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Former homecoming king knows grades matter… and a little AC/DC helps


The Culinary Program’s lab at the Tech Center is a popular place, providing lunches for the cafeteria line and all types of food for the Culinary Cafe, open to the public

As he walks through the hallways of Kent Career Tech Center, Ryan Graham lights up the corridors with his big smile and enthusiastic greeting. “Happy Monday!” he exclaims as he holds the door open for a group of students headed toward their classes.

Enthusiasm is a trademark for Graham, who was the homecoming king and captain of three sports teams at Lowell High School. He loved high school then and he loves it now that he’s in charge of the Tech Center, which offers 20-plus programs covering hundreds of careers to 2,400 area high school students.

“I love what we do in terms of connecting people with their careers,” says Graham.

Related article: Once he knew the why, ‘Everything fell into place’

On a personal note
Spouse/children: Married to Maryann, a New Jersey native he met at Central Michigan University. She works as an administrative assistant for special education at Caledonia Schools. They are parents to three boys and a girl, ages 15, 14, 13 and 12.
What kind of kid were you at the age of your students? Graham was active in sports. He played  linebacker on the football team, guard on the basketball team and catcher and center fielder on the baseball team. He played trombone in the band and was voted homecoming king in his senior year.
If you walked into your new school building to theme music, what would be playing?
AC/DC’s “Thunderstruck”
If I could go back to school … “I would go to the cafeteria. I always enjoying rolling into the lunch room. I really enjoyed that feeling of being together.”
The biggest lessons I’ve learned from students: “They rely – more than they will ever share – on your consistency. Outside of their family, they rely on you to be consistent. They want routine, they want structure, they want the consistency of that relationship.”

Other positions held in education: Principal at Duncan Lake Middle School for eight years; previously taught and was assistant principal at East Kentwood Freshman Campus.

Jobs outside of education: Graham worked on his family’s dairy farm during high school and college. He drove a propane gas delivery truck during his senior year at Central Michigan University.

Ryan Graham’s senior picture, Lowell High School Class of 1996

Education and degrees: Attended Grand Rapids Community College after graduating from Lowell High School, transferred to Central Michigan University, where he graduated in 2001 with degrees in Earth Science and English.

Pivotal moment in high school: In his freshman year, Graham was declared ineligible for sports due to poor grades. Having to sit in the stands instead of playing on the field was humiliating and changed his attitude. “I was an ‘A’ and ‘B’ student the rest of the way after that.”

Kent Career Tech Center Principal Ryan Graham checks in with Justin Mwumvaneza, a Union High School student in Engineering and Architectural Design

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James Harger
James Harger
James Harger left School News Network in January of 2020. James previously reported on West Michigan's economy, courts and politics for The Grand Rapids Press and Mlive.com for more than 37 years. He also is employed as Servanthood Leader at Immanuel Lutheran Church in downtown Grand Rapids. A graduate of Central Michigan University, he also has worked for publications in Holland, Mount Pleasant and Lansing. He is married to Lisa and has one daughter, who lives in Ann Arbor.

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