BRIDGING THE COLLAR COLOR GAP

We wanted students to begin to understand their role in the workplace, who they are and what their skills are, and how those skills might be of value to society, to think about ‘How might I live out our mission to transform the world for Jesus Christ?’

Four years ago, when HCHS launched its Winterim program, the week-long alternative learning opportunity the first week of the second semester, we threw all our freshmen into a freshman class together. Well, two classes actually, a morning and afternoon session. The intention of the “Freshman Seminar” was to give them an opportunity to think through who they were as children of God, to formulate an understanding of their growing faith in Him, and its impact on both their current and future lives. A clear spiritual focus.

This year we started an all-sophomore Winterim class, as an extension of that. With a clear career focus, and an underlying spiritual focus.

“We wanted students to begin to understand their role in the workplace, who they are and what their skills are, and how those skills might be of value to society, to think about ‘How might I live out our mission to transform the world for Jesus Christ?’” said HCHS Assistant Principal Aaron Meckes, one of our two Winterim organizers.

We utilized our amazing Ottawa Area Intermediate School District’s (OAISD’s) future PREP’d Academy and Tech Center programs to organize and teach the class, in the company of HCHS Bible teachers Keith Blystra ’00 and Devon Scott ’09. The first day included some classroom teaching, on how to look and act and in general be professional (before heading out with over 150 sophomores throughout corporate West Michigan!), as well as a career inventory/personality test of sorts, and getting students to begin to think which general pathway of a career they may be interested in. On Tuesday, students visited local businesses like Tiara Yachts, Holland Hospital, or other local industries like Steelcase to “see corporate America,” according to instructor David Ladd, and learn more about the local world of work—not just from the labor perspective, but an overall corporate view as well. Plus meet with a whole variety of local colleges and programs offering the way to get there.

“We were helping the students see the steps that would go into whatever career they chose, from 4-year or 6-year degree on up to 8 years, or a 2-year technical school,” said David Ladd, Career Development Facilitator for the OAISD’s future PREP’d Academy. “They got to see their pathway, what their career would look like once they got there. And they got to see it in a local setting that is globally competitive.”

Wednesday, students visited the Careerline Tech Center itself, and were exposed to all the career possibilities and programs there, while instructors led them through what a day in the life of their career strand might look like—again, on everything from no training after high school, all the way through graduate or medical school.

“We were able to use their resources to promote career awareness, and that it doesn’t have to be college,” said Heidi Nykamp, HCHS biology teacher and other Winterim organizer. “The goal was to give students the opportunity to think about what’s best for them, and add one way that supports them instead of what they feel pressure to do.”

Thursday, the sophomores were back out in corporate West Michigan, divided up into 16 different career strands, and sent out to visit specific companies that fit their focused career interest. For example, business-minded students visited Haworth, were welcomed into their international marketing and advertising departments, saw their international business model, checked out their touch screen technology linking them to their satellite sites. Others interested in criminal justice visited the Holland Police Department, or medically-minded students went to Holland Hospital.

And on Friday, students regrouped with other sophomores with similar career-interests, researched further on their own and in small groups to present to the whole class what their education and career pathways could look like. Again, including everything from career-tech training on up to medical school, encouraging students to think how they can use their gifts and talents best in our community.

HCHS teachers were impressed with the variety of educational levels as well as different career strands the one-week program was able to support, even for
a first year. “I think it’s really important making students understand they can be very successful without going to college. Or that you can start at a community college and be successful,” Heidi added, noting that “Certain industries are dwindling, like electricians—people we can’t live without, but we don’t tempt students with because it’s not a four-year college major.”

We did this class in the hopes of students understanding more about themselves and what they find interesting, to expose them to new things.

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Heidi’s own husband, Derek Nykamp ’13 is a great example of a student who benefited from OAISD’s Tech Center training, going for two years as an HCHS student, she said. His junior year of HCHS he took the culinary program at the Tech Center, which “he kept as a hobby,” she said, after later attending GRCC briefly for it. And his senior year of HCHS, he took the Tech Center’s Business Marketing program, which ended up being a great entryway into his Communications Major later on at Calvin College, and which he now uses in his work at the Outdoor Discovery Center.

Despite having an interim class mandated for them, Aaron said, it really was a valuable educational experience that not all high school students get walked through. And we’re really eager to see how many sophomores pursue internships for Winterim during their junior and senior years—and how many of them happen to be in the same career strands they started exploring this year.

“We did this class in the hopes of students understanding more about themselves and what they find interesting, and to expose them to new things to come,” Heidi added. “To encourage them to maybe think about doing an internship their junior or senior year.”

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