• Devon Miller, left, of Wyoming High School, chats with Wayne Smith, supervisor of engineering, building and grounds at the J.W. Marriott Hotel. “I send him to do something, and it gets done,” Smith said. “He’s one of the best students I’ve ever worked with”
  • Emoni Bulloch, of East Kentwood High School, squeezes out cookies in the bakery kitchen of the Amway Grand Plaza Hotel
  • Nate Long, left, of Godwin Heights High School, and Dylan Nyburg, of Kelloggsville, worked in the laundry department of the Amway Grand Plaza Hotel
  • Essence Pearson, of Wyoming High School, worked at the Downtown Market this summer, mostly making sure the second-floor eating area, kitchens, banquet area and restroom were spotless

On the Job and On Their Way

Students Gain Employment Experience Over Summer

by Morgan Jarema  

More than 40 students with cognitive or other impairments from districts across Kent ISD's service area worked at 11 job sites this summer, earning money while learning skills. Coached employment wrapped up its second year this week at the Amway Grand Plaza Hotel, JW Marriott and the Downtown Market Grand Rapids, plus three area YMCAs and select school buildings.

The students are part of Kent Transition Center and CORE, hands-on learning, career exploration and occupational training programs of Kent ISD. In partnership with Michigan Rehabilitation Services, those who are selected for the eight-week program earn paychecks by working four hours a day, four days a week.

Patrick Fritz, employment manager of the Amway Grand Plaza Hotel"We make the experience as real as possible, and it's amazing to see their growth," said Michael Spagnuolo, program director. "On day one they introduce themselves to their manager, and by the end of the program they're ready. This fulfills our long-term vision, which is to secure and maintain employment and to provide opportunities for growth."

At the Amway Grand Plaza Hotel, Transition Center students have been involved in school-year career exploration in exchange for credit for more than two decades. Former Transition Center students have been employed at the hotel for as many as 21 years.

"We have Transition Center students who have become supervisors," said Employment Manager Patrick Fritz. "We're a great place to work, but we have rules and the work is not easy. So it's pretty cool when you walk down our halls and see the people who got a chance and made it (and were hired)."

Partnering with the Transitions Center is "one of those things that needs to be a no-brainer for employers," Fritz said. "I would highly recommend other employers try this."


Working at the Y Opens Doors for CORE Students

Jaclyn Bruining, of Byron Center High School, dusts a sign along the running track at the Spartan YMCA in Wyoming. ”As part of the Y’s commitment to social responsibility and youth development, we appreciate the opportunity to provide students a place to learn and gain new skills. The students have been great to work with,” said Heather Rangel, associate executive director of the YMCA of Greater Grand Rapids -- Spartan Stores YMCA

Calistaia Spoonts, of Grand Rapids Union High School, makes the office windows sparkle at Kent Innovation High

Program Director Mike Spagnuolo, left, talks with Linda Nawrocki, who keeps track of applications, scheduling and timesheets for the program. Spagnuolo and employment training specialists Brenda Brower and Holly Nichols visit students at their job sites twice a week to mentor and coach

Emoni Bulloch, right, with her supervisor, Tanya Novoseltseva, in the bakery kitchen of the Amway Grand Plaza Hotel

Max Froozley, left, of Kenowa Hills High School, and Dustin Wheeler, of Wyoming High School, clean windows at Kent Innovation High

Submitted on: August 25th 2017

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