KCTC students reap the benefits of a hands-on learning environment


Caffeine can only do so much. 

Downing a coffee in the morning, fuel for the uphill battle that is a school day, only lasts so long—the withdrawal headaches, the aftershock of an energy spike, the short-term effect of the caffeine all kick in eventually. 

Sometimes, caffeine simply cannot cure cyclical, predictable school days ridden with busywork, presentations, and essays. 

Students enrolled in Kent Career Technical Center (KTCT), a hands-on and project-based learning environment located in Downtown Grand Rapids, do not need caffeine to stay awake during their day—the activities they partake in daily are enough. 

Senior Sami Walquist credits her immeasurable pleasure for the program to the fast-paced and interactive lessons that encompass it.

“[KCTC] is a lot different from this school,” said Sami, who is in her second year of the Criminal Justice program. “I really like it a lot better; I stay awake so much easier, and it’s a lot of fun. The teachers are more interactive, too.”

As a student in the Criminal Justice program, Sami navigates the world of law enforcement through learning different police tactics, self-defense procedures, and emergency responses. Through the program, she has the opportunity to work with professionals in the field, such as police officers and lawyers. 

Every day is a new experience that will be applicable to the real world, an aspect of KCTC that Sami appreciates. 

“I just enjoy it so much: the teachers and the hands-on work that we do all the time,” Sami said. “We do a lot with talking to professionals in our area of work, so if we come back and ask for a job we might have a better chance of getting in because we already know someone there. It just prepares you for the world.”

Senior Zuriel Jansky, who is only in his first year of the program, has already reaped the same benefits that Sami experiences—the hands-on learning environment and genuine preparation for a future in their chosen field. 

Unable to start the program last year due to a packed-full junior year schedule, Zuriel was lucky enough to apply and enroll in the Intro to Hospitality program this year, leaving school at nine am and returning at twelve. 

Zuriel spends those three hours away from the white walls of the classrooms in the kitchen instead, baking everything from yeast-raised donuts to red velvet cake. Although the idea of driving downtown every day and having a two-hour school schedule unnerved Zuriel, he quickly adjusted and adapted to the unique learning experience that is KCTC. 

“Being there, at KCTC, is so fun,” Zuriel said. “I enjoy every day. You’re really in the moment, you’re present, and you feel like you’re in a real kitchen or bakery. It’s really nice.”

Junior Delaney Niswonger, on the other hand, spends her days in scrubs rather than an apron or police uniform. 

Sharing the same first-year nerves as Zuriel, Delaney recalled how quiet and timid her class was on the first day—how intimidating the new environment, new people, and new uniform was to her. Adapting as quickly as Zuriel did, though, Delaney soon found a family within her class and fell into a comfortable rhythm. 

A rhythm that starts with putting on her blue scrubs, locking her phone in a safe, writing down her agenda and goals for the day, and preparing something positive to share with the class. 

“You have to make sure your scrub top and scrub bottoms are on,” Delaney said. “That’s a big part of your grade—the professionalism. [After that], we pick sticks or people raise hands about something good that has happened, and it’s just a really positive thing because then we can all celebrate each other’s little victories.”

After everyone shares their positive affirmations or anecdotes, they work on their daily activity or project. 

As a student in the Rehabilitation program, Delaney studies every form of therapy—art, occupational, and physical being the main branches. So, the daily activities can range from a skill lab about transferring a patient in a bed to a wheelchair to using a gate belt as well as learning basic healthcare criteria such as infection control or hospital standards. 

Attracted to this branch of the medical field through her unadulterated passion for making people feel better and stronger, Delaney has taken advantage of every single day at KCTC—the skill labs, simulations, and even putting on the scrubs for a grade. 

“I personally learn better in a hands-on environment,” Delaney said. “So, I really like [KCTC]; it’s a really [nice] change of pace. You go from sitting in a classroom, taking notes and doing presentations and writing papers, to a classroom setting that is more free-flowing and hands-on. You’re working in different ways, and it’s like a different brain game kind of.”

Although they each are enrolled in dramatically different programs, Delaney, Zuriel, and Sami all experience the same fast-paced and energetic environment, the applicable activities, and unique experiences for a few hours out of every school day. 

For all three students, KCTC has proven to be anything but boring and Delaney, specifically, can confidently say that enrolling in KCTC has been nothing but positive. 

“It’s one of the most positive things I’ve done with my academic career, and I’m really happy that I did it,” Delaney said. “Everyone is genuinely excited to learn; I really enjoy it.”