Kent ISD — One of the things Laura Preuss enjoyed most while working at Grand Rapids’ DeWys Metal Solutions was being the connector between adults and education, helping people improve their lives and their families.
“I discovered I had a passion for working with adults, connecting them with education so they could get their GED or take classes to improve skills,” Preuss said. “I loved to see them uplift themselves and make a difference in their lives.
“Connecting education and development that is impactful to people and changing lives and helping their families and their lives — well, that is what brought me here.”
‘Here’ is the Kent ISD Adult Education program, where Preuss was recently named as its new director. She replaces longtime Director Oogie Lamar, who is retiring from the position in January.
“Her education and her training in the private sector gives Preuss a perspective on employer needs and workforce preparation that will benefit adult learners and their future employers,” said Kent ISD Superintendent Ron Koehler. “We look forward to providing her the support necessary to grow, innovate, and create new opportunities for adult learners.”
Everyone Has Their Own Path
Preuss said she understands the challenges people can face when it comes to education.
A first-generation college graduate, she had to repeat second grade. The 1995 Grandville High School graduate would go on to earn a bachelor’s degree in human resources and master’s in adult and higher education from Grand Valley State University, and a doctorate with emphasis on career and technology education from Western Michigan University.
“I relate to the fact that sometimes we take one pathway and sometimes we have to go down a different path,” she said. “People do have different roads and while they may take different paths, they can achieve if they want to, and I want to help them to achieve.”
While at DeWys, where Preuss was the workforce development and human resources manager for 17 years, she helped develop DeWys University, which provided onsite training and development of team members. Her experience with local business and training employees often connected her to the Kent ISD, where she developed respect and appreciation for the programs it offered.
With two locations — one at the Wyoming Community Education building and the other at Grand Rapids’ Beckwith Adult Education Center — the Kent ISD adult education center offers GED or high school equivalency, English as a Second Language and Career and Technical Education programs.
Both campuses also have social workers available to help connect students facing such challenges as medical or food needs, which Preuss noted has been a benefit to the students since it allows them to focus on their English-language skills or GED requirements.
Preuss said she wants to continue to grow Adult Education’s capacity by expanding programs such as CTE and perhaps partner with local businesses in providing training to help employees advance their skills.
“Right now I am learning how to juggle the balls and I have been appreciative that Oogie (Lamar) has been here teaching me and helping me connect the dots,” Preuss said. “He is leaving a big legacy around here.”
Simply Time To Turn Over the Reins
Lamar and Preuss will be leading the Adult Education program together in coming months, with Lamar planning to officially retire Jan. 15.
“I am really excited about the future of the Adult Education program,” Lamar said. “I have witnessed Preuss’ passion for adults and her true concern for things to move forward.”
Lamar has been in education for about 33 years, the last 17 serving as the Kent ISD Adult Education director.
‘People do have different roads and while they may take different paths, they can achieve if they want to, and I want to help them to achieve.’— Laura Preuss
“I have tons of great memories, but really my favorite is graduation,” Lamar said. ”Seeing students who have struggled for a long time and being successful has been very meaningful. It’s a time when I see them and their families celebrating that they are being able to go through to the next step, such as continuing into the trades or a better job.
“Then it is later, seeing their children and how they really changed their life’s trajectory for their families.”
As for Lamar, he said it was time for him to move on to the next chapter of his life. For now he will be focused on his family: his wife, Julie, and daughters Morgan and Liza, both of whom graduated from Wyoming Public Schools.