Be Relevant, Be Responsive: Elevating Our Community Together. A weeklong celebration of the investiture of the college's 10th president, Bill Pink, Ph.D.

Alumni to share their stories in September 26 panel

Tatum Kovach
Tatum Kovach

As part of a week of activities leading up to his September 29 investiture, President Bill Pink will welcome GRCC alumni who are participating in a panel discussion.

“Today and Tomorrow: The GRCC Alumni Journey — This Is How We Did It” is open to students and runs 11:15 a.m. to 1:15 p.m. September 26 in room 103 of Sneden Hall.

Tatum Kovach, director of external affairs for Student Alliance, will moderate the discussion.

Panel members are:

Tony Helmholdt, automotive technician for Tesla Motors.

Tony Helmholdt works on an electric car engine.
Tony Helmholdt

Helmholdt, a Forest Hills Central High School graduate, received an associate degree in automotive technology in 2008 while working part-time as an auto technician at Fox Ford Mazda. In 2009, he took a job rebuilding transmissions at O’Neill’s Transmission Service.

When he wasn’t working on motors on the job, he spent his time … working on motors. In 2007, he converted the family lawnmower to operate on compressed hydrogen gas. In 2008, he converted a motorcycle to operate on full battery electric power. He’s been building — and racing — electric motorcycles for a decade.

In 2010, he joined electric car maker Tesla Motors, working out of Chicago and San Jose, Calif., servicing its fleet of vehicles nationwide.

“Skills I learned at GRCC — combined with some passion — led to my success story, as it opened the eyes of prospective Tesla recruiters,” he said. “GRCC’s fantastic facilities, staff, and training have made a significant difference in my life, and I hope it continues to do so for others who enjoy the program as much as I did.”

Hilda Martinez-Gutierrez
Hilda Martinez-Gutierrez

Hilda Martinez-Gutierrez, coordinator of GRCC’s suicide prevention program.

After graduating from GRCC, Martinez-Gutierrez went on to earn a bachelor’s degree in family studies and a master’s degree in counselor education-family counseling, both from Western Michigan University.

Martinez-Gutierrez, who served an internship with GRCC’s TRIO program, is the coordinator of the college’s campus suicide prevention program. The program, funded by a three-year grant from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, includes activities on both the Main and Lakeshore campuses, training, and crisis response planning.

“GRCC means opportunity to access continuing education at a higher level —  exposure to discover the difference within people around me and the world,” she said. “It has provided the space for me to experience my journey, my story which has enhanced my love for working in higher education, most specifically with the college student population.”

Denavvia Mojét
Denavvia Mojét

Denavvia Mojét, political consultant and community organizer.

Mojét pursues her passion for educating and empowering vulnerable populations, bolstering civic engagement, and striving for workforce diversity.

Her first efforts were in Benton Harbor, where she observed first-hand the effects of underfunded municipalities, education inequality and the overreaching Emergency Management laws. She received the Key to the City of Benton Harbor for her efforts.

Upon moving to Grand Rapids, Mojét was named to the inaugural college cohort of Mayor George Heartwell’s Leadership, Employment, Achievement and Direction Initiative and began work in Downtown Grand Rapids Inc.‘s planning department. She has served on the Grand Rapids Housing Strategies Collaborative’s land use and zoning and workforce and economic development teams, the Creston Neighborhood Association‘s board, Kent County Young Leaders Against Violence, the Model United Nations Grand Rapids Chapter, and Well House.

She managed the successful 2016 state House campaign for the 75th District. She hosts the weekly radio segment, “Political Pulse” on Grand Rapids’ 97.3. She recently co-founded Equity PAC, a political action committee that advocates for low-income populations and works to eliminate socioeconomic disparities.

“GRCC gave me groundbreaking experiences, life-changing lessons and a dynamic network that empowered me to succeed in my career and impact my community,” she said. “I’m a better mother, teacher, student and professional because of my time at GRCC and I am proud to be an alumna.”

Sammy Puebles
Sammy Puebles

Sammy A. Publes, performer and founder of the Mixed Roots Collective and One World Diversity LLC.

Publes emigrated from Cuba with his family as a political refugee in 1988. He received an Associate in Liberal Arts from GRCC and a Bachelor of Arts, with a concentration in theater and Spanish, from Western Michigan University.

“I was an immigrant child who didn’t know the first thing about college and how to navigate those waters,” he said. “Thanks to my professors and lifelong mentors like Fred Sebulske, Tom Kaechele and Michelle Urbane from the Theater Department, I was able to prepare myself, discover my passion and eventually pursue my dream of being an actor.”

While living in Chicago, he performed with the Steppenwolf Theater Company, Healthworks Theater, Teatro Vista, Apple Tree Theater, Second City and Lookingglass Theater. He has appeared in the films “Batman Vs. Superman” and “Stone” and on the TV shows “Chicago Fire,” Chicago PD,” “Shameless” and “Empire.”

He has started his own theater company, Mixed Roots Collective, to address inequality of representation in local theater and film. Along with Urbane and Todd Lewis, he has formed One World Diversity in an attempt to address issues of disparity and inclusion and equality in society.

 

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