Gov. Praises Tech Center Programs, Encourages Students

To make a device to help a girl with cerebral palsy open her locker was cool enough. To be able to demonstrate it to Gov. Rick Snyder? “Amazing,” said Trevor Corrigan.

“It was just an unthinkable opportunity,” said Trevor, an engineering student at the Kent Career Tech Center, after taking part in Snyder’s tour on Monday. The Northview High School senior showed the governor how his eight-member team designed and 3-D-printed a plastic mechanism that will make it easier for sixth-grader Brin DeVries to open her locker at Excel Charter Academy.

“All of our team really takes some pride in that,” said Trevor, who plans to attend the University of Michigan toward a career in aerospace engineering. “When we heard about this we were like, we’ve got to do this for her.”

Trevor was one of about 250 students who hosted Snyder, state legislators and business supporters on a tour of the Tech Center, which serves more than 2,400 students with more than 20 career-prep programs. The self-styled “one tough nerd” remote-controlled a robotic arm, saw health-care students taking each other’s blood pressure and visited classes in information technology, pharmacy and manufacturing at the bustling center at 1655 E. Beltline Ave. NE.

Snyder had high praise for the Tech Center and its students, telling them they are a key part of Michigan’s “huge economic comeback.”

“You’re covering the bandwidth of different career opportunities, and you’re getting skills that are applicable to going right to work.

“I’m looking at Michigan’s economic future,” he said, surveying a roomful of students wearing scrubs, hard hats and other job-related garb. “When I’m looking at you and look at Michigan’s economic future, I can tell you I see a bright future.” — Gov. Rick Snyder

IT students Jordan Steiner and Michael Spoehr from Caledonia High School introduce Snyder to a programming robotProud to Showcase ‘Inspired’ Students

Part of a statewide tour shining a light on skilled trades, Snyder’s visit excited students with an opportunity to demonstrate what they’ve learned at the Tech Center, which serves area public, private and home-schooled students. They spoke proudly of what it meant to showcase their school for the governor.

Haylee Lee is state president of SkillsUSA, a national group supporting career and technical education, and a recipient of a 2015 YWCA Tribute Award. She was thrilled that Snyder came to their SkillsUSA conference last year — and even more so that he came to the Tech Center.

“I want him to know about how students are inspired,” said Haylee, who’s in the criminal-justice program but aims to become a school superintendent. “These aren’t just regular students. They’re students who want so much out of life.”

The Wyoming High School senior said the Tech Center has “opened up so many opportunities for me to be able to grow as a person and as a leader,” including an internship in 63rd District Court. “It’s just opened my eyes to so many things.”

Joseph Melendez got to shake Snyder’s hand as he toured the IT program. The Comstock Park senior wants to go into the computer gaming industry, and is earning credit at Ferris State University while at the Tech Center. Snyder’s visit advertised what an “awesome” school it is, Joseph said.

“It has a very chill environment, but when we have to work we step up to the plate and get serious, because we’re passionate about what we do here,” Joseph said.

Kent Career Tech Center hospitality students Jarrod Rothley, left, and Spencer Taylor preparing caprese  salad skewers for Gov. Snyder's visitWhat about College Costs and Jobs?

Haylee and Joseph each had the opportunity to ask Snyder a question following the tour. Haylee asked what Snyder coulddo to help Tech Center grads afford the soaring costs of college or other advanced training. Earlier, she said she’s applying for scholarships, but that even applying to college costs money.

“I want to excel as far as I can,” Haylee said. “The only thing that’s holding me back is this financial issue.”

Snyder conceded college is getting more expensive, but said innovative programs like the Tech Center’s tuition-free, early-college programs are “the best thing you can do” to save dollars before graduating high school.

Taia Cisco, a Byron Center High School senior who’s working to become an occupational therapist, asked Snyder if enough jobs will be available in Michigan when students like her complete their programs of study.

“That gives me a little anxiety,” she said earlier.

Snyder tried to reassure her and other students. He said there are more than 100,000 job openings in Michigan, at a time of 5 percent unemployment — more than when the state had 11 percent unemployment.

“We want you to stay,” Snyder told students. “There will be job opportunities, but you need the right training.”

He praised Tech Center programs for providing that training and the opportunity to earn professional certification. He learned about the pharmacy technician program, where senior Carlee Hollingsworth told him students can get certified at no cost. She plans to do so by the time she graduates, then go to Ferris to earn a pharmacy degree.

State Rep. Winnie Brinks (D-76th Dist.) was impressed by Carlee’s story, calling such programs “a really a great way for students to get some skills that will help them in their earning potential, without debt.”

“She’s going to college, and she’s using this as a stepping stone,” Brinks said. “In the meantime, she’s got a skill that pays better than minimum wage.”

As for holding the discussion with Snyder, Carlee said she overcame her nerves. “He’s just a guy,” Carlee said with a laugh. “It was fun.”

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Kent Career Tech Center

MLive Story

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Governor Snyder requested a group picture with speakers and students. Front row from left are: Kent ISD Superintendent Ron Caniff, Tech Center Principal John Kraus, Governor Rick Snyder, Stephanie Comai, a top adviser to Gov. Snyder on talent and workforce issues and Jay Dunwell, president of Wolverine Coil Spring

Charles Honey
Charles Honey is a freelance writer and former columnist for The Grand Rapids Press/ MLive.com. As a reporter for The Press from 1985 to 2009, his beats included Grand Rapids Public Schools, local colleges and education issues. Honey served as editor of The Press’ award-winning Religion section for 15 years. His freelance articles have appeared in Christianity Today magazine, Religion News Service and the Aquinas College alumni magazine. Read Charles' full bio.

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