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Muskegon Area Promise is a Promise Worth Keeping

Students can earn two years’ college tuition through Muskegon Area Promise.

By Kim Madlom on May 7, 2020

Muskegon Lakeshore MI
Muskegon / Career Tech Center

Top students are staying in Muskegon County to get a higher education, resulting in high-achieving students who are ready to work.

The Muskegon Area Promise pays two years of tuition at Muskegon Community College or Baker College of Muskegon for Muskegon County high school graduates with at least a 3.5 grade point average. More than 400 students took advantage of Promise in 2019. Initiated by the Muskegon Area Intermediate School District and many private stakeholders, the program exemplifies the community’s support for student success. Successful students are key to a strong workforce.

“We need to rise to the challenges of our labor market,†says Megan Byard-Karaba, college access specialist for the Muskegon Area Intermediate School District. “Our goal is to make sure our students have the opportunity to obtain the credentials needed to meet that talent demand.”

Investing In the ‘Muskegon Way’

Promise is in its fifth year of providing scholarships to qualifying Muskegon area high school graduates.

“We are just now starting to be able to track the success,†Byard-Karaba says. “We’re collecting data, and while it is still early, we are seeing that our Promise scholars are choosing to stay in the area for college and are completing school.”

Take Kaylee Slowik, who graduated from Holton High School in 2015. She attended Baker College as a Promise Scholar for two years and then transferred her credits to Davenport University to earn her bachelor’s in business administration. She currently has a position in the field of human resources.

There’s also Max Olmstead, who graduated in 2017 from Mona Shores High School and entered Muskegon Community College as a Promise Scholar. He completed his associate degree and transferred his credits to Michigan State University to work on his bachelor’s in health sciences.

Muskegon Lakeshore MI
Muskegon / Muskegon Area Intermediate School District

All told, more than 700 students have attended college locally since 2015, thanks to the Muskegon Area Promise, and more than 73% have returned for the second year to complete their degrees. The program has saved Muskegon area families more than $1.7 million annually.

Cost savings for Muskegon area families do not stop there. The Community Foundation for Muskegon County initiated Kickstart to Career, a program that gives every kindergarten student a $50 deposit-only savings account. Over 2,000 new students and families each year are provided financial education and additional incentives/rewards for saving over the course of the child’s education. The result allows account holders to make withdrawals for any education related expenses after high school.

Programs like the Promise and Kickstart to Career can stimulate innovations that help all students. In addition, says Byard- Karaba, early messaging around the benefits of college and career training impacts everyone.

Muskegon Lakeshore MI
Muskegon / Career Tech Center

Career Tech Center Gives Students a Voice and Choice

The Career Tech Center (CTC) helps high school juniors and seniors from Muskegon County schools connect classroom learning to real-world careers.

“We build a personal connection to students’ academic experiences and what they want to do in life,†says Kyle Fiebig, principal of the CTC.

Operated by the Muskegon Area Intermediate School District, the CTC serves nearly 800 students a day in 16 programs, including health and environmental/veterinary sciences, computer-aided design, hospitality and food management, construction, criminal justice and more.

Rich History Meets New Business Opportunities in Muskegon

Students spend two and a half hours of their school day at the CTC. In addition to hands-on learning in the programs of their choice, students hear from guest speakers in that industry, receive job placement assistance for internships, earn college credits and participate in skills competitions with students from throughout the state.

Fiebig describes the CTC as an “amazing reciprocal cycle†that allows a “voice and choice†in their future career while also supporting the region by investing in a skilled workforce.

The construction trades program is a good example of how students connect learning to developing skills for careers. High school students in the program have built 11 homes over the last 10 years in the Chestnut Trail neighborhood in Muskegon Township. Each year, students in the construction trades work 2.5 hours each school day building the home and end the year with firsthand knowledge of every aspect of homebuilding.

Transforming Waterfronts Along the Muskegon Lakeshore

Some students in the program go into construction jobs right after high school, while others may expand their knowledge with additional education. Proceeds from the sale of those homes help fund additional projects. Criminal justice is another program with the potential of meeting an important need in the region. Filling first responder jobs has become a struggle across the country, and programs that give young people an early introduction to that career can help.

New this year, a student in the welding technology program was selected by the International Association of Sheet Metal, Air, Rail and Transportation Local 7 to receive 40 hours of industry related education and on-the-job training. He is working toward the goal of registering with the organization’s apprenticeship program – an important step toward a stable, high-paying career.

The CTC students who finish any of the programs have a 94.6% high school graduation rate, and 93.3% choose to continue their education, enter the workplace, or enter the military within one year of high school graduation.

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