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Innovation Central earns $300,000 STEM grant

Money will support equipment, training and assessments of industry needs

Grand Rapids – Innovation Central is one of 16 schools across the state to benefit from recent grants from Michigan-based SME Education Foundation, the philanthropic arm of SME, an international nonprofit that serves the manufacturing industry.

Innovation Central will receive $300,000 total (with an opportunity to reapply for future grants). 

That money will go toward a variety of improvements for its Academy of Science, Technology, Engineering and Math program, including industry tools and equipment, professional development and training, curricula, and both internal and external assessment of industry needs and how current assets at Innovation Central line up with industry and where they might need to be beefed up.

‘This is the product of working with your community. One of our advisory council members suggested that we should apply for the grant. We did, and we got it.’

– Jason McGhee, Innovation Central Principal
Jason McGhee

First-year Innovation Central principal Jason McGhee said teachers, staff and the almost 100 students in the program were “shocked, surprised and filled with gratitude” when they heard they had won the award.

“This is the product of working with your community,” he said. “One of our advisory council members suggested that we should apply for the grant. We did, and we got it.”

McGhee said that the grant will help Innovation Central put its students in prime positions to gain access to opportunities in STEM fields and experiences that they may not have otherwise. 

“We want students to leave our program with certifications, experience and expertise so that when they take the next step after high school, they are more prepared and credentialed than some of their competition,” he said.

16 New Awards Part of Expanded State Funding

In a statement, Grand Rapids Public Schools Superintendent Leadriane Roby said the academy “offers rigorous college-career prep opportunities for our scholars that will be significantly enhanced by the SME Education Foundation’s PRIME program.”

At Innovation Central, the Academy of Science, Technology, Engineering & Math has an engineering track and a biomedical track (courtesy)

The $300,000 is part of an influx in state funding targeted at helping schools build and expand manufacturing and engineering programs. The SME Education Foundation received $6 million from the state of Michigan as part of the 2021 education budget to expand its SME PRIME initiative across the state with the 16 new awards almost doubling the number of participating schools from 17 to 33.

The PRIME stands for Partnership Response In Manufacturing Education and, as the name suggests, the idea is to build manufacturing and engineering programs in high schools across the country that will serve industry. The effort includes providing equipment but also curriculum, professional development, scholarships and more, as will be the case at Innovation Central.

SME PRIME schools aim to provide hands-on instruction that fits both industry needs and industry-recognized certifications. The goal is to provide a pipeline to the approximately 500,000 U.S. manufacturing positions that the Foundation says are currently unfilled, a shortage that is expected to grow to 2.1 million unfilled jobs by 2030. 

At Innovation Central, the Academy of Science, Technology, Engineering & Math is one of five academies at the school. It has two tracks of classes: an engineering track and a biomedical track.

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Phil de Haan
Phil de Haan covers East Grand Rapids and Kelloggsville and is the lead reporter for Grand Rapids. He hails from Exeter, Ontario (but has called Grand Rapids home since 1985) and is the son of a longtime public school teacher who taught both English and machine shop. Phil took both classes at South Huron District High School, but English stuck, and at Calvin College, where he met his wife, Sue, he majored in English and minored in journalism. His background includes both journalism and public relations, including teaching an advertising and PR course at the college level for almost a decade. In the summer of 2019, he began his own writing and communications business, de Haan Communications. In his spare time, Phil plays pick-up hockey and pickleball and tries to keep tabs on his two adult children. Read Phil's full bio

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