Students last year took a residential tour with Heartland Builders through the school’s Future Focused Fridays program, which will continue through Northview Next. Courtesy Northview Next
Northview Public Schools is launching an alternative high school program to expand career pathways and flexible learning options.
Northview Next will begin this fall for students ages 15-20 who don’t necessarily fit in traditional high school settings, according to Brent Dickerson, assistant principal of Northview Public Schools.
The program includes the Northview Next Learning Center, which provides a high school education primarily online, and the Northview Next Career Center, which provides a high school education that focuses on building career skills.
“Not every student can work within a comprehensive high school environment,” Dickerson said. “We want kids to graduate. We want them to get a diploma. So, we're trying to find them some new lanes through which they can be successful.”
Nearly all the students involved with the program come from underserved areas and also have not done well in the traditional academic-focused high school setting.
“That doesn't mean they're not great workers and can be very successful in life,” Dickerson said.
The objective of the learning center is to help all students ages 15-20 acquire an NVPS diploma regardless of their circumstances, said Drew Klopcic, coordinator of student supports.
He said the learning center welcomes students who may have dropped out of school or who have extenuating life circumstances — such as health issues or full-time jobs — that create barriers to participating in a traditional high school schedule.
To that end, the center will offer extended hours of operation, including summer and evening hours, so students can design an accommodating schedule. He said mandatory attendance is limited at the center, as well.
The center will be open 8 a.m.-8 p.m. Monday through Thursday and 8 a.m.-4:30 p.m. on Fridays. Once staff learns when the peak times are, they will make accommodations to fit those needs, Dickerson said.
“For students with schedules that are just kind of abnormal for a regular high school student, we wanted to be flexible and allow them to have some time to come in and get the work done and still have the schedule that they need,” Klopcic said.
Students attending Northview Next Learning Center will benefit from “wraparound” services that include two teachers, a district mentor, job services, social and emotional support services and free breakfast and lunch.
For the center, Northview is renting space from Ross Medical Education Center, at 1624 Woodworth St. NE, Grand Rapids.
For the first year, the center will have about 40 students with the ability to increase to about 100 in the future.
There will be an open house for the center from 6-7:30 p.m. Aug. 19th at Ross Medical Education Center, where students can sign up if they haven’t already.
Students attending the Northview Next Career Center will participate in skills-based classes in hands-on learning experiences during normal school hours.
“We wanted to provide an option at the career center where students can get their hands dirty and start working earlier and start finding a career path,” Dickerson said.
This program includes a class where students work on career development, career ideas, résumé development and hear from guest speakers.
On Fridays, students will participate in job shadows, internships, co-ops and part-time jobs across a variety of industries, including mechanics, art, technology and real estate.
Some students will spend time at Leslie E. Tassell M-Tech at Grand Rapids Community College. Others will spend their time with companies or other organizations.
He said staff is working to accommodate the program to fit the career goals of students.
A few students are interested in becoming veterinarians, for example, so they will spend Fridays at a vet’s office learning about the business and working with animals. Another student will spend time at Northview’s bus garage learning about diesel mechanics.
The goal is these opportunities will lead to jobs or other internships, Dickerson said.
“We hope it is a win-win situation for our students, as well as potential employers,” Dickerson said. “We get a lot of calls from employers that they need people.”
The Friday activities are being integrated into the Northview Next program from a previous program called Future Focused Fridays when students would spend time learning off-site at partner companies.
Through Future Focused Fridays, students worked with such companies as Lacks Enterprises, Sable Homes and Rockford Construction.
The center is located at 3801 East Beltline Ave. NE in Grand Rapids.
The career center is nearly full for the first year, with about 30 students enrolled. The program will have three teachers and a career coach on staff.
The career center also will include a student-run food, hygiene and clothing pantry. Berkley Hills Church stocked the pantry with a lot of food and business-casual clothing. This will allow the center to provide clothing and resources needed for a successful job interview, Dickerson said.
“The future of our workforce depends on the education and support we provide for our students now,” Dickerson said. “We give students hope by showing they have the skills employers demand and can truly be successful learners in the classroom and on the job site. We guarantee students who graduate from Northview Next will feel prepared and inspired to be lifelong learners.”