Heartwell's education efforts recognized, supported by GVSU

By Taylor Fussman | 1/10/16 11:34pm

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GVL / Archive Former Grand Rapids Mayor George Heartwell speaking at the at Wheelhouse Talks series on Jan. 8, 2014. The event was held at the Urban Institute for Contemporary Arts.


Grand Valley State University President Thomas Haas bid former Grand Rapids Mayor George Heartwell farewell and thanked him for his commitment to education during last month's City Connection on GRTV.

Heartwell has appeared on the show monthly throughout his term as mayor and returned once more on Dec. 14 for his final episode during the last month of his third term as mayor.

Joining Heartwell for part of the farewell episode was mayor-elect Rosalynn Bliss, who is now serving as mayor in the new year.

Heartwell's steadfast effort to improve Grand Rapids did not go unnoticed, as Bliss discussed her plans to continue the work the former mayor has done, particularly in environmental sustainability. The mayor-elect left with parting words of praise and advice from Heartwell.

Various leaders of education in West Michigan also appeared as guests on the show through recorded video messages. Those speakers included Dave L. Eisler, president of Ferris State University, Haas and Steven Ender, president of Grand Rapids Community College.

Each of the presidents gave their thanks to Heartwell for the effort he put toward improving education during his terms in office.

Ender pointed to Heartwell as someone who clearly loves his city, the people in it and cares about furthering those people's quality of life.

Haas added that Heartwell was able to bring people and institutions together throughout his time in office.

"The result is Grand Rapids and surrounding communities holding onto its talent and creating the best environment to work, live, learn and play," Haas said.

One of Heartwell's major efforts in education was the To College, Through College program, which aims to increase postsecondary access for students, particularly first-generation college students and people of color. The program specifically focused on increasing degree attainment of 2013 and 2014 graduates from Grand Rapids Public Schools (GRPS).

Along with the public schools, various colleges in the area, including GVSU, are involved. President Haas said that GVSU will take part in the initiative by giving support and resources to current GVSU students that graduated from GRPS or those students who came to GVSU from GRCC after graduating from GRPS.

The To College, Through College program offers resources of all breadth, from counselor guides placed in Grand Rapids Public Libraries for general information, to a program that links young students with alumni.

The program links each college-bound GRPS graduate to an alumni of GRPS who is attending the same college. This mentor will be able to provide assistance and encouragement to the incoming student they are linked to.

The To College, Through College program is being facilitated by Our Community's Children, a public/private partnership between the City of Grand Rapids, GRPS and community partners. It is supported by the Lumina Foundation through a grant with the city.

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