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New program aims to get students to graduation, expand career pathways

Northview Next includes learning and career centers

Lizzy Grandon isn’t out of high school yet, but she already has a leg up on others who want to work in the burgeoning salon industry. She has a part-time internship at Otto + Grand downtown and is earning school credit at the same time.

“When I heard about this internship, I was like ‘please, please. … ’ I kind of freaked out about it,” said Lizzy, who has been known to take scissors and color to her own hair. 

Ru’Shiya Polson has an internship at a downtown law firm for which she is earning school credit

Most Fridays, she picks up a broom first thing, then keeps the coffee station stocked, dusts, and washes and folds towels in between shadowing stylists during her five-hour shift.

Lizzy said besides learning about the industry, the internship “is helping me figure out time management,” what it’s like to have co-workers and how to interact with the public.

“What she’s been doing has been very similar to our assistant program” for new employees, said owner Spencer Bristol, who added there is stiff competition for salon jobs. “We do a lot more interviewing than hiring.”

Drew Klopcic sees Lizzy’s internship as a perfect fit. Klopcic is dean of students at Northview Next, a new program that aims to expand career pathways and provide flexible learning options. 

Related: New coordinator will be face of district’s career-work experience effort

‘I really like it,’ said Learning Center student Trajon Chambers-Walsh

One Program, Two Options 

Staffed with district teachers, support team members and administrators, Northview Next includes two distinct learning options: the Learning Center and the Career Center.

At the East Beltline Career Center, formerly East Campus, students participate in two years of skills-based classes Monday through Thursday. They then fan into the community on Fridays for job shadows, internships, co-ops and part-time jobs. The district partners with Jobs for Michigan Graduates Youth Solutions, which provides the curriculum for a variety of industries including mechanics, art, technology and real estate.

“It’s a really great program that (teaches) them employability skills, getting them into a career-minded curriculum. It’s very powerful,” Klopcic said.

Ru-Shiya Polson can attest to that. She was drawn to an internship at a nearby law firm because she enjoys watching television programs that involve court proceedings.

Now the aspiring prosecutor spends one day a week learning what paralegals and attorneys do at Chase Bylenga Hulst, immersed in “the whole experience of being here,” she said. 

Learning Center Manager Drew Schmidt works with student Emelia Brown and her father, Bill Brown

Help for a Diploma 

The Learning Center is a day and evening drop-in program that operates out of two rooms of the Ross Medical Center building off Plainfield Avenue NE. It includes on-site staff who supervise online instruction, social and emotional support and job services. 

The objective of the Learning Center is to help students ages 15 to 20 acquire a Northview diploma, regardless of circumstances. Students can design a schedule that accommodates work requirements, health issues or other barriers to participating in a traditional high school schedule.

“For students who have struggled in traditional settings, attendance is a bit more relaxed, they get their own laptop and they are able to do a lot of work at home, and that accommodates their work schedule and circumstances,” Klopcic said. 

Emelia Brown’s family splits their time between Grand Rapids and Traverse City because of her dad’s job. She’s self-motivated, so the online portion of school isn’t a problem, she said. In fact, she’s so focused she might even graduate early, “and we’re talking with A’s and B’s,” pointed out Learning Center Manager Drew Schmidt.

“They really push getting these kids what they need,” said Emelia’s dad, Bill Brown. “It’s like we’re all on the same team.”

Ru’Shiya Polson, right, and Northview Next Dean of Students Drew Klopcic hear instructions about an upcoming court proceeding from attorney Justin Maxim
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Morgan Jarema
Morgan Jarema
Morgan Jarema is a reporter and copy editor, covering East Grand Rapids, Forest Hills and 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 or email Morgan.


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