GRCC’s Salute to Women honors four women for personal and professional excellence. The entire campus community is invited to the awards presentation from 1:30-3 p.m. March 28 in the ATC banquet rooms.
Being honored are:
Nursing professor Laura B. Moody.
Moody supports young women in their academic career and wants to see more nurses of color. An active educator and advocate outside the classroom, she’s an advisor for GRCC’s Practical Nursing Club and also a member of many local and national groups, including the National Black Nursing Association and National League of Nursing.
She earned her bachelor’s degree in nursing from the University of Michigan and her master’s in nursing from Grand Valley State University with a focus in women’s health. She is a full-time professor at GRCC and an adjunct professor at GVSU.
Moody leads with clarity and authority on health issues impacting local communities, such as how ailments can affect quality of life.
“Community members need to understand the different resources that are available and how to tap into them,” she said.
Christina Arnold, founding director of the Bob and Aleicia Woodrick Institute for Equity and Inclusion.
Arnold retired as the Woodrick Center’s director last fall, but she still serves as a consultant. She also serves on the Student Advancement Foundation Board and on the advisory councils for Kent County, Varnum and Blue Cross/Blue Shield.
Her dedication to uplifting her community goes back decades. She grew up in a single-parent, Mexican-American household in Grand Rapids. Her awareness of mistreatment of minorities while still in school helped develop her passion for social justice.
She became a secretary for GRCC after high school, assisting in the gradual growth of resources and programs to raise awareness of and celebrate diversity. Through this work, and then as the alumni and diversity coordinator, she was a key player in initiatives of former GRCC presidents Calkins and Olivarez to support minority students and diversity awareness programs on campus and in the community.
It was this activism that led to the creation of the college’s Center for Diversity Learning in 2003, with Arnold named the associate director.
“I hope to continue to encourage people to get out of their comfort zones, seek opportunities to listen and learn from others,” she said.
GRCC student Erendida Erazo-Alas.
Erazo-Alas came to the United States from El Salvador in 2007 to start a new life.
She worked diligently to learn English in GRCC’s Adult Education ESL program, and then set her sights on a GED diploma. College was not part of her plans until she was inspired by her GED math teacher’s own story of attending as a nontraditional student.
Erendida started classes at GRCC in 2014. Despite her apprehension about her English skills, she took a position as a student ambassador for orientation in the Enrollment Center. She also has served as a peer mentor for TRIO/Student Support Services, a facilitator for the Latino Youth Conference, and as a volunteer for many campus and community efforts.
She has been recognized on the President’s and Dean’s Lists several semesters and has received multiple scholarships. She will graduate from GRCC this year with an associate degree, and plans to earn a master’s degree in human resources.
“When I feel like I’m struggling, I try to push a little more — push harder,” Erazo-Alas. “If I set an objective, I’ll work hard to get it.”
Alumna Nkechy Ekere Ezeh, associate professor at Aquinas College and founder and CEO of the Early Learning Neighborhood Collaborative.
Ekere Ezeh, a newcomer to Grand Rapids in 1986, liked to take long walks. When she found herself in the GRCC library, a brochure for the Child Development program caught her eye. As a mother-to-be, she was looking for information and decided to take a class. She ended up finishing a child Development degree at GRCC, which has led to a highly regarded career in the field.
Ekere Ezeh completed her bachelor’s and master’s degrees at Grand Valley State University and then went on to earn her doctorate in child and youth studies from Nova Southeastern University. She’s now an associate professor of education at Aquinas and serves as director of the Early Childhood Endorsement Program. She is the founder of the Early Learning Neighborhood Collaborative, an organization that works to increase access to early education resources for vulnerable children.
“GRCC started it for me, opened the door for me, made my life now possible,” she said.