOS BY DIANNE CARROLL BURDICK

GRAND RAPIDS – You walk into any frozen yogurt or ice cream shop anywhere and the toppings are all the same: prepackaged, processed, canned or bulk-purchased items full of additives and preservatives.

Spoonlickers Handcrafted Frozen Yogurt dares to be different.

At each of their three locations, co-owners and co-founders Dianna and David Darling insist upon fresh-baked, scratch-made and locally sourced toppings that customers won’t find anywhere else. It’s all part of the farm-to-table – or, perhaps, kitchen-to-spoon – concept the Darlings have brought to frozen desserts.

“It goes right from here to there – kitchen to spoon,” baker Alecia Fanning said of the Spoonlickers’ uncompromising approach to scratch-made toppings using the freshest ingredients. “A lot of people are a lot more conscious of it. I think people are more willing to pay a little extra for that if it’s homemade stuff, rather than if it was made in a factory or mass produced or came from a machine.

“I think the love goes into it,” she added. “They can tell it’s a much better product.”

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It’s all about quality at Spoonlickers, with its signature chocolate ganache, butterscotch, homemade granola, scratch-made brownies, cookies, pumpkin pie, whoopie pies, cinnamon streusel crumble and marshmallow squares. It grinds the peanuts for its peanut-butter sauce. It toasts its own coconut.

No one in the industry comes close to that sort of freshness.

“A lot of people don’t do it, so, for us, it’s especially unique, just knowing a lot of what us bakers make is from scratch,” said Grace Tuttle, a junior supervisor at Spoonlickers who preceded Fanning as baker. “I think it is important to a lot of people. There is a difference in quality a lot of the time.

“It’s just about knowing that you’re eating something homemade or local products, it’s just different than getting it from wherever,” she said. “I’ve been to several of the frozen yogurt stores. I think when you go around and sample them, you can really tell the difference. I can immediately tell when I try other places that it’s a dry powder mixed with water.

“It’s a lot better here.”

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The proof is in the pantry and refrigerator at Spoonlickers’ flagship Eastown store at 1551 Wealthy St. in Grand Rapids. Top-shelf ingredients, such as couverture chocolate and Nielsen Massey vanilla, go into making ganache and buttercream, respectively. Farm-fresh eggs, King flour milled in Lowell and Meijer brown sugar are examples of locally sourced items Spoonlickers’ baking staff uses.

All of the milk and cream used in production of its soft-serve frozen yogurt and baked goods comes from southwestern Michigan dairy farms, which results in a freshness its customers truly can taste.

No compromises. No cutting corners. Period.

“Everything we can buy locally, we do,” David Darling said. “All of the milk, all of the dairy for our yogurts and gelatos, it comes from southwest Michigan. People love the fact that we toast our own coconut.

“We have never wavered. The reason we do this is, because if we don’t, nobody else will,” he said. “It makes us different. It’s so much better because we control what’s going in (these toppings).”

For example, Spoonlickers uses only couverture chocolate for its ganache.

It has a higher percentage of cocoa butter than regular chocolate. Sure, it costs more, but the difference is quality is worth it.

“It’s the reason our ganache is as good as it is. We don’t cut any costs when it comes to the quality of ingredients,” David Darling insisted.

The objective is using the fewest ingredients of the highest quality to achieve unprecedented results.

It requires keeping a close watch on inventory, since many of the ingredients have a shorter shelf life than other packaged and processed FroYo and ice cream toppings at national chain stores.

The staff gets its fresh fruits, whenever possible, from Grand Rapids Downtown Market or Fulton Street Farmers Market.

“Sixty-five percent of what’s kept on the shelf is raw ingredient,” David Darling estimated.

The commitment to using the freshest and highest-quality ingredients is a reflection of what’s happening in the farm-to-table dining movement, as well as the craft beer and independently distilled spirits industries.

Earlier this year, the Darlings posted an item on the company website at www.spoonlickersgr.com that challenged the status quo when it comes to sacrificing freshness and quality for inferior mass-produced toppings. It sparked a profound dialogue and more than a thousand responses.

“I’m not sure all of our customers understand what we do and why we do it, but a lot of them do,” David Darling said. “It’s why they tell us, ‘You have to do our wedding, our children’s birthday parties and other events.’

“It really matters to people.”

It is a constant source of pride for the Spoonlickers’ kitchen staff.

Fanning, 27, a recent graduate of the Secchia Institute for Culinary Education at Grand Rapids Community College, uses her own hands to make and bake everything from puppy chow to pie crusts.

“It definitely adds a lot more enjoyment to what you do, especially because they don’t cut any corners here. They’re using real ingredients, like real butter, not shortening. That makes it a lot more enjoyable,” she said.

“You just make sure it’s made right.”

Tuttle, 21, of Kentwood, said the same commitment goes into making larger cakes, which can be ordered for special occasions or purchased from the freezers located in all three Spoonlickers’ stores.

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“I don’t know of any other frozen yogurt places that make homemade cakes. We make the batter, we freeze the yogurt, mold it all together, make our own frosting, make our own chocolate ganache for it, and decorate it all by hand,” said Tuttle, who’s pursuing a degree in food and beverage management at Grand Valley State University. ‘That takes a lot of time. There are a lot of local homemade products going into that cake.

“I think that’s pretty unique. I don’t know of other ice cream places that bake their own homemade cookies or homemade brownies,” she added. “I don’t know of anyone else that quite does that.”

David Darling refers to Fanning and Tuttle as the “rock stars” of the operation.

Both says they’re delighted to be part of a local business that does things the right way for the right reasons.

“I think it’s something we should talk about a lot more,” Tuttle said. “People hear ‘homemade’ and think that’s cool, but a lot of them don’t realize that what we’re actually making … they’re eating. That’s something really unique. I don’t know of any other frozen yogurt places or ice cream places that do that.”

Four Colleges Commit to Grand Rapids Community College’s Challenge Scholars Program

 

PHOTOS TERRY JOHNSTON

November 8, 2013 — Aquinas College, Ferris State University, Grand Rapids Community College and Grand Valley State University have each created special scholarship packages to support Grand Rapids Community Foundation’s Challenge Scholars program. The Challenge Scholars program, which begins with sixth grade students at Harrison Park School and Westwood Middle School, is designed to help students succeed in school, maintain good grades and behavior and to eventually be accepted to college. Students that complete program requirements and graduate from Union High School will receive a last dollars scholarship from the Community Foundation. The value of the scholarship depends on which college the student chooses to attend and family income.

The scholarship packages that each of the colleges have created are set aside for Challenge Scholars students specifically and each differ slightly in their requirements and what is provided. “When Challenge Scholars launched two years ago, these four colleges became some of our strongest champions. The scholarship commitments we announce today add another element to the partnerships that are already bringing additional resources to students, parents and faculty at our three Challenge Scholars schools. Together, with Grand Rapids Public Schools (GRPS) we are ensuring students on the West Side have the opportunity to reach their full potential as students and citizens. I’m grateful to our partners for their caring and generosity,” Diana Sieger, president of Grand Rapids Community Foundation said.

“This community is truly blessed to have well engaged, community-oriented higher education institutions like Aquinas College, Ferris State University, Grand Rapids Community College and Grand Valley State University. They have been major partners with GRPS for decades, and once again, they have stepped to the plate to support our students.

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Challenge Scholars is a game changer and the momentum continues to grow thanks to partnerships like these,” Teresa Weatherall Neal, superintendent of GRPS said.

The local college presidents, whose schools are committing these scholarship packages provided these comments.

Ferris State University has been an active partner with the Grand Rapids Community Foundation in its efforts to encourage students to attend college. We are pleased to support the efforts of the Challenge Scholars program and look forward to encouraging these students not only to attend college, but to graduate,” Dr. David Eisler, president, Ferris State University said.

Dr. Steven C. Ender, president, Grand Rapids Community College said, “We know it takes a village to raise a child. The Challenge Scholars program provides the foundation for our community to work together to offer the guidance and support necessary for students to learn and grow, follow their dreams, and achieve success. Providing educational opportunities for West Michigan residents for nearly a century has given us, at GRCC, the first-hand knowledge that expanding access and support for education empowers our community’s most precious resource—its citizens.”

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“I believe strongly in providing educational opportunities to our community’s young people,” Grand Valley State President Thomas J. Haas said. “The Challenge Scholars program fits in perfectly with Grand Valley’s mission to provide access to a college degree and increased opportunities. I have visited Harrison Park and sat and talked with the children. They’re remarkable, and show such promise. This program absolutely will make a difference in their lives and in the future of our community. I can’t wait to welcome some of these students to our campus.”

Dr. Juan Olivarez, president, Aquinas College said, “Aquinas College is proud to invest in the future by investing in students enrolled in the Challenge Scholars program. The families I have met at Harrison Park School are committed to their children’s education and are willing to make the necessary sacrifice to see their dream realized. Aquinas College is honored to partner with them in this dream.”

The Chef Mark Noseda Scholarship Fund Charity Brunch & Auction

 

BY: MARK CURTIS
PHOTOS: TERRY JOHNSTON

Chef Mark Noseda II passed away unexpectedly on the evening of August 16th. He was the Executive Chef for Twisted Rooster, Crooked Goose and the new Freighters in Port Huron, MI.

As a close friend to Heather Halligan, Mark’s girlfriend of many years, I reached out to see what I could do to help. Her wish was to see a culinary scholarship set up in Mark’s name. I took the idea and ran with it.

All the pieces quickly came together. I started by contacting Rod GlupkerFlavor616 Magazine, to solicit his help in setting up a scholarship fund at GRCC’s Secchia Culinary Institute. Then I spoke with Jenna Arcidiacono, chef and owner at Amore Trattoria Italiana. The event started to come together as we used ideas of reaching out to other well known chefs like, Ice Guru Randy Finch, Tommy Fitzgerald and Sawako Cline. The concept was to create a fundraising brunch at Amore Trattoria Italiana — all done in jusa little over a month after Chef Mark’s passing.

Donations were solicited from all over West Michigan to help supply the brunch with food and to have auction items to help in the fundraising effort. We had over 50 auction items/packages to offer, some very unique items, like a 2 hour ice carving class with Randy Finch or a chef’s pasta battle with Chefs Jenna Arcidiacono and Tommy Fitzgerald.

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The brunch and silent auction was held on Sunday, September 22nd from 12 – 3pm. Over 200 guests and volunteers from all over West Michigan were in attendance including Chef Mark’s family, who came from the east side of the state.

Culinary help came in from all over West Michigan. Besides the aforementioned chefs, Chef O Hale, Chef Len Towne from New Holland Brewing Co., Chef Steve Brechting, Chef Chad Allen Idema from the Speak EZ lounge, plus volunteers from Amore, the Secchia Culinary Institute, and Kitchen Sage.

$12,800 was raised between ticket and auction sales. All time and food was donated and every dime went in the ‘Chef Mark Noseda Culinary Scholarship Fund‘ at Grand Rapids Community College.

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Further donations can be made online at: http://cms.grcc.edu/grccfoundation/donatetograndrapidscommunitycollegefoundation

Like the Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/ChefMarkNosedaScholarshipFund

Further annual fundraising will take place to fund the scholarship so it can be endowed and continue to help aspiring young culinarians attending the institute for generations to come.

Artprize Volunteer Kickoff Party: Volunteer Field Camp

 

BY: SPARKLY STELLAFLY
PHOTOGRAPHY: TERRY JOHNSTON

If you’ve ever been to an ArtPrize party, you know they are pretty spectacular, and Wednesday night’s Volunteer Kickoff Party was no exception. Sponsored by Grand Rapids Community College and hosted by ArtPrizes’s Community Engagement Director Amelea Pegman, the night had a camp theme, complete with an artfully made bonfire, campfire music, and plenty of delicious food and drinks.

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As the volunteers arrived in droves (over 500 of them), the ArtPrize staff was ready to greet them with an adorable bandana and their map of the event, complete with a checklist of badges (pins) they were to collect throughout the night. Each badge represented a different personality of an ArtPrizer—such as the Socialite. In between visiting the various stations and having their photos taken at the Stellafly photo wall, they could enjoy the delicious pulled pork sandwich, homemade mac ‘n cheese, and many other delicious treats from The Starving Artist, and they also had the opportunity to try Founders Brewing Company’s Inspired Artist Black IPA, the first Artprize-inspired beer. From what I heard, this is definitely something visitors to ArtPrize 2013 will want to try.

The night was truly about the volunteers who help make this annual event so successful. This year the organization is looking to recruit over 1,000 individuals to give some of their time to ArtPrize and make all those who visit the event feel welcome. Volunteers who attended Wednesday’s event were able to talk to their peers who have been involved every year and also talk to those who have never volunteered about what a great experience it is. Kudos to the entire ArtPrize staff for throwing such a great party and rallying the volunteers as this event quickly approaches!

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ArtPrize 2013 kicks off on September 18, 2013 and runs through October 6, 2013 in downtown Grand Rapids. If you are interested in volunteering, visit the newly redesigned artprize.org for more information.

Grand Rapids Triathlon – A look inside the mind of an athlete

 

STORY: BRIAN VANOCHTEN
PHOTOS: RAEANNA ANGLEN

ADA – The pain-and-pleasure addicts who push their minds, bodies and souls to their uppermost limits as triathletes are part of a unique brotherhood and sisterhood that no one else quite understands.

No one but them.

A lot of their friends and family can’t comprehend what possesses seemingly normal men and women to spend countless hours preparing to swim, run and bike long distances for no apparent reason – other than proving something to themselves about their mental and physical toughness and being able to tolerate pain.

The challenging sequence in a triathlon features:

  • An open-water swim of 750 meters to 1.2 miles.
  • A bicycle ride of anywhere from 12 to 56 miles.
  • And, finally, a road run ranging from 5K (3.1 miles) to the half-marathon distance of 13.1 miles.

It’s the punishment that gives them so much pleasure.

“I just have a passion for it,” said Abby Geurink, 29, a professional triathlete from Hudsonville, who’ll be defending her women’s Sprint title in the third-annul Grand Rapids Triathlon on Sunday, June 9, in Ada and Cascade. “People wonder sometimes, ‘How is that really fun?’ I don’t expect everyone to understand.

“It’s a lot of character building for me. I’ve learned a lot about mental toughness competing in triathlons. I think we can get pretty obsessed. Definitely, there’s a little bit of obsession. I just think it’s hard not to get obsessed because you spend so much time in this sport preparing for these races and just pushing yourself.

“I spend 15 to 18 hours a week training. I like to challenge myself. It’s fun for me.”

It’s a passion – or perhaps an addiction, obsession or compulsion – shared by about 1,500 triathletes preparing to test themselves by swimming, biking and running to the point of exhaustion in what is fast becoming one of the preeminent races in the state of Michigan. The Grand Rapids Triathlon attracted 900 participants in its inaugural year, swelled to 1,200 last year and is approaching 1,500 this year.

The race is sponsored by Huntington Bank and Fox Motors.

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Up for the personal challenge

It attracts all ages, shapes and sizes.

The ages of entrants last summer spanned from 13 to 78 and included several families, from fathers and sons and mothers and daughters to a grandmother-mother-daughter triumvirate that race co-director Andy Vidro exemplifies just how far-reaching the passion for the sport has become through the years.

Andy and Ann Vidro are the lead organizers of the Grand Rapids Triathlon.

“It’s fantastic to see the diversity of ages and sizes of people,” he said. “Everybody’s cheering for each other out there. Everybody’s pulling for everyone else to finish. The finish line is so inspiring. It’s not the first ones that finish that gets everyone so excited; it’s the last ones that finish that inspire us all.”

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A pair of girlfriends from Jenison, Kat Gillespie, 24, and Maggie Thome, 25, are looking forward to participating in their first triathlon. Both plan to compete in Sprint Division, consisting of a .47-mile swim, 12-mile bike ride and 5K run. Both are equally determined to prove they’re prepared to meet the challenge.

“I just want to say I’ve done one and be part of an elite club,” said Thome, a social worker at Saint Mary’s Hospital. “The running and biking don’t scare me. I don’t like putting my face in the water, so I have to get over that. I need to swim more in open water, not a pool, but it’s been cold and I just got a wetsuit.”

Gillespie prodded her friend to tackle the intimidating task together.

“The personal challenge is what it’s all about,” said Gillespie, a social media specialist at Jemco Logics who has completed the Fifth Third River Bank Run. “The training motivates you to get up every day and work out. My parents think I’m nuts. They’ll ask me, ‘Why are you doing this?’ I’m doing it for the challenge.”

It’s ultimately why Geurink got involved in triathlons in the first place.

The former all-state swimmer from Grand Haven High School and Michigan Intercollegiate Athletic Association champion from Calvin College had been a competitive athlete most of her life. Once she finished college, she just couldn’t turn off her competitive passion. She desperately needed an outlet for it.

Friends recommended she enter a triathlon. She got hooked right from the start.

“I remember that first one,” Geurink said of the 2003 Reeds Lake Triathlon in East Grand Rapids. “I didn’t know what I was doing. I had to borrow a bike. It had this big leather seat that chafed me. I couldn’t get it off the rack. There were a lot of little things I learned that first time, but I had fun.

“And I just keep coming back for more.”

It helps that Geurink, part of the Tri4Him faith-based team from Dallas, has her husband’s support. He also is a triathlete. The couple trains together and takes its vacations around the triathlon schedule.

“If my husband wasn’t a supporter, it would be hard because you put so many hours into training. If you’re both into it, there’s just a level of understanding, which is important,” said Geurink, a speech language pathologist for Grand Haven Public Schools. “It really has sort of become our hobby.”

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Members of the same tribe

A triathlon is one of the most unique accomplishments on life’s bucket list.

It’s not for everyone, but, for those inspired to pursue it, there is no greater natural high, according to Huntington Bank marketing director Michael Lindley, 59, of Grand Rapids, a dedicated triathlete.

“Once you get the triathlon bug, it becomes more of a lifestyle than a sport,” Lindley said. “Year-round, you are more more in tune with your nutrition and fitness. It’s also a tremendous personal challenge. You push yourself to continue to improve your swimming, biking and running – always trying to set a new personal best in your next race. Then there is the ultimate challenge of the 140.6-mile ‘Ironman’ race.

“I’ll be doing my first (Ironman Triathlon) in North Carolina in October.”

Lindley is at the extreme end of the spectrum when it comes to pain-and-pleasure addiction. He’ll push himself to the far reaches of his mental and physical spirit by swimming 2.4 miles, then riding a bike 112 miles and, finally, going for a nice leisurely run at the full marathon distance of 26.2 miles.

What inspires him to keep pushing so hard?

It’s part challenge, part fitness and, perhaps most of all, fellowship. The minds and spirits of triathletes are so similar and tribe-like – much the same as marathoners – they take immense pleasure in talking about their pain while, at the same time, forming unflinching friendships that end up lasting a lifetime.

“Ultimately, a triathlon is just plain fun, even through all the training and pain,” Lindley insisted. “You never meet nicer, more supportive people than the morning of a triathlon. Everybody’s very supportive.”

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Todd Lawrence, 24, of Grand Rapids, is addicted to the triathlete lifestyle.

“If you can do it, why not? Some people understand. I’d say 75 percent of people don’t understand why I do what I do. I get up at 5 a.m. and train three hours every day from 5 to 8 a.m., before going to school and work,” said Lawrence, a Grand Rapids Community College student and part-time Olive Garden server. “To me, it beats going out to the bar at night. I eat, sleep and drink triathlons.

“My goal is to become an elite triathlete or a professional.”

Mark Mochel, 43, of Grand Rapids, will compete at the longest distance in the Grand Rapids Triathlon. He is building toward his ultimate goal of entering an Ironman Triathlon, which doubles the full distance.

“I get up at 4 a.m. to train every morning. It’s not for everybody, but it’s my thing,” said the husband and father of two children ages 7 and 11. “I’ve actually grown to love that early morning time. You’re out there all by yourself, it’s so peaceful and I get to watch the sunrise.

“My dream is to do a full Ironman someday,” the vice president of professional services for Compliance Systems, Inc., added. “That takes a whole other level of training. I will do one someday. I’m just working my way up to it.”

Not everyone understands his obsession. But that’s all right.

“For me, it’s a personal journey. In the midst of a busy work life and a busy family life, I just wanted to do this for myself. I originally started doing this to get into shape. It’s something for me that helps keep me grounded in other parts of my life,” Mochel said. “It’s a fraternity of sorts. The only way to be a part of it is to do it.”

It is an almost indescribable passion – or perhaps an addiction, obsession, compulsion – shared by triathletes.

“I can’t really explain it to other people,” Mochel said. “It is part pleasure and part pain. It’s only me that can swim the strokes, push the pedals and run the steps. There’s something extremely fulfilling in crossing the finish line.”

To learn more about the Grand Rapids Triathlon, visit the website: http://www.grandrapidstriathlon.com
LIKE them on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/GrandRapidsTriathlon

14th Annual Latino Youth Conference – Culture, Education & Dreams



PHOTOGRAPHER TERRY JOHNSTON

March 4, 3013, Grand Rapids MI — The 14th Annual Latino Youth Conference celebrating Latino culture, higher education, and the power of dreams was held from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Tuesday, March 5, 2013 at the GRCC Bob & Aleicia Woodrick Diversity Learning Center. The conference hosted nearly 780 8th-grade students from a variety of middle schools throughout Kent County.

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The event was organized by Grand Rapids Community College’s Bob & Aleicia Woodrick Diversity Learning Center with the assistance of a steering committee comprised of various businesses, non-profits and school districts. Over the past thirteen years, 13,000 students have attended this annual conference and $30,000 in scholarships has been awarded.

The event began with breakfast and a welcome from Master of Ceremonies, Quentin Florido. Welcome remarks were made by Dr. Steven Ender, President, Grand Rapids Community College; Dr. Mayda Bahamonde-Gunnell, Executive Director for Leadership Middle Schools/K-8/ELL, Grand Rapids Public Schools.

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City High 11th grader, Daniel Lopez was recognized for taking 1st place in the Art Contest for this year’s conference Poster design. Two students received $1000 scholarships to the college of their choice: Allison Arnold, Academic Achievement Award, City High SchoolMonzzerat Ayala, Academic Progress, Ottawa Hills High SchoolThe Latino Youth Committee has awarded over 35 scholarships since 2000.

The keynote speaker this year was Gabe Salazar, recognized as Americas #1 Latino Youth Speaker by Popular Hispanics Magazine. Gabe’s motivational message challenges teens to make positive choices and to dream big. Salazar’s energy, tenacity, and positive spirit led him to become a successful motivational speaker after overcoming extreme poverty and gang influence to become the first in his family to attend college.

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Following the keynote students participated in various workshops in education, youth leadership, career preparation and self-esteem.

“The true dedication of the committee, and the generous support and resources of KISD, GRCC and GRPS, along with so many community businesses have made this the premier conference for 8th grade students in the state of Michigan,” said Chris Arnold, director of the GRCC Bob & Aleicia Woodrick Diversity Learning Center. “The ability to make this a sustainable reality over the past thirteen years is an indication of the commitment to our youth by these institutions and the West Michigan community.”

The Latino Youth Conference is supported by Grand Rapids Community College, Grand Rapids Public Schools, Kent Intermediate School District, Grand Valley State University, Spectrum Health, City of Grand Rapids/Our Community’s Children, and more. 

Grand Rapids Community College, established in 1914, offers opportunities for over 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 additional locations throughout Kent and Ottawa counties.