By Austin Metz
Grand Rapids Community College and Grand Rapids Public Schools have created a free program to aid former high school students with high school completion.
“Every student who is enrolled in this program has had a situation that was difficult to deal with,” said Dave Selmon, Associate Director of the Learning Corners. “Students come from different situations but they all want to complete this program. We decided to go out and find these students and help them.”
Although most high school completion programs that target high school drop outs award students with a GED, the program shared between GRCC and GRPS is different.
“The cool thing about this program is the fact that students who finish the program will be given a high school diploma rather than a GED,” said Raul Alvarez, Director of Communications at GRCC. “The ultimate goal is to help students finish high school but then also help them look toward the next step which is college.”
The program first places students in high school level classes but then pushes students to dual enroll so they can begin to take college courses.
Linda Spoelman, director of Adult and Developmental Education at GRCC, explained how students are able to prepare for college while also finishing high school.
“We will be doing three weeks of boot camp with the students which involves college readiness work and this will continue throughout the curriculum,” Spoelman said.
“The boot camp will involve visiting colleges and also having speakers come in to address the students.”
“Speakers emphasize how difficult it is to be in school while also inspiring and informing the students about what to expect in college,” Spoelman said.
“Students will also look at the impact a college education has on the financial side of life. We are trying to show these students the benefits of a college education while also providing them with college-like experience while they do their high school work.”
Spoelman went on to explain the benefits students in the program receive to help ensure success.
The program, which was announced at an August 30 press conference and began September 6, has filled up fast.
“Before the press conference, we had eight students enrolled in the program,” Selmon said. “However, we went from having eight students to a waiting list in the 48 hours after the press conference.”
To enroll in the program, students must be between the ages of 16 and 19, have been a high school sophomore and have a minimum of an 8th grade reading level.
Although most students may not be aware of their reading level, those involved with the program will provide students with an assessment.
“A student can come in and we will assess and figure out the level they are at,” Selmon said. “Along with the basic criteria, students also must have maintained a C+ average in high school and also while involved in the program. We do this because we are not going to waste taxpayer money on students who won’t finish the program.”
For most students, completion of the program can be done in one to one and a half years but that depends on the student, explained Selmon.
The program is being offered at the GRCC Wealthy Learning Center and will also give students the option to take classes on-line.
For enrollment information, please call (616) 234-3040.