GRPS rolling out hospitality and tourism academy


Ottawa Hills High School is among the schools closing Friday. Photo via

Grand Rapids Public Schools and several industry partners have developed new academy focused on hospitality and tourism.

The Academy of Hospitality & Tourism will open next academic year, offering accepted high school students a career-themed curriculum focused on the industries.

Housed at GRPS' Ottawa Hills High School, the program will be available, via application, to all incoming ninth-grade students in the region through school of choice.

The academy is meant to help fill job demand for the Grand Rapids area’s explosive growth in those industries, particularly jobs in multiple new hotels, according to John Helmholdt, head of communications, GRPS.

Besides the Michigan-required classes, the curriculum will include electives and focuses based on one of the two industries or later, the culinary arts.

Students will mostly learn general skills of the industry, including customer service and soft skills, marketing, sports marketing, event planning, administration and business management.

Leaders from Experience Grand Rapids, Grand Valley State University’s Department of Hospitality and Tourism Management, AHC+Hospitality and other industry partners are collaborating with GRPS to launch and advise the academy, offering work-based learning experiences, internships and apprenticeships as part of the program. Some will include paid summer employment, Helmholdt said.

School officials studied a successful similar program in Washington, D.C. while creating the base for this new program, Helmholdt said.

He said the students can choose their pathways after graduation: Some may find jobs immediately, and some may pursue a college degree.

Helmholdt said the program will be funded through traditional state funding, and GRPS applied for new career tech funding through the Marshall Plan. He said school leaders anticipate the possibility of needing to raise funds or seek in-kind equipment donations.

Starting with ninth grade, the program will grow a grade per year until it reaches 12th grade. Helmholdt said GRPS is marketing the program to all eight-grade students in the region.

The first year, the program will serve at least 35 students, though GRPS officials will consider opening another 35-student class for the first year if enough students apply.

Applications are due Jan. 31.

Parents can learn more at the School Choice Expo & Fall Harvest Festival this Thursday from 4-6 p.m. at the Gerald R. Ford Academic Center in Grand Rapids, at 851 Madison Ave. SE.

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