By Angelina Jahn
Gov. Gretchen Whitmer appointed Grand Rapids Community College President, Bill Pink, to the Student Recovery Advisory Board, a group of school leaders and lawmakers who will be working together to make sure students have what they need post-pandemic.
The board, which was developed in response to the struggles caused by the pandemic, aims to help students recover physically, mentally, and academically. They will be tasked with developing and submitting ideas regarding student recovery to the Governor, the state superintendent and the state budget director.
These ideas will cover recommended actions to improve academic support for those who have struggled with learning loss due to Covid, and mental and physical support systems for those that have been negatively impacted by the virus.
However, the goal is not to get back to the way things were before the pandemic hit, according to Pink.
“Education entities, no matter what level, do not need to be anxious to ‘get back to normal’ or ‘to get back to what we were doing before the pandemic,” Pink wrote in an email to The Collegiate. “We need to see what changes are actually better for our students and community and capitalize on those things, and not be so anxious to get back to all things pre-COVID. A new normal is in order, and I am hopeful that this will be one of our focus areas…helping schools/institutions get there!”
In an effort to create a “new normal”, the board plans to develop additional support for students looking to transition from high school on to higher education, and will also be working to improve out-of-school activities, such as after-school programs and summer school.
The board consists of 33 educators and lawmakers, with Pink being the only member coming from higher education.
When asked what he hopes to bring to the table, Pink stated, “I am hopeful that my membership on the board will provide information on the importance of colleges and universities in the conversation. Many students will be coming to our doors with learning deficits due to the impact of the pandemic, specifically due to some who are not accustomed to virtual learning, yet we’re forced to do so. This, along with community needs around Workforce Development and other issues will be vital to the work of this board.”
Workforce Development assists community members in finding and preparing for employment, ensuring workplace productivity, and garnering opportunities for career advancement.
“The COVID-19 pandemic has hit Michigan hard, and our students, families, teachers, and school staff have all felt the strain,” Whitmer stated in a press release. “Still, our educators have worked tirelessly to teach our children during this pandemic under the most stressful conditions, and for that, our state is forever indebted to them for their service.
“It is important to remember that schools also provide other services that students need to succeed, including reliable access to the internet, nutritious meals and mental health supports. COVID-19 has exacerbated inequities in our education system, and we know more work is needed to address the significant impact this pandemic has had on our children. This council will be integral to ensuring our students and educators are equipped with everything they need to thrive.”