Success Stories

Busy student gives back to community

Holly Ferris

In the year since Holly Ferris has been at Grand Valley she has volunteered at the Special Olympics, worked on a Habitat for Humanity house, served food from a mobile food pantry, mentored area youth and other GVSU students.

Oh, and she is nearing the clinical phase of her master’s-level program in physician assistant studies.

As president of the PAS student organization, Ferris organizes monthly community service, social and fund-raising activities for the group. The organization is named for the first PAS medical director at Grand Valley: Richard Paul Clodfelter.

The majority of Ferris’ 28 classmates belong to the organization. “It is kind of unusual for graduate students to be so involved in community service, but nearly everyone participates in activities and meetings,” she said.

Wally Boeve, PAS faculty member and program director, said being member “helps students understand the importance of giving back to the community.”

Most recently, students served food to low-income Grand Rapids residents from a mobile food pantry operated by Abundant Life Ministries on Burton Street. Ferris said while these extra activities aren’t mandatory for class credit, they do aid students with their personal and professional development.

“By spending so much time together, we get to know each other’s personalities well. And that helps when someone is looking for a study group or has questions about a class,” said Ferris, who earned a bachelor’s degree in biology from the University of Findlay in Ohio.

Ferris and others in her class also serve as mentors to students new to the PAS program. She said the casual relationship helps orient new students to Grand Valley and what’s expected of faculty members.

She also mentors area youth at Baxter Community Center, a center that provides social services to low-income Grand Rapids residents. “I never thought I would be this involved,” Ferris said. “But it’s good. At the Baxter, when I’m there for mentoring, I feel re-energized by it.”

Apparently her volunteer work fits well with her professional goals. “I would like to work in underserved areas,” she said.

by Michele Coffill

This story was filed with the tags: Health, Helping Industry, Undergraduate Student