KCTC offers practical experience and certifications to high school students

Maggie Eldred, Social Media Manager

Chickens, lumber, muffins, cars, and stethoscopes.

These are just some of the items that inhabit the Kent Career Tech Center, better known as KCTC.

Many people think that KCTC is a place where kids go to get more help in school, like a school that offers extra help. However, it is the exact opposite of what many portray it as. According to counselor Lara Roessler, KCTC is a place where kids come to earn extra credits to put towards college.

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“Many people think that KCTC is a place for kids who don’t plan on going to college. That is simply not true,” Roessler said. “In fact, 90% of our student go onto college, and they enter college with college credits.”

With over 20 programs, KCTC is a place where students can go to focus on their future. They can learn to bake the perfect souffle from an executive pastry chef, learn how to take down an intruder with police officers from the FBI or Grand Rapids Police, and learn to change brakes or even fix an engine from a certified mechanic.

KCTC and their students are able to connect with a multitude of partners in the medical, business, and cooking worlds. They connect with St. Mary’s hospital, Metropolitan (Metro) hospital, as well as the Veterans home.

According to Roessler, the students are able to go into several nursing homes or hospitals and provide “direct patient care to nursing home patients and to veterans.” With all of these experiences, students have the option and ability to job shadow and even watch surgeries being performed.

“Last year, we had a student who got to see a baby be born.  She wanted to be an OBGYN, so she was able to be in the room and witness [the baby being born.],” Roessler said.

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The Kent Career Tech Center gives these opportunities to their students so they can be fully prepared. Normal high schools do it with math classes and sitting in chairs all day, but KCTC makes it so the students know exactly what they are getting themselves into. Yes, they sit in classrooms, but after they learn the lessons, they are able to go do it in the lab that mirrors their future work environment.  If the student goes through the year long session and decides that this program is the exact opposite of what they want to do with their life, they are able to flip everything around and change it all the next year.

“[About] 25% of our kids change their minds, if I had to wager it. So, it is common,” Roessler said. “We tell kids that it’s so great to come here because if you don’t find out exactly what you want to do, you can switch directions. We encourage [changing programs if needed] with our students. We encourage kids to try on that career and if you don’t like it, change it.”

If there is a place to “try on” a career, KCTC is the place to do it. “Trying on” a career in college can cost big bucks and take extra time than needed.

“Instead of spending so much time and money in college on classes for a career that they might get into and realize ‘oh my goodness, I don’t want to do this’ and they are already a junior in college spending money on coursework, so it’s really nice to have that awakening about career choice,” Roessler said.

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With college, there are many requirements to fulfill in order to attend, such as a stellar SAT score, an amazing GPA, and astounding teacher recommendations in their back pocket at all times. But with KCTC there are only a few, and they are pretty easy shoes to fill. 1) The student has to reside in Kent county. 2) The student has to be in 11th or 12th grade. 3) And they also have to be in good standing with the school the student attends, as in be a good student and get good grades.

But on the flip side, if a student is credit deficient, KCTC partners with an organization on the same campus called my school @Kent. This is an online school that is focused on the student and how they learn. In the case of a student who is missing a credit or two KCTC sends them to My School @ Kent where they are able to fulfill those credits and take sessions at KCTC at the same time. This makes it possible for them to fulfill all the credits required for them to graduate, even if they do not attend a formal high school.

Senior Nels Pallesen is an information technology (IT) student attending KCTC for their 3rd session.

“Last year, I earned my Microsoft office certifications and this year I am working towards my Cisco Certified Entry-level Network Technician (CCENT),” Pallesen said.

According to Roessler, all of the KCTC programs are a year long commitment. The classes build sequentially throughout the year and go faster than regular high school classes. That is the reason that no student can join at the semester break, as well as the certification process. Some certifications, such as the CCENT, and the work can take one to two years; making the semester jump just not worth it. img_6464_opt

“It was about 9 weeks for [my] Microsoft Office certification and it will take all of this semester for my CCENT,” Pallesen said.

KCTC pays for all of these certifications as well, and if they didn’t the prices would be around $200 per person. Some of the programs, like the CNA program and Criminal Justice program, require uniforms that cost around $40.00 each, but if a student cannot pay, they will not turn them away.

KCTC provides a very hands-on way of learning. You have access to many different types of experiential learning opportunities within the school and outside the buildings’ walls as well.  They are able to churn out hundreds of students who are ready to go to work just after graduation, and some leave with entry- level positions to the company of their dreams. KCTC and it’s faculty hold two open houses per year to try to entice students into coming to join their family.

“We call [it] Real Life, Real Learning.”