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College Visits Show Students Opportunities

LeKae Scarlavai is finding it just a bit easier to decide what to do with the rest of her life.

That’s after the 17-year-old junior at Kent City High School took part in her school’s career and college day event. The event, intended to get students thinking seriously about college and careers, saw some 230 of the school’s 300 students visit one of three area colleges or universities.

“It opened my eyes that I want to do more than that one visit,” said LeKae, who chose to visit Ferris State University’s Big Rapids campus. LeKae, who’s interested in a career in child or victim advocacy, said the visits generated a positive energy among students afterward and relieved some of the usual angst about choosing careers and colleges.

“Our school allowed us to choose what we wanted to and then we were able to follow a student around the campus who told us what it was like,” she said. “Coming back, everyone had ideas about what they want to do. It was really cool because we weren’t babied. Nobody held our hands.”

For students like Lauren Longcore, it was their first time on a college campus. For others like Matt Wieda, it helped clarify expectations.

“I was expecting to find the stereotypical community college, but instead I found they basically have everything,” said Matt, a 15-year-old sophomore of his visit to Grand Rapids Community College. “I always thought GRCC was just a typical community college but I was amazed to see all the programs they offer.”

Jeff Wilson, Kent City High School’s director of student services, said the district in recent years has made a special effort to acquaint students with a variety of college and career options. The goal is to encourage students toward a college degree or at least some kind of formal certification.

To that end, freshman visited Grand Valley State University, sophomores Grand Rapids Community College, juniors Ferris State University and seniors are given a choice of the three institutions.

“We try to expose our high school students to training, degrees and career opportunities,” Wilson said. “A lot of kids don’t realize that getting some kind of post-secondary training doesn’t necessarily mean you have to get a Ph.D. There are a lot of different levels of training out there.”

High school seniors are required to arrange at least a half-day job shadowing experience, though that increases to two separate experiences next school year. The school also has among the highest percentage of its students attending the Kent Intermediate School District’s Kent Career Tech Center.

“We get to explore our passions before going to college and maybe wasting time and money,” said Isaiah Slater, a 17-year-old junior who’s interested in a career in culinary arts.

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