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Blazing Toward Success in College

A standout athlete at Deer River High School, Jamaal Baird was looking for a career that offered physical and mental challenge – and an edge of excitement. In his first year at Itasca Community College, he’s well on his way to reaching that goal. He also is the student featured in the Blandin Foundation's 2020-2021 Education Grants communications materials.


SOURCE: Blandin Foundation

I graduated from Deer River High School in 2018. I was a wrestler and played football. Throughout school, I would go to my football coach when I had questions about things. He was the one who first talked to me about college. He’d ask me what I wanted to do when I got done with high school…and I didn’t know at first. He started telling me about college, like going on campus visits, who to talk to about classes, how to register. I had no idea how the whole system worked, he talked to me a lot!


I first went to a college in the Cities, but as I took classes, I realized that what I wanted was a job where I could be outdoors. Also about that time, I saw the news about wildfires in California, and the smoke jumpers fighting those fires. I thought it would be exciting to be on the front lines of a fire. So I checked out what ICC offered, and their Wildland Firefighting program looked cool, so I thought: why not?

It’s been a great change for me. Some classes are a lot of hands-on, others are more regular learning. This past summer I worked at the North Dakota Forest Service out of Bismarck on their fire crews. It was great, and I loved the work.

I also worked in spring 2019 as a scholarship counselor at Deer River. I’d go around the lunchroom and talk to the seniors, ask them what they planned to do after high school – just like my coach asked me. Then I would give them information about scholarships that applied to their area of study.

I’d tell them, fill out as many scholarship applications as you can. If you don’t, your chance of getting one is zero. Just even filling out the form increases your chances!

Besides filling out scholarship forms, there’s three main rules I’ve used for being successful in college:

  • Show up to class on time.
  • Pay attention.
  • Do the work.

It sounds easy, but it’s not always.

Outside of classes, college is really fun. People at college are all in the same boat: they’re in a new place, away from family and friends. It’s important to get in with a good group, because it’s not all studying and classes and staying up late doing homework. I’d also tell kids thinking about college to join a sport – I wrestle for ICC. It’s the best way to get to know other people, to get in with a good group and make connections.


If you are attending ICC, you apply for a Blandin Foundation grant directly through ICC. Grant funds are still available for students attending Spring Semester 2020. Just download the Blandin Educational Grant Application from our Student Forms page. The grant application for students starting Fall 2020 will be available soon!

Football Team Makes Bowl Debut Dec. 7

Itasca, Chaparrals meet in fourth annual Red Grange Bowl

A newcomer and a postseason regular will clash in the fourth annual Red Grange Bowl.

Itasca Community College of Grand Rapids, Minn., will make its bowl game debut Saturday, Dec. 7 when the Vikings take on the host College of DuPage Chaparrals in the National Junior College Athletic Association (NJCAA) football game exclusively dedicated to non-scholarship programs.

Kickoff is 1 p.m. at Bjarne Ullsvik Stadium, located on COD’s Glen Ellyn campus, 425 Fawell Blvd.

The Vikings (8-3 overall) bring a sound offensive attack that features the quarterback duo of Brandon Hokkanen and Javon McInnis. The two have combined to throw for more than 2,500 yards and 28 TDs. Wide receiver Antwan Downs has hauled in 15 TDs and more than 1,000 yards through the air.

Sophomore running back Joshua Booker leads the NJCAA in rushing touchdowns with 19 after scoring three TDs in the Vikings’ 47-19 loss to Central Lakes in the Minnesota College Athletic Conference title game Sunday.

On the defensive side of the ball, the Vikings are first in the nation in fumbles recovered (25), and second in both interceptions (21) and sacks (55).

“We are extremely honored and excited to be part of the Red Grange Bowl game and all of the related events,’’ said third-year head coach Weldon Braxton. “This is a historical moment for our college as it is the first ever bowl appearance in Itasca CC history. Our kids have performed on a high level throughout the season. Team-wise and individually, we have performed among the best teams in the country if you look at the numbers.’’

After opening the season 1-3, the Chaparrals have won six of their last seven games and bring a 7-4 record into the postseason. They will make their 22nd all-time bowl appearance and the game marks their third time as host of the Red Grange Bowl.

The Chaps feature a spread-the-wealth offense with quarterback Brayden Miller. The Lexington, Ky., native has thrown for nearly 900 yards in nine games with 10 TDs. His personal-best effort came against Ellsworth that featured five TD passes and 296 yards on 16-of-25 attempts that included a 32-yard Hail Mary TD pass to Jayvon Blissett as time expired in a 39-35 victory on Sept. 28.

Four wide receivers — Lazerick Eatman, Jaden Lacy, Jordan Robertson and Luke Junkroski — have totaled at least 200 yards, while running back Isaiah Nwokenkwo is the leading rusher with 630 yards and six TDs. He averages 9.4 yards a carry.

The Chaps lead the NJCAA in rushing yards/attempt (7.4).

Linebacker Nathan Clark is the Chaps’ leading tackler with 41 solos and 44 assists. Defensive back Alaric Wooten is among the nation’s top aerial thieves with six interceptions. Lineman Christian Wills has five sacks.

“It’s a tremendous honor to be a part of postseason play at any level, and for us to play in the Red Grange Bowl is a great testament to the kids and the coaching staff,’’ Chaparrals head coach Matt Foster said. “We’re proud to represent College of DuPage in the postseason. Our team has stepped it up after our slow start. We had a young team at the beginning of the season and went through some growing pains. They’ve responded very well and I’m really proud of our team and our staff at what they have shown.’’

The game is played in honor of the late Red Grange, one of football's all-time greats and arguably the game's greatest all-time offensive player. The Wheaton native, nicknamed the "Galloping Ghost" and the "Wheaton Iceman", is a charter member of both the Pro (1963) and College (1951) Football Halls of Fame. His single-greatest feat remains almost fantasy — scoring four touchdowns in the opening 12 minutes vs. Michigan in the University of Illinois Memorial Stadium dedication game on Oct. 18, 1924. All told in that game, he was responsible for six TDs against the Wolverines and totaled 409 yards.

Grange went on to earn three All-American honors at Illinois and became the first major signing by Chicago Bears owner and head coach George Halas. Later that year, Halas took Grange and the Bears on a coast-to-coast tour in which the club played 16 games in nine weeks. That effort is thought to have saved the National Football League and fortified Grange as a household name in America, among the likes of such legends as Babe Ruth and Jack Dempsey.

The Dec. 7 game will feature the 2019 recipient of the Red Grange Award, given since the 1970s to a local athlete exemplary on the field and in the classroom. Additionally, all proceeds from the game will benefit Ronald McDonald House Charities of Chicagoland and Northwest Indiana, where College of DuPage football players regularly give their time each season to assist staff and clients.

Tickets to the game are $5. Tickets for the banquet, set for 6:30 p.m. Thursday, Dec. 5, at the DoubleTree Lisle, are $25. Tickets are for sale (cash only) at the point of entry at each event.

The Red Grange Bowl is made possible in part with support from the Illinois National Guard, Evviva Restaurant, DoubleTree Lisle, Packey Webb Ford, Ellyn’s Tap & Grill, Glen Ellyn Walmart Supercenter, Riddell, Sportsdecals, Field Turf and BSN Sports.

College of DuPage is a member of the National Junior College Athletic Association, National Junior College Athletic Association Region IVand North Central Community College Conference (N4C). The College’s Athletics programoffers nine men’s and eight women’s sports teams each year, including outdoor track and field, indoor track and field, cross country, football, volleyball, golf, basketball, tennis, baseball, softball and soccer. All home games are played on the Glen Ellyn campus, 425 Fawell Blvd., and are free and open to the public.

Bowl Notes: COD is 2-0 all-time in the Red Grange Bowl, winning the inaugural title game in 2016 against Central Lakes 25-22 OT and in 2017 versus Mesabi Range College, 35-0 … Itasca is the fourth MCAC school to make the trek to Glen Ellyn, joining Central Lakes, Mesabi Range and Northland Community & Technical College (2018) … Both teams enter the game unranked but each received votes in Monday’s top-20 poll.

Engineering Program Partners with County Probation

The Wood Works program is no stranger to Minnesota’s Itasca County—and it’s no Paul Bunyan lumberjack tale, either.

For more than 20 years, the Itasca County Probation Department has provided its customers with reasonably-priced heating materials—but the community benefit goes both ways.

It enlists the help of juvenile and adult offenders to ring up their community service hours, with local student engineers also contributing to the program’s success.

“The program serves as a swift consequence to get criminal offenders back on track,” says Jason Anderson, director of Itasca County Probation Department.

“But there’s of course the mutual benefit that their work contributes to a valuable business.”

Using the helping hands of former offenders creates efficiency for the program, while teaching valuable work skills. In 2018, over 180 participated in the Wood Works program—a combined total of over 4,000 community service hours.

Historically, wood has been sourced from a narrow radius of trees in Itasca County due to strict regulations around tree cutting. That is, until the invention of the kiln, eliminating the threat of transporting invasive beetle species and thus changing how far wood can travel across states.

“The rules change drastically for the better when the wood is put through a kiln,” says Anderson. “It can legally travel further and has an environmental benefit as well.”



But kilns aren’t cheap, which is where the student engineers of Itasca Community College come in.

But kilns aren’t cheap, which is where the student engineers of Itasca Community College come in.

Itasca County Probation Department formed a two-year partnership with engineering students to build a kiln that the county could give to a contractor as part of the students course work. Next year, junior engineers will calibrate the kiln and create a user manual while ensuring the burning machine is operational.

Enbridge's $2,000 donation supported this multifaceted community project and helped purchase the kiln for Itasca County Probation Department.

It’s tough to say who benefits more from this arrangement between engineer students, criminal offenders or wood purchasers. Though Anderson works in probation, he can be proud of the residual benefits felt by the community.

“Our purpose is to be a community work service site for offenders, and our goal is to always remain cost-neutral,” he says.

Once the Itasca kiln is in operation, the department will be able to sell its products to gas stations and other geographically widespread locations.

As for the offenders, Anderson says he calls Wood Works somewhat of a springboard program, which he credits with building skills and reversing habits. It’s not uncommon for the program’s crew foreman to be an employment reference for former participants.

“In many cases, this program is why our participants regain employment after serving time,” he says.

(TOP PHOTO: The Itasca County Probation Department's Wood Works program produces both home heating firewood and campfire bundles for the general public and regional resorts and campgrounds.)

SOURCE: Enbridge Blog

ICC Nursing Program Top of Its Class

By Emily Carlson Herald Review

It is difficult to find someone who hasn’t had their life affected by the work of a nurse. Whether it is personal care, or taking care of a loved one, nurses play an important role in the world every day. Some of the best training of these professionals is taking place right here in Grand Rapids at Itasca Community College (ICC). With a list of accolades, the nursing program at ICC is preparing the next generation of nurses to serve their patients with the best care.

Some of ICC’s most notable accomplishments of its nursing program include the following:

First nursing program in Minnesota to be granted NLN CNEA accreditation (October 2018). National League for Nursing for Commission for Nursing Education Accreditation - National accrediting body focusing on quality in the areas of curriculum, governance, faculty, outcomes and students.

May 2018 graduates achieved a 100% National Council Licensure Examination (NCLEX)

May 2019 graduates earned a 100% NCLEX pass rate (2 years in a row)

100% of graduates who wished to have a job as an LPN were working

31% of 2019 graduates are pursuing further education as part of the ladder approach in nursing.

The PN (practical nursing) graduates for the last couple years are local to the Grand Rapids and range area; as well as a population in International Falls area. Most stay in the area.

Strong clinical partnerships with Fairview Grand Itasca, Essentia Health Deer River and Grand Village Skilled Nursing Facility.

Lynette How, director of the practical nursing program at ICC, stated the program’s class size is limited to 40 students which allows instructors to know each student individually. The instructors focus on supporting all of their students by being available to students, giving exam analysis feedback and using a learning community model.

“Itasca embraces its learning communities by providing space and support to empower and encourage students around a shared goal,” How said. “The Nursing Learning Community provides collaborative support and team building opportunities for students at any level of the nursing career ladder.”

Nursing students are also held to progression standards that are consistent throughout the state, according to How. These include exam average policy, remediation requirements, and entrance and acceptance standards.

According to the Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development (DEED), from 2014 to 2024, Minn. is expected to see nursing employment grow by 11.8 %. This will result in around 6,700 new registered nurse job positions and 13,400 positions to be filled for retiring nurses or those leaving the job. Additionally, DEED reported registered nursing is the second-highest occupation in demand in Minn.

ICC’s nursing program began in 1964. This year there 36 students in practical nursing and nursing assistant programs. The program is set up with the flexibility for students to complete a level of nursing in just two semesters after finishing pre-program requirements, according to How. This flexibility gives students the chance to enter the workforce quickly and gives them time to see if they would like to take an additional year of schooling to receive their associate’s registered nursing degree.

In a report from the Regional Workforce Strategy in April 2019, practical nursing was classified as one of the occupational needs for the area. How remarked that she is honored to be a part of the ICC nursing program that contributes to the needs of the community.

“I am privileged to be part of the nursing program, our commitment to the region and our niche in the nursing career ladder,” How said. “I envision our continual quality improvement actions will position us to attract talented students to help fill the anticipated regional workforce shortage.”

For more information about ICC’s nursing program, visit the program webpage.

Source: Grand Rapids Herald Review

ICC Launches Full Tuition Presidential Scholarship

Itasca Community College (ICC) has announced a full-tuition Presidential Scholarship directed at high-achieving high school seniors. In addition, the college is waiving all application fees during the month of October as part of Minnesota’s College Knowledge Month.

The Itasca Community College Foundation is partnering with the college to provide this new exciting scholarship opportunity for high academic achieving students. It complements the college’s long track record of preparing students for successful transfer and graduation in challenging fields such as engineering, education, natural resources, psychology/human services, and healthcare, in addition to students completing their general education core courses via the Associate of Arts degree.

As Enrollment Director Bill Marshall explains, “High-achieving students sometimes feel the pressure from their peers, parents, and teachers to attend top universities and elite colleges; but those who choose to stay local and start at Itasca have overwhelmingly positive experiences, and look back at their decision as a smart one financially and personally. By offering full tuition scholarships to these dedicated and talented students, we hope to encourage them to consider Itasca as a smart choice amongst their college options.”

High school seniors with ACT composite scores of 29+, who are either in the top 10% of their class, or have a GPA of 3.80 or higher can apply for the Presidential Scholarship, which is renewable for a second year. Students who are not eligible for the Presidential Scholarship will have the opportunity to apply for approximately 140 ICC Foundation Scholarships next February, and students from the area with financial need can receive additional grant funds from the Blandin Foundation. ICC is consistently ranked among top colleges in Minnesota for percentage of students who receive gift aid.

ICC Provost Dr. Bart Johnson spoke to the broader value of the scholarship to the community, “A majority of community college graduates ultimately work in the local area. A major factor is the relationships and professional connections they build during their time at the college and in the community. This scholarship allows some of the more academically gifted students to experience that, with a scholarship opportunity that is typically more prevalent at a four-year university.”

Provost Johnson also stated, “October is the best month to apply to Itasca Community College as there is no application fee, all month long. In fact, most of the colleges and universities of the Minnesota State system are waiving application fees for College Knowledge Month.”

The application for admission and the Presidential Scholarship application are both available online at www.itascacc.edu. The first priority deadline for the Presidential Scholarship is Dec. 2. Questions can be directed to Itasca’s Director of Enrollment Services, Bill Marshall at 218-322-2340 or william.marshall@itascacc.edu.


Source: Grand Rapids Herald Review

Itasca Waives Application Fees Full Month of October

ST. PAUL, Minn., Sept. 30, 2019 – In recognition of October’s College Knowledge Month, students exploring their higher education options can submit an application for admission to any of the 30 colleges or seven universities of Minnesota State without paying an application fee.

“The colleges and universities of Minnesota State offer a transformational education, and are the most affordable and accessible options in the state,” said Devinder Malhotra, chancellor of Minnesota State. “I encourage everyone who is considering higher education to take advantage of College Knowledge Month to fully explore the many opportunities available in Minnesota and take the first steps towards a brighter future for themselves and for their families.”

Most Minnesota State colleges and universities are waiving application fees for the full month of October. Some, denoted in the list below with an asterisk, are waiving fees from Oct. 28 – Nov. 1 only. Colleges and universities that never charge a fee are denoted in the list below with two asterisks. Application fees for qualified low-income students and active duty military service members deployed overseas can always be waived at every Minnesota State college and university.

If prompted for a promo code, applicants should use “CKM2019.”

For more information, contact any of the Minnesota State colleges or universities, or visit www.minnstate.edu/collegeknowledge.

30 STATE COLLEGES:

  • Alexandria Technical and Community College
  • Anoka Technical College**
  • Anoka-Ramsey Community College**
  • Central Lakes College**
  • Century College*
  • Dakota County Technical College*
  • Fond du Lac Tribal and Community College
  • Hennepin Technical College
  • Hibbing Community College
  • Inver Hills Community College*
  • Itasca Community College
  • Lake Superior College
  • Mesabi Range College
  • Minneapolis College*
  • Minnesota State College Southeast
  • Minnesota State Community and Technical College
  • Minnesota West Community and Technical College
  • Normandale Community College*
  • North Hennepin Community College
  • Northland Community and Technical College**
  • Northwest Technical College
  • Pine Technical and Community College**
  • Rainy River Community College
  • Ridgewater College**
  • Riverland Community College**
  • Rochester Community and Technical College**
  • St. Cloud Technical and Community College
  • Saint Paul College**
  • South Central College**
  • Vermilion Community College

SEVEN STATE UNIVERSITIES:

  • Bemidji State University
  • Metropolitan State University**
  • Minnesota State University, Mankato
  • Minnesota State University Moorhead
  • Southwest Minnesota State University
  • St. Cloud State University
  • Winona State University

* Colleges and universities waiving fees for week of Oct. 28 to Nov. 1

** Colleges and universities that never charge an application fee

Itasca Ranked Nationally for Transfer Success

Itasca Community College has been ranked near the top nationally in community college student success. Itasca's students successfully complete degrees and transfer to 4-year institutions at a higher rate than the national average.

The website Student Loan Hero explains the rankings as follows:

There’s no debating the fact that community college tuition is significantly lower than that of public and private four-year universities.

The question is whether some two-year institutions are better than others at preparing their students to pursue bachelor’s or advanced degrees elsewhere.

To determine which of our pool of 513 community and junior college across the country do it best, we focused on two key factors: graduation rates and transfer rates. Schools that topped our list were those which awarded more diplomas — or saw more transfers to a four-year university — within a student’s first three years of study.

Minnesota community colleges outperform:

A key finding of the comparison: "Students in Minnesota who want to save money by starting off in community college are in luck: 7 of the 50 best community colleges on our list are in this state."

Attend Itasca:

Itasca Community College is now taking applications for Spring 2020, Summer 2020 and Fall 2020.

Apply to Itasca

Vikings Football Lives-up to Hype

Pre-season Eastern Division No. 1 Itasca Community College lived up to it's billing in Week One, pitching a shutout in a 26-0 win over Minnesota West CTC.

The Vikings rolled to 403 yards of total offense, including 226 yards in the air. They also registered eight sacks as a team. Minnesota West registered five sacks defensively; Blue Jay quarterbacks were 19-of-35 combined for 234 yards in the air.

Itasca Community College: Cameron Strapp had ten total tackles vs. MnWest, including four sacks for 19 yards in loss yardage. Eight of his tackles were solo; teammate Tavian Edwards also had 8 solo stops among his team high 12 tackles- Edwards also notched a fumble recovery and a sack. ICC quarterback Javon McInniswas 9-of-11 for 218 yards, two TD's and no INT's. He had a 98 yard completion to Antwan Davis; Jamari Scott hauled in three catches for 54 yards . Rikishi Buchananhad a 15 yard interception return.

Minnesota West CTC: Andrew Ortiz was 15-of-27 for 195 yards, with a longest completion of 63 yards. Montrez Hearon tallied six catches for 128 yards, averaging 21.3 yards a catch. He also had a pair of kickoff returns for 43 total yards. Defensively, Dashawn Harlan and Xavier James led the Blue Jays with 8 and 6 tackles respectively, each had a sack on the day. Brandon Vashti had two sacks for MnWest among his three stops, along with a fumble recovery.

ICC (1-0 Overall; 0-0 East) travels to M State-Fergus Falls (0-1 Overall; 0-0 West) in Week Two.

From mcacsports.org

Student Center Building Project Launches

Grand Rapids Herald Review

On Thursday, May 9, Itasca Community College will be hosting campus tours and a program unveiling plans for the Beyond the Classroom Capital Campaign Launch. The $4.9 million dollar McMahon Student Center project will make larger and more integrated spaces for the students of ICC to spend time outside of the classroom.

In 2016 ICC English professor Patrick Matthias assigned students to write proposals to campus administration with the prompt, “what would make your experience here at ICC better?” Multiple groups of students independent of one another drafted proposals stating a need for a student center: simply, a place to be.

“Students had a chance to revise [their proposals with feedback from the administration],” says Matthias in an online video for the campaign. “[The administration] said ‘this is something we’d like to do.’”

“Everyone at Itasca Community College is proud of our warm, welcoming environment, and this will be the space [that embodies that,]” said Susan Lynch, Foundation Director of the Itasca Community College Foundation. “The vision is a place for students to develop a sense of community. ... If students are not in a program like engineering or nursing they don’t necessarily get a chance to meet people.”

Currently ICC has no student center on campus and the project aims to reconstruct approximately 5,000 square feet of existing space in the library and media center as well as build 5,000 more square feet of new construction near Davies Hall. New amenities will include ping pong and pool tables, a gaming station, fire place, a coffee shop, a relocated bookstore, and an outdoor equipment rental area for students to rent such things as skis and canoes.

The proposed McMahon Student Center would be the first in several phases to expand and update the college campus.

“We need to raise 4.9 million dollars,” explained Lynch. “We’d like to start construction in December, and it’ll be about a 16-month process to get everything completed. We anticipate the student center will be finished early 2021, and as more funding becomes available Backes Hall would be remodeled to accommodate more office space.”

As of this article, $3.4 million in funds have been raised with contributions from The Blandin Foundation, The ICC Foundation, community members and former alumni, though Lynch notes that the project would not have taken off without the initial contribution of Dr. Jack and Mary Margaret McMahon, whom the proposed student center will be named after.

The financial goal was set after a feasibility study was done to assess the project needs. Renovating preexisting space allowed for the student center to meet projected costs, as well as serving the deeply important function of getting students together in a central location.

“[This plan] repurposes space instead of adding to the footprint; it uses space that is underutilized, and it’s in a location where students have to walk through to get to class!” said Lynch.

In this modern age of technology the common use of cellphones has the negative affect of less social interaction and more solitary behavior among students. A noticeable disconnect among the student body began to emerge over time and a diminishing feeling of community coupled with a lack of space to meet others was impacting students.

“Our scholarship essay question last year was about communicating face-to-face or via technology,” explained Lynch, “And I was saddened by the number of people who said that phones keep them isolated, or that they’ve stopped trying to interact or reach out to other people because every body is on their phones; not paying attention to one another.”

“Itasca County’s population is 2% people of color,” Lynch continued, “And on the college campus it is 21%. These are people of different cultures, and to have a place to come together and learn from one another would benefit us all.”

Lynch went on to say, “I believe this project will improve people’s experiences and it will absolutely serve as a recruitment tool for more students. It will grow our campus and our community.”

Beyond the Classroom Capital Campaign Launch will be held Thursday, May 9, 2019 in Davies Hall at Itasca Community College.
See Facebook Event

Source: Grand Rapids Herald Review

Variety Show a Success!

Grand Rapids Herald Review

Emily Carlson

Students and faculty of Itasca Community College (ICC) gathered together to enjoy each other’s talents at the second annual school variety show Wednesday, April 10 at the Chucker Auditorium. The diverse performances ranged from musical talents to comedy to dance numbers. The Building Bridges Variety Show highlighted the talents of many and brought to light some of the work being done on campus to make connections and increase inclusion.

Sociology teacher Suzanne Starr joined with Student Life Coordinator Kayley Schoonmaker to bring the Building Bridges Variety Show to life. The idea to put on a variety show came to Starr last year as she entered her first year of teaching at ICC.

“I noticed the stage seemed to be a bit ‘dusty,’ and I had a few students who had musical and spoken word gifts who seemed interested in sharing them,” Starr said. “I've spent a lot of time on stage throughout my life, and know how much fun it is, and figured this was something I could help bring to life at ICC.”

The theme of “Building Bridges” was chosen in support of ICC’s dedication to diversity, equity and inclusion.

“This isn't a talent contest, there are no winners,” Starr said. “We're all winners, and this is about sharing gifts and finding wings.”

Student Avery Beyer chose to participate in the show because she liked the theme of building bridges. Beyer sang the song “Riptide” by Vance Joy while playing the ukulele to start the variety show.

“I really like that song. It’s just happy and I thought it might be a good way to start the show off,” Beyer said.

Ariana Aitken, a student at ICC, participated in last year’s variety show and expressed her appreciation for Starr. Aitken performed the song “Read All About” and played the piano. Speaking to Aitken after the show, she said she also enjoyed seeing the different talents of her peers and teachers.

“Yesterday was just so beautiful,” Aitken said. “It was crazy to see everyone in each of their own elements.”

Reflecting the show’s theme, Starr presented a Pan-African flag quilt that was created in February in honor of Black History Month. As the program coordinator for the Associate of Arts (AA) Learning Community on campus, Starr works to bring “enrichment opportunities” to students pursuing their AA degree.

“I am particularly interested in just looking at the human condition and how we educate about that,” Starr said.

The quilt was sewn together with the help of Cindy Hilligoff. The flag features three horizontal stripes in the colors red, black and green. According to the Universal Negro Improvement Association and African Communities League (UNIA), which formally adopted the flag in 1920, the colors of the flag each have their own significance. Red represents “the blood that unites all people of Black African ancestry, and shed for liberation.” Black symbolizes “black people whose existence as a nation though not a nation-state, is affirmed by the existences of the flag.” Finally, green was chosen to portray “the abundant natural wealth of Africa.”

Starr explained the flag “as a symbol and as an acknowledgment to empower and celebrate people with African ancestry.”

Additionally, the quilted flag featured 135 signatures from students on campus that Starr gathered from sitting in the campus cafeteria with the quilt.

“It was a playful way to educate,” Starr said. “It was a chance to educate students and rally students around this idea of this issue of race and racism and to think of it and the reality of people who have lived with oppression and what is something maybe we can do.”

Working around the schedules of busy students and faculty is not an easy task. Starr said that, although it was impossible to plan a full rehearsal with everyone there, everything came together.

“I just encourage people to have fun, and remember, it doesn't have to be perfect. We are sharing love, really, and celebrating the arts and creating some magic together on the stage. The audience will love whatever we bring them,” Starr said. “And of course, life happens, and people cancel. Things like that, you just have to remember why you're doing it and assume it will all fall into place.”

Despite any challenges, Starr was pleased with how the show went and the audience’s response.

“I thought it went just great,” Starr said. “People were laughing and enjoying it. There has been really good feedback.”

Original article by Emily Carlson, Grand Rapids Herald Review

Students holding quilt

Four professors performing skit