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Where the Reading Meets the Road

Classes Take Lessons from Ada Construction Project

A major construction project in Ada was used as a learning experience for a group of students at two Grand Rapids Public Schools academies and one Forest Hills high school.

Students at Innovation Central High’s Academy of Modern Engineering and Academy for Design & Construction spend the school year studying how structures and the systems that support them are created. Days before school let out for the summer, they got to see the process in action.

Nearly 100 students visited a construction site at Ada Drive and Fulton Avenue/M-21 in nearby Ada Township. They also met at the Ada Township Hall for an overview of the project with lead engineer Steve Groenenboom, Township Supervisor George Haga and Planning Director Jim Ferro.

An effort to create a new village in a commercial area prone to periodic flooding, the project has as its centerpiece the raising of a stretch of Ada Drive by some 8 feet.

Students Bryan Terrazas and Jenifer Mateo, who had never visited Ada before, were surprised the road-raising was literal.

“I thought they would have found a way to drain the water out, or maybe build a bridge for it to go under,” Bryan said.

Instead, trucks dumped sand where the road will be raised, while engineers walked the site and construction workers busied themselves with brick, concrete, electrical and plumbing tasks in newly built structures across the road.

“It was interesting to see everyone’s place in the project,” Bryan said.

Jenifer, who said she was most intrigued to see that so much of construction happens underground, acknowledged that so much happens from an idea to an open road to acres of new construction.

“There’s a lot of steps to this,” she said.

Innovation Central High students learn about the project from construction lead Dan Ringnalda. They are standing at the current road elevation, which will be raised some 8 feet to meet the new buildings across the road, in foreground

The Real Business of Business

Jayme Buchanan’s Eastern High Introduction to Business students learn to create business plans for a made-up shop of their own.

“Once they are laid out, it is a fantasy world where basically their plans just work,” she said.

But what if something happened that was beyond their control, where their fictional location was in the path of a town-sized renovation — as it is in Ada village in real life?

Before school was out for the year, about 40 of those students — and some from Marketing II — heard from a trio of Ada restaurateurs who are affected by the reconstruction of a majority of the village.

Turan, owner of Zeytin Turkish restaurant; Ken Berg, of McDonald’s; and Angela Polizzi, of Vitale’s Restaurant, talked about road construction, drops in profits, staffing issues, owning versus leasing, relocation costs, and the importance of building a loyal customer base.

“I love this,” Buchanan said, “because it gives me the opportunity to say (to students) ‘Great idea, now let’s pretend your city has decided to do construction. Now what do you do?’

“I am very excited for them to learn about what theses businesses are doing to meet and survive this challenge. It makes their previous projects tie into real-world issues that people in their community are actually facing.”


Live Webcam View of Ada Village Construction

Innovation Central High students make their way past a new building to the construction site
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Morgan Jarema
Morgan Jarema
Morgan Jarema is a reporter and copy editor, covering Northview. She is a Grand Rapids native and a product of Grand Rapids Public Schools, including Brookside and West Leonard elementaries, City Middle/High School and Ottawa Hills. She found her tribe in journalism in 1997 and has never wanted to do anything but write. For 15 years she was a freelance journalist for The Grand Rapids Press, covering local schools and government, religion, business, home & garden and lifestyles. She and her husband, John, think even those without kiddos should be invested in their local schools and made to feel a part of them. Read Morgan's full bio


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