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.
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|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?
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.
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.”