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Vaccine clinics for GRCC, Kentwood communities focus on accessibility

GRCC, Kentwood — Leaders at Grand Rapids Community College believe vaccines are an effective tool in slowing the spread of COVID-19, so they are working to make the vaccine process accessible for everyone. 

GRCC hosted two vaccination clinics on their Grand Rapids and Lakeshore campuses this month and offered a $200 incentive to encourage students to get “an effective COVID-fighting tool.”

“We wanted to create an incentive that could apply to all students, whether they are taking classes on campus or virtually,” GRCC Communications Director Dave Murray said. “Adding $200 to their RaiderCards allows students to use the money at the bookstore for textbooks, electronics or anything else sold in the store, as well as parking, food service and printing.” 

Part-time student Kendra Grim got her first dose of the vaccine on campus during GRCC’s Student Involvement Day on Sept. 8. 

“The place where I work made getting vaccinated mandatory right around the time GRCC announced their vaccine clinic, so I decided it was time to get vaccinated,” Grim said. 

More than 2,000 students received their first dose of the vaccine and registered for the incentive by the beginning of the 2021 fall semester,  according to a GRCC press release. 

Campus leaders strongly encourage vaccination, but are taking other steps to keep students, employees and community members safe, Murray said. Those steps include mandating face coverings when indoors and limiting on-campus classes to 75% room capacity. They’re also planning a campus wellness campaign to share the importance of personal responsibility in taking care of individual health.

Vaccine Efforts Ongoing in Kentwood

Kentwood Public Schools is also taking steps to increase access and incentivize its community to get vaccinated. On August 27, the district hosted a vaccine clinic at the Administration Building, in partnership with Metro Health. 

“We had a decent turnout at our first vaccine clinic and Metro Health will return to administer the second dose to those who sign up,” Superintendent Kevin Polston said. “Some slots still were available, but it was still just great to have it in the district and a place people know and trust.” 

Kentwood Public Schools Superintendent Kevin Polston

In a letter from the superintendent on August 20, 42% of students ages 12-17 and 68% of community members ages 16+ in Kentwood were confirmed vaccinated. As of September 16, Polston said those rates increased to 44 and 69 percent.

The superintendent believes the best way to keep kids in school is to get them vaccinated. The COVID-19 vaccine is currently approved for those ages 12 and older. 

“We constantly want to find ways to best engage our community and increase our rates for those who are interested, while being mindful of federal mandates for our employees,” he said. “We’re working on access issues to have future vaccine clinics offered at the high school and providing better help for parents to give consent and access more information.” 

At East Kentwood High School’s last home football game of the season on October 15, free entry will be offered for students and community members who have received one or both doses of the vaccine, as “a way to celebrate those who have taken that step to keep themselves and their community safe,” Polston said.

He is also working with students to brainstorm ideas for other vaccination incentives and provide answers to their questions. 

“It’s best to have our students lead the development of these ideas, as they know what works,” Polston said. “We are also working with community partners to provide information and potentially have a Q&A for students looking for answers about the vaccine.”

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Alexis Stark
Alexis Stark
Alexis Stark is a reporter covering Byron Center, Caledonia, Godfrey-Lee, Kenowa Hills and Thornapple Kellogg. She grew up in metro Detroit and her journalism journey brought her west to Grand Rapids via Michigan State University where she covered features and campus news for The State News. She also co-authored three 100-question guides to increase understanding and awareness of various human identities, through the MSU School of Journalism. Following graduation, she worked as a beat reporter for The Ann Arbor News, covering stories on education, community, prison arts and poetry, before finding her calling in education reporting and landing at SNN. Alexis is also the author of a poetry chapbook, “Learning to Sleep in the Middle of the Bed.”


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