Laker named Student of the Year

The Grand Rapids Area Higher Education Network (GRAHEN) presented Grand Valley State University graduate student Everetta Cole the Student of the Year award. Cole was recognized for this achievement at Grand Rapids Community College on April 15.

Cole said her interest in the social work field came during her time as an undergraduate student at Hope College. After graduating in 2012, she decided to continue her education at GVSU, where she is currently pursuing a master’s degree in social work.

“I am excited and honored to be the student chosen at GVSU from a crop of extraordinarily talented students,” Cole said. “I have been fortunate to be instructed by the best educators and have worked with great students in group projects. The social work program at GVSU has helped shaped and prepared me for my career as social worker.”

There are many aspects about the program that she enjoys.

“I like the fact that it is a helping profession, but most of all, it is a profession that advocates for the marginalized and downtrodden in society,” Cole said. “Social work offers me the opportunity to make something out of little. This potential to transform and develop is not only creative, but it gestures to my belief in the goodness of man and the power of the human spirit to transcend great odds.”

Although social work has tested her patience, Cole said it has been worth it to help others.

“The most challenging aspect of social work is going through the process of advocacy and having to wait patiently for policy makers to address the issues that real people encounter on a daily basis,” she said. “The most rewarding is working with clients and seeing their lives change in ways that are meaningful to them.”

When she is not attending her classes, Cole is volunteering in the community. One place she has frequented is the Center for Women in Holland, Mich., where she worked with immigrant women who are impacted by domestic abuse. Cole was also a member of the board of trustees, serving for two years.

After graduating from GVSU, Cole said she hopes to continue this work.

“My goal is to establish an organization that helps immigrant women and children to first overcome abuse and domestic violence and second, equip them with the knowledge and skills to acculturate and integrate into a new society,” Cole said. “From this organization, I hope to educate and create the awareness of cultural differences and how it impacts services to immigrant women and children.”

Cray Mulder, a social work professor, first met Cole in one of her winter 2014 classes. Prior to that, Cole had won a scholarship sponsored by her late father, Rodney Mulder.

Mulder explained that there are five awards for undergraduates and five for graduates in the program. Faculty, students and field instructors can nominate students for the annual award. As the chair of the social work awards committee, Mulder reviewed the applications for the GRAHEN award and was one of the five full-time faculty who chose Cole.

“Everetta was nominated by several of her peers for the adult learner award based on her diverse life experiences and achievements,” Mulder said. “The committee recognized her worthwhile contributions and unanimously voted to nominate Everetta for this university award.”

GRAHEN is a nonprofit organization made up of 11 local institutions of higher education, including GVSU, Davenport University, Ferris State University and Western Michigan University. These schools provide lifelong opportunities for adult learners and award an outstanding student every year.

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