Street Talk: College has new plans for your weekend


Starting next semester, Grand Rapids Community College is offering Saturday classes to make college more accessible, especially for learners trying to work around jobs and home responsibilities.

GRCC will offer Saturday classes in algebra, English and sociology in Grand Rapids, with some sections also available at the Lakeshore Campus.

GRCC leaders said enrollment for the fall 2019 semester dipped slightly, but they know there are people in Kent and Ottawa counties who can take advantage of Saturday classes to advance in their jobs or gain skills for new careers in evolving fields.

GRCC’s fall enrollment for credit-seeking students is 13,326, down 3.6% from fall 2018, according to draft enrollment data. There have been increases in noncredit career programs with the college serving about 25,812 students overall.

“The expanded offerings on Saturdays are great opportunities for current students, new students or people who were working toward a degree and were interrupted,” GRCC Provost Brian Knetl said. “The traditional schedule often is not an option for students who are working around jobs and family obligations. Many of them can benefit from these expanded offerings.”

The Saturday classes complement current offerings that provide flexibility to students, including online classes and hybrid classes that allow students to work online in addition to classroom sessions. The college also is exploring an expansion of the current seven-week class schedule in some areas.

The changes come as state leaders call for increasing the number of Michiganders with college degrees or certificates and adding programs to help reduce costs of attending for residents age 25 and older.

There were about 280,000 adults in Kent and Ottawa counties who have not attended college or have not completed a degree or certificate, according to 2017 statistics from the federal government’s American Community Survey.

Living the dream

How do you like them apples?

More than 135 SpartanNash stores are now carrying American Dream apples — and with each bag, SpartanNash is supporting the nonprofit organization Operation Homefront.

As a part of its Veterans Day celebrations — and year-round commitment to the nation’s military heroes — the Byron Center-based grocery chain and distributor signed a new partnership with CMI Orchards in which participating SpartanNash retail stores are carrying apple varieties included in CMI’s American Dream program, and a portion of the proceeds from the apple sales will support service members, veterans and their families via Operation Homefront.

Family Fare, D&W Fresh Market, VG’s Grocery, Dan’s Supermarket, Family Fresh Market and other SpartanNash corporate-owned stores in eight states are participating by selling the brands Ambrosia Gold, Kiku, Kanzi, Jazz and Envy apples.

SpartanNash also will introduce the American Dream program — which so far has donated more than $40,000 to veterans’ organizations — to its independent retail customers this fall.

“Customers have a growing appetite for these new and popular apple varieties, and we can’t wait for our store guests to try them,” said Tom Swanson, senior vice president and general manager, SpartanNash corporate retail. “This is the type of partnership that means so much to us at SpartanNash because it allows us to support our troops and veterans while delivering what our store guests want when they want it.”

SpartanNash also planned to honor service members and veterans by offering an 11% Veterans Day discount on all eligible products on Nov. 10 and 11.

“SpartanNash is committed to serving our military heroes and their families, both at home and abroad, and this Veterans Day — and every day of the year — this is just one small way we can say ‘thank you for your service,’” said Meredith Gremel, vice president of corporate affairs and communications. “Our military heroes make the American Dream possible — and we are proud to support them with this partnership.”

For 17 years, Operation Homefront has provided financial assistance, transitional and permanent housing and family support services to prevent short-term needs from turning into chronic, long-term struggles. About 92% of Operation Homefront expenditures go directly to programs that support tens of thousands of military families each year.

SpartanNash also has partnered with Operation Homefront in the past, granting more than $205,000 to the organization through SpartanNash Foundation fundraising campaigns. In 2018, the SpartanNash Foundation also supported more than 40,000 military families, granting more than $400,000 to nonprofit partners such as Operation Homefront, Fisher House Foundation, Vetshouse and Warriors at Ease.

Star attraction

Cascade Township again has been recognized as a “five-star community” in the annual eCities study for its successes and efforts in contributing to Michigan’s entrepreneurial growth and economic development.

Conducted by researchers at iLabs, the University of Michigan-Dearborn’s Center for Innovation and Research, the eCities study analyzed publicly available data from 277 communities from 54 counties in Michigan. Researchers focused on the five-year changes in property values, community assets and tax rates, which can demonstrate the growth, investments and cost of doing business within the community.

“We are proud to be recognized as a five-star community for the sixth year in a row,” Cascade Township Manager Ben Swayze said. “We strive to create a strong economic impact that not only benefits businesses and entrepreneurs in our community but Michigan as a whole.”

According to the study, Cascade was ranked as a five-star community for the following reasons:

  • The opportunities provided to entrepreneurs and small businesses
  • The broad and diverse mix of business types, from retail, restaurants and hotels to industrial, auto dealers and office parks
  • A focus on improving talent attraction and retention by partnering with The Rapid, the local public transit system in Grand Rapids, to add routes to the township and attract employees from outside of the community
  • The township’s accessibility and attraction created by the Gerald R. Ford International Airport

“While accounting for only about 15% of the cities and townships in Michigan, the 277 communities analyzed are home to 70% of the population and 85% of the state’s commercial property,” said Tim Davis, UM-Dearborn College of Business’ assistant dean for student engagement and success. “By analyzing these high-performing communities, our goal is to showcase what cities and townships are doing to spur growth and how we can continue to support their efforts in developing business and encouraging entrepreneurs.”

Cascade Township was recognized for its economic efforts during the Executive Speaker Series panel discussion at UM-Dearborn. This series focused on changes in the business climate and future trends.

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