‘Live Your Best Life’ Project = The Best Semester Ever

by jennifer


By Jennifer Ackerman-Haywood

I’ve been absent from this space for a couple weeks and I need to explain why.

At the end of last year I decided to partner with Hospice of Michigan to create a service learning project for my journalism students to work on this semester at Grand Rapids Community College. I was inspired by a kindred spirit I profiled in the fall and looking for a way to teach my students how to write about tough subjects in a controlled environment.

At the time I cooked up this plan I knew it would be challenging and time consuming, but I didn’t dwell on these facts. I just moved ahead because I knew that I’d talk myself out of the plan if I allowed myself to get overwhelmed by everything that needed to happen to make it work.


Photo by Jennifer Ackerman-Haywood

There were a lot of things that could have gone wrong, but this project was obviously meant to be. Inspiring people generously gave us their time and shared their stories. A talented mix of students stepped up and did beautiful work and I’m very proud of the results.


Collegiate reporter, Kayla Tucker, interviews hospice patient, Robert Booth. Photo by Jennifer Ackerman-Haywood


As the academic year winds down, I’m humbled by the experience I had these last few months working with young reporters and photographers on a very special project in partnership with Hospice of Michigan. This semester, I went out in the field with my most experienced students and helped them document the lives of people living life to the fullest while in hospice care. This project was challenging and sad at times and beautiful throughout. This experience was unlike any other I’ve had in an academic setting and so very meaningful. The video below tells the story of what we set out to do.

You can check out the out the complete project here and watch my behind-the-scene video at this link.

Here are a few Collegiate stories I recommend to start you off:

Photo by Jonathan D. Lopez, Collegiate Photo editor

Don’t take life for granted By Sean P. Mulhall – Collegiate Editor-in-Chief  

Jeorge Shelden wakes up every day to see his children off to school and waits until they get home. The weekends are spent together, as a family, drawing and watching television, but Jeorge is not your typical family man.





Photo by John Rothwell

A day in the life of a hospice nurse

By Sean P. Mulhall – Editor-in-Chief

There is no such thing as a typical day in the life of a hospice nurse. And Thursday, April 2 was no exception for Holly McKay.




Photo by Jonathan Lopez

Learning to love through loss

By Suzanne Stocking

So often I think people believe the main goal in life is to either avoid or overcome problems and seek out happiness in whatever form it takes.



We entered this project in the Armen Awards competition at Grand Rapids Community College and today we find out how we did. Win or lose, I feel like we already won because this project touched our hearts and changed us in the process. I’m so grateful for opportunities to collaborate on projects like this. For me, this really has felt like the best semester ever. : )

UPDATE: We won first place! Congrats to The Collegiate’s special projects team!


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