Grand Rapids Promise Zone produces program’s first graduate

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Mykel Johnson, who attended City High, Wellspring Academy and the Grand Rapids Learning Center throughout his high school career, used his scholarship to complete GRCC’s Automotive Technician program within a year of his high school graduation. Courtesy Grand Rapids Promise Zone

Mykel Johnson became the first Grand Rapids Promise Zone Scholarship recipient to graduate from Grand Rapids Community College this month.

Johnson, who attended City High, Wellspring Academy and the Grand Rapids Learning Center throughout his high school career, used his scholarship to complete GRCC’s Automotive Technician program within a year of his high school graduation.

Now he plans to become an automotive technician, following in his father’s footsteps who is a mechanic.

Johnson said he credits his success to the staff of Grand Rapids Learning Center, a college-preparatory high school developed by GRCC in partnership with Grand Rapids Public Schools designed to reengage 16- to 19-year-olds interested in dual enrollment, identifying a career path, and the transition to a college degree program or workforce training upon obtaining their high school diploma.

“They just stayed on me,” Johnson said of the Learning Center staff. “They made sure I stayed focused and never let up because they felt I was intelligent, and I feel like I’m intelligent, too. So, I should put it to use.”

Rodney Brown, Grand Rapids Learning Center administrator, said he’s “extremely proud” of Johnson being the first Promise Zone graduate and thinks his story can inspire others.

“Mykel’s dedication and determination to earn his automotive certification was evident from the first time I met him,” he said. “We are just so happy for Mykel and his family for this tremendous accomplishment.”

The Grand Rapids Promise Zone Scholarship allows eligible high school students who graduate from one of the 24 public, public-charter or private high schools located within the city limits to attend and have free access to Grand Rapids Community College associate degree and job training and certification programs.

“It is through the generosity of our community, as well as the partnership with (GRCC) President Bill Pink and GRCC, that we are able to see and hear of success stories like Mykel’s,” said Teresa Weatherall Neal, Promise Zone Authority chairperson. “This is a celebratory moment for the Grand Rapids Promise Zone Board and for Mykel and his family. Mykel’s story highlights the goals and vision we had for the Promise Scholarship — to be able to support the youth here in Grand Rapids as they pursue their college and career aspirations.”

There are more than 250 students enrolled in GRCC through the Promise Zone for the fall 2020 semester.

“The Promise Zone is off to a great start, providing opportunities for students to gain an education that will change their life without worrying about cost,” Pink said. “This is an awesome example of a community coming together to make higher education accessible to all. This will have long-term benefits for Grand Rapids and West Michigan as a whole.”

For more information about the Promise Zone and scholarship eligibility, visit grpromisezone.com, and contact Promise Zone Director Evan Macklin at promisezone@grcc.edu.

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