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Longshot dream to reality: GRCC trio accepted into prestigious Johns Hopkins program

Fewer than 10% who apply annually are accepted. The three friends are ecstatic for their new journey.
Credit: GRCC

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. — Every student has a dream school   whether it's a realistic dream or a longshot. For a trio at Grand Rapids Community College, their dream just became a reality, one they never thought possible.

Kyle Cottrell, Alen Dzafic and Emma Seeber are students at GRCC's Radiologic Technology program who have been accepted into Johns Hopkins Hospitals School of Medical Imaging.

The five-month, full-time program prepares students for an advanced certification in computed tomography. It includes classroom courses in everything from cross sectional anatomy to CT procedures. Not to mention protocols with associated clinical experiences in oncology, pediatric, critical care, trauma and more.

Fewer than 10% who apply annually are accepted.

As members of the class of 2022 at community college, the trio believed their education was "second to none," but knew the work they put in had prepared them for whatever their futures were to be.

Even with all their hard work, the students are still stuck with the thought, 'the Johns Hopkins?'

“It seemed pretty overwhelming,” said Cottrell. “We all applied last minute.”

“And it’s a long application,” Seeber added.

“Then we all got asked to do the interviews,” Dzafic concluded. “And so, we thought "Maybe?’”

All three acknowledged the interviews done over Zoom were intimidating. 

“Oh man,” Cottrell said, “Forty five minutes. Eight or so people from Johns Hopkins. So many questions. It was just one question after another.” 

“I’m pretty sure I repeated myself once or twice,” Dzafic added as his peers laughed.

Then came the emails.

All three received what many students are familiar with. It started with "congratulations."

They knew they couldn't have done it alone.

The trio said Heather Klare, an assistant professor and clinical coordinator in the Radiologic Technology program, other professors in the program, plus the GRCC courses they took and their many clinical experiences are the reason for their success.

Dzafic, Seeber and Cottrell recalled FaceTiming with Klare when they found out the results.

“She was so excited,” Dzafic said. “I think she might have dropped her phone, jumping up and down.”

Seeber beamed in remembrance.

“Heather is one of the most involved, fantastic people I have ever met,” she said. “She wants to see you do well, and makes sure that educationally and academically you are put in a position to succeed.” 

Klare said the outcome of acceptance into a fully-paid internship, including both clinical and didactic education together, is amazing.

“All of us in the program were thrilled with the students’ acceptance,” she voiced. “The honor of being accepted into this program speaks volumes about these students, their knowledge, their abilities as future radiographers, and their willingness to take a chance to apply for an opportunity that does not occur very often.” 

Klare said the Radiologic Technology program provides students learning opportunities, enabling them to attain certification as Registered Radiographer in Radiography. It also introduces them to other modalities, such as Magnetic Resonance Imaging and Computed Tomography as possible certifications in the future to empowers students to succeed in an ever-changing healthcare environment.

Good support is critical, the trio noted, because their program is so rigorous.

“There were so many times my brain just hurt,” Seeber, a 2017 Forest Hills Central grad said, laughing.

“There’s clinicals, homework and studying and sometimes it’s like it never ends,” added Cottrell, a 2016 graduate of Catholic Central.

“But there isn’t anything we took that was fluff,” said Dzafic, a 2014 graduate of Forest Hills Northern. “And, at the end, the payoff is real. You work hard and you graduate and then you have a job, a career, in front of you. It’s a good feeling.”

The three acknowledge the security of their job profession is the most alluring, but they do also like the vast amount of options that will be available. 

“My sister asked me once what you can do with an X-ray degree,” Seeber recalled.

“Anything you want,” Cottrell answered, grinning.

“It’s always changing, always something new,” Dzafic said.

“I know I’ll probably end up selling equipment someday,” Seeber said. “Once you’ve worked for a while with the various machines, it’s pretty easy to transition to sales. You’ve gained some credibility, so that’s something I’ll probably explore.” 

Though, before their journey begins on July 25, the friends do have some things to wrap up here in Grand Rapids. There's so many preparations to make as well, like finding somewhere to live in their new city, Baltimore.

“They now are also preparing to take the national American Registry of Radiologic Technologists board exam in July and juggling their other personal and professional obligations,” said Klare. “But our program has prepared these students to be adaptable.” 

The students agreed. They’re heading east, knowing incredible new opportunities await. With that, they're Raider-ready for whatever is on the horizon.

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