Ready to Launch

It may be the beginning of the school year but our teachers are always operating with the end in mind. This is Brad VanTimmeren’s 8th year teaching within the M.E.R.I.T program at Jenison High School. He uses projects like build-your-own bottle rockets to daily instill the knowledge and confidence his students need to carry them forward.

M.E.R.I.T (Meaningful Education Rooted In Transition) is a program designed for juniors and seniors who are looking for an opportunity to get prepared for life outside of high school. Our high school staff has been focusing on teaching students life skills and exploring post-high school options through this unique program for nearly 14 years. Karen Dame is also a member of the M.E.R.I.T. team. She has been with JPS for 6 years. and offers guidance in language arts, employability and work readiness skills.

rockets-3

Mr. Van Timmeren talks about the successful components of this bottle rocket.

The students must prepare, do their due diligence, be patient, listen carefully to instructions and work together to build their rocket. Launch day was delayed due to some weather but overall it went well this year. Van Timmeren shares that his students “enjoy being hands-on and learning visually. Building something engages a different skill set and thinking outside the norm of text books/tests sets up a great conversation about overall real life perspective.” Every year, students see success and failures within this project, and can evaluate what went well and glean applicable life lessons from it.

rockets-5One of the best things about our district is our teachers and staff who daily come prepared and committed to meet the intellectual, social, emotional, and physical needs of each and every student. While this is obviously a key focus during their time under our care and guidance, the importance of seeing this extend beyond graduation means embracing individual success as we launch each student. I believe it does our students a disservice to make them fit a mold they were not made for. Other learning take aways for M.E.R.I.T. students in the coming year will center around career building and planning, gaining exposure to multiple skill building opportunities and considering options. The program also includes a t-shirt business and partnering with the school store to teach practical skills.

Van Timmeren has embodied the “Be Relentless” theme for nearly a decade with his students. I am excited to see him engaging our students in genuine relationships and getting them ready to launch into the world beyond high school, their world. 

rockets-6-1.jpg
“No matter where kids come from or where they’re headed, they first need to know their strengths; then we want to work together to maximize their abilities. Helping them find their passion and build their confidence is key in preparing them for the path ahead – that may be college, trade education or the workforce as well as valuable community member.”  

Brad Van Timmeren

rockets-14rockets-13rockets-2

Jenison High School Senior Builds Hope

When you walk around your house, you probably don’t give a lot of thought to the plumbing, let alone the plumber. It’s also safe to say that the students in our new elementary school building will give little thought to the plumbing that runs through their walls and under their floors.

But, Jenison High School and Careerline Tech Center senior, Mike Alkema sure will.

That’s because he helped lay the plumbing that will make serve the entire new school. Oh, and he also laid the brickwork as part of the masonry staff.

This past summer, Mike’s grandfather recommended him for a job with his employer who was doing the brickwork. So, while most of us were spending our summer days balancing work, kids schedules, and trips to the beach, Mike was laying the cinder blocks that would make the walls of Jenison’s newest school. He enjoyed the work but was also intrigued by the work of the plumbing team.

Mike sought out the supervisor of Alternative Mechanical to start developing a relationship with him and, potentially, make a long term connection. It worked, and when the school year began, Mike was offered the opportunity to work alongside the AltMech team in congruence with his training at Careerline.

“[Plumbing] is like a puzzle. You have to get from point A to point B and follow [building] code and I understand code and how it has to work.” Mike is on the site every weekday signing off on shipments, stocking all deliveries, and assisting the plumbers with whatever they need. “They’re really helpful. I went to the Tech Center this year and last year and I learned a lot, and came in pretty knowledgeable, but I’m still learning new things every single day I’m there.”

Mike + his grandfather

Mike plans to pursue a career in plumbing and is looking forward to working full time for AltMech because they offer health insurance, Christmas bonuses, and a 401(k) plan. He also likes that if the company completes a job under the bid, the employees get an equal share of the money that was saved. But these days, Mike is proud to be able to pay for his own phone bill and car insurance, and other personal bills. “This is really preparing me for what life is going to be like. Not many kids my age have that chance.”

“It’s really cool to be able to drive past the new school every day and think, “yeah, I work there and I helped build that. I started when there was nothing and now we’ve finished the first floor with brick.”

Mike is proud of the work he’s doing, how it’s helping him succeed and prepare him for life after graduation. “If I was just doing school, I wouldn’t be doing well.” His message to kids who are struggling: “You’ve just got to stick it out. You’ve got to do the best you can and even if it’s not what people want, you can try your hardest and you’ll find something you’re really good at, no matter what happens.”

We couldn’t agree more, Mike! We’re very proud of you finding your fit with plumbing and we’ll continue to be your cheerleaders as you work to build a safe and amazing new school for our youngest students. Your work will be appreciated for generations!