Jobs for Michigan Graduate program making an impact

MANISTEE — There are certain programs school administrators know are going to be a good fit for their students.

Students taking part in the Jobs for Michigan Graduates program at CASMAN Academy are holding a supply drive to collect items for Homeward Bound Animal Shelter as one of their class projects. They are collecting items like bleach, laundry soap, used towels and flat sheets. Donation locations are at the school, Homeward Bound, Northwest Michigan Works!, and the Vogue Theatre.

When CASMAN Academy dirctor Shelly VanVoorst learned about the Jobs for Michigan’s Graduates program from Manistee Intermediate School District superintendent Dave Cox, she knew it could impact her students in a positive manner. CASMAN students didn’t get the opportunity to take part in the program until Jan. 1, but VanVoorst said she looks forward to them experiencing a full year of it next year.

“It’s still in the initial stages, but is just an awesome program,” said VanVoorst. “The kids have really embraced it and are holding on to the leadership part of it. I think it is going to go far with our kids.”

The program is coordinated by Northwest Michigan Works!, Networks Northwest and Jobs for Michigan Graduates. It helps young adults graduate and make successful transitions to postsecondary education or meaningful employment.

Shelly Harwell serves as the career facilitator for the program at CASMAN. They also coordinate JMG programs at the Charlevoix-Emmet Intermediate School District, Traverse Bay Area ISD Career Tech Center, the Wexford-Missaukee Career Tech Center and the Out of School Programs in Kalkaska and Manistee.

JMG is a program that equips young people with the skills they need to overcome barriers and ensure Michigan’s youth are successful in education, employment and life. The JMG group works with more than 3,000 young people in 208 Michigan cities.

Harwell said the local program is going well despite starting midway through the school year.

“We started the JMG program a little late in the year here at CASMAN,” said Harwell. “So we decided to approach it a little bit differently than we do in some schools. We decided to have two main projects rounding out the year and one of those was a supply drive for Homeward Bound Animal Shelter that was student led. We have about 18 students registered here in the program.”

Harwell said they selected the Homeward Bound Animal Shelter fundraiser to kick off the program and in conjunction with their installment and initiation ceremony.

“We decided to do them all at once and as we round out the year we are going to make sure that every student walks away with interview skills,” said Harwell. “They are going to know how to fill out a job application and have resumes made up when they walk out of class this year.”

The main focus has been on the senior class members right now, according to Harwell.

“We are teaching them some growth mind set exercises and employability skills they can use right now,” said Harwell. “Some are going off to trade school and others to college and some are looking for jobs right away. So we took a look at where they were at and where they would like to be long term and are just kind of going from that point.”

Harwell said the idea of the Homeward Bound Animal Shelter supply drive was something that helped CASMAN students in two ways. She said it made them feel more valued by the community, but it is also something that made them value their place in it a little bit more.

The students are looking to collect bleach, laundry soap, used towels and flat sheets. Donation locations where the public can leave items  are at Homeward Bound Animal Shelter (736 Paws Trail), Northwest Michigan Works! (Briny Building, main floor, 50 Filer St.) and Vogue Theatre (383 River St.).

Students Joshuatree Wilson and Jeremy Gajewski said they thought Homeward Bound was the perfect project to take on in this first year of JMG.

“I think it is pretty cool because Homeward Bound Animal Shelter needs more stuff because they are running out of supplies,” said  Wilson.

“It is a great thing to support and we try to put our best foot forward,” added Gajewski.

Harwell said they plan to do some things this summer with the students.

“Right now we are preparing students for occupying their time this summer in a positive way,” said Harwell. “We are planning some job shadowing, college and trade school visits we might do after the school year wraps up.”

She added they are also working on career development conference and some other competitions on employment skills they will be engaging in next year.

“While the program is kind of new we are trying to find the best fit for CASMAN and the best fit for any participating student,” said Harwell. “Since we started so late this year we decided to approach things differently and see what the students wanted to do the most and needed the most to get to where they want to be. We really want to make it a student led organization.”

Harwell said that is why the students are choosing the projects they wanted to do and the jobs they want to look at for careers.

“We are working in collaboration with Northwest Michigan Works! and all the services they offer and our Americorp College adviser at the school,” said Harwell.

The second project they will do is the Initiation and Installment Ceremony into the program at 1 p.m. on Thursday at the school.

“The students set up that celebration,” said Harwell. “They are personalizing it within the curriculum, set the budget and did all the setup for it. So that is part of the learning process as well.”

VanVoorst said what Harwell brings to the program makes a big difference.

“She is relaxed and gets along with the kids and that makes a world of difference,” said VanVoorst.

 

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Posted by Ken Grabowski

Ken is News Advocate’s education reporter. He coordinates coverage for all Manistee County schools and West Shore Community College. He can be reached by phone at (231) 398-3125 or by email at kgrabowski@pioneergroup.com.

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