Alumni Giving Winter 2018
Creating new pathways
Gerard Kwiatkowski, ’08
Interviewed by Amy Bross, ’00
Gerard Kwiatkowski graduated in 2008 and is now teaching and impacting students in Houston, Texas. Kwiatkowski established a Pathway Scholarship, designed to help fill the gap between savings and financial aid for middle-income students. Nearly 30 percent of all Grand Valley students and their families qualify for Pathway Scholarships.
Talk about your current job; what’s a typical day like?
I am the mathematics instructional specialist at Galena Park High School in Houston, Texas. I lead the Math Department by coaching teachers and providing student interventions.
What do you miss most about West Michigan now that you are living in Texas?
I do miss the fall during the strong heat of the Houston summer and I also miss shopping at Meijer.
Why did you decide to study teaching at Grand Valley?
I decided I wanted to be a math teacher in middle school. When I was in high school, I had the opportunity to tutor and mentor two Spanish-speaking migrant siblings. I enjoyed Spanish, and thought it would be great if I became a math teacher with a working knowledge of the language to help educate students like those siblings.
What kinds of activities were you a part of as a student?
One of the first organizations I joined was the Latino Student Union, and I quickly felt welcome and took a leadership role. Second semester of my freshman year I was elected to the Student Senate Educational Affairs Committee. I was also a resident assistant, a tutor, a peer facilitator for college algebra, and, during my junior year, I studied at Tecnologico de Monterrey in Mexico.
What is your favorite Grand Valley memory?
As a member of Latino Student Union, I attended the National Conference on Race and Ethnicity in Higher Education and heard a keynote address by Jaime Escalante, who is the subject of the movie “Stand and Deliver.” I worked with the Latino Student Union, Student Senate, and the Mathematics Department to bring Mr. Escalante to Grand Valley for a guest lecture. It was a very inspiring event that shaped me to want to work in a low socioeconomic status school.
What was your biggest take away from your time at Grand Valley?
I learned how to be a successful teacher and how to be a positive leader. I was equipped to be successful on day one.
What inspired you to start your Pathway Scholarship?
While at Grand Valley I was presented with lots of valuable opportunities and wanted to be able to help other students have similar experiences. I saw the power of a good education and wanted to give back to Grand Valley to ensure that other students have access to all that the university has to offer with less stress from the costs of education.
What do you hope this scholarship will bring to students?
I hope that the scholarship helps alleviate some of the stress of paying for college. I also hope that the recipients are able to take advantage of the scholarship to focus their energy on the academic and extracurricular activities that Grand Valley provides.
Find Your Way to Give Back
We strive to provide access to our university for more students and to do so more affordably because, for students, college is the home of possibility. Our top priority is to provide access for every qualified student who wants to attend Grand Valley and keeping that education affordable. Nothing we do for Grand Valley will matter if students cannot afford to attend. Goal 1: Double the number of scholarship recipients.
Why do you think it’s important for people to give back to Grand Valley?
For me it was important to make this contribution to express how grateful I am for the education I received. I know that the cost of attending college is a barrier for many students and wanted to do my part to help lower that barrier.
How can Grand Valley continue to help other students succeed?
I hope that GVSU continues its student-centered focus and is able to continue to invest in providing students with real opportunities that will help them be successful leaders in their profession and communities.