Quick! How many places can you find high school students engaged in learning? While you might be able to list some of the 60+ high schools in our region, would you have said the new Downtown Market?
The Downtown Market is just the newest place for high school juniors and seniors to learn and begin their careers. Kent ISD Superintendent Kevin A. Konarska announced today that the Kent Career Tech Center will bring two top programs (Culinary/ Hospitality and Health Sciences Early College Academy) into the Market, beginning next fall at the start of the school year. Kent ISD is leasing two classrooms and use of the expansive kitchen for the Culinary students, and four classrooms plus two lab spaces for those in Health.
“We are so excited to be a part of this wonderful new facility and the economic and cultural transformation taking place downtown,” Konarska said. “Our Board believes the opportunities this will open up for students will just be tremendous. Our Tech Center programs are some of the best in the state,” he explained, “and locating satellites in the Downtown Market will help them connect even more deeply with local business and college partners.”
“We designed the Downtown Market to be a place where people of all ages can explore and collaborate while enriching our urban culture,” said Mimi Fritz, president and CEO of the Downtown Market. “We look forward to Kent ISD’s culinary and health students bringing their curiosity with them to experiment, tinker, collaborate and try new things.”
John Kraus, principal for the Tech Center (thetechcenter.org), said both students and teachers are eagerly anticipating the advantages of the new facility. “Locating part of our program in an environment ripe for partnerships with local business will help us take already-outstanding offerings to a new level. Coupled with our higher ed relationships with institutions like FSU and GRCC, we can truly prepare students to be even more college AND career ready. Health care and hospitality are such important industries here — they generate billions of dollars annually in West Michigan. Being a part of the Downtown Market is an unmatched opportunity for our students and we couldn’t be more excited to be part of this venture.” Kraus said.
The award-winning Culinary Program will expand into the Market, beginning its first satellite offering. This Tech Center program is nationally certified by the American Culinary Association, earned the first Green Restaurant certification in Michigan and was just honored by the Michigan Department of Education with an Excellence in Practice Award. With its high energy staff, bold projects, deep community connections and college partnerships, this popular program has a waiting list. Students will be able to grow in their knowledge of “farm-to-table” and overall sustainability from the downtown area restaurants and other companies.
The highly successful Health Sciences Early College Academy will consolidate several classrooms from other satellite locations to the Market. Proximity to the facilities and programs in the Medical Mile and local colleges will provide a big benefit to students. At the Market location, students in this program will be enrolled in Ferris State University, and complete a demanding series of high school and college courses. Students graduate from high school with a college transcript and a clear path of study to pursue, from medical or nursing school, to degrees in medical research and a variety of therapies and technologies.
Kraus explained other Tech Center programs will also get involved with the Market as it develops. For example, this spring, the Sustainable Agriscience Program will sell plants and flowers from its greenhouse to the public at the Market.