China Comes to Jenison for Winter Camp!

MIII9973On Saturday, February 27 Jenison and the Jenison International Academy welcomed 33 high school students from China for a three week “winter camp”!

Beijing No 12 is a partner school of the JIA and a few years ago they started an international program for their high school students whose intent it is to eventually study in the United States for college. Within the program these students learn almost exclusively in English and all of the current students agreed to spend three weeks in the US to expand their education. They are joined by their Asst Principal Mr. Jin, Head Principal Mr Li as well as a math teacher.

JIA Executive Director, Rebekah Redmer hopes during their time here “…that the students can participate and share in the classrooms that they’re in and be able to infuse themselves into the community.”

MIII9961In order to be as immersed as possible all of the Chinese students will be staying with gracious Jenison host families. For many of the host families, their Chinese student is the same age as their Jenison student, making for a special opportunity for peer-to-peer connections. “The Jenison students are excited to not only share with them our culture and their home but they’re also really excited to learn from them too.”

The Chinese students are kept very busy during their stay! The cohort is split into two groups for their school day to make it more manageable for teachers.  Half of the group will be in JPS classes for the first half of the day and the second half will be meeting with JIA teachers doing their English course and after lunch they flip flop. Every day from 3 – 4 pm they are visited by guest speakers from the community, students on various athletic teams and clubs, and teachers and professors from GVSU. All of these visiting speakers give the students an opportunity to connect with and learn from various aspects of American culture. Additionally, from 4 – 5 they participate in SAT prep.

The success of the first Chinese Winter Camp has been a team effort by JPS administrators, teachers and our transportation team which has been “phenomenal” running a special route home at 5:00 for all of our students. “I think everybody is excited to have the opportunity to share because that’s what we do really well in Jenison but then also learn from [the Chinese students]. If the Jenison community wasn’t as open and as heartfelt as they are there is no way we would be able to do this. ”

MIII9929In the Chinese educational system students aren’t given many options when it comes to their classes and learning paths. However, this program allows the visiting students to choose Jenison classes that would be new to them such as “America at War” and “World Religions”. They are also giving glimpses into their personalities by perhaps choosing all social studies classes or all art or science. “They’re selecting classes that they wouldn’t otherwise have the opportunity to learn.” The adults will also have unique learning opportunities. Assistant Principal Jin will spend time with JPS Asst Principal Joe DeVries and both he and the visiting math teacher will attend the Macul Technology Conference with JPS teachers at the Amway Grand Plaza.

MIII9909Amidst all the learning, snow days and 71 degree weather, the students are also able to participate in some fun, West Michigan activities such a Jenison vs Grandville home basketball game, a visit to Rivertown mall and lunch in the food court, dinner downtown and a Griffins game as well as seeing the Jenison High School musical, Shrek.

Mrs Redmer says that this type of experience is important for our students to give them the opportunity to make connections with same-age peers and “open up their perspective a little and appreciate other people for who they are.  It does tear down stereotypes and open up opportunities to get to know people.” As a host of a Chinese student over the past school year, Becky says that as a mom, she has been able to see the experience of hosting grow her children and learn that “people are people, we’re all human and we’re all equal and we all have different talents and abilities, to learn to appreciate everyone for who they are and I’ve really enjoyed watching that in my own family.”

Thank you to everyone involved in making this a safe, challenging, educational and fun experience for our guests! We couldn’t do it without all of you and it’s been a great way for the students of Beijing No 12 to get to know the US!




Jenison International Academy: School Without Boundaries

It used to be that occupying a seat in a traditional classroom was the only way to emerge from school with a quality education.

It used to be that learning was centered around a blackboard and a pile of books.

Learning still happens that way. Books and blackboards still open minds and chart pathways into new futures. But for some, learning works better if it can happen another way.

It was for those students that Jenison International Academy was created.

Jenison International Academy (JIA) is an online school that offers a personalized education program to students who are looking for an at-home learning experience with their parent acting as a learning coach. JIA students might include those who have struggled in a traditional classroom or those whose academic gifts have outpaced their classmates. Whatever the reason for enrolling in JIA, students find the opportunity to spread their wings in a new way, in a new place: at home!

JIA students have the extra benefit of having access to guidance counselors, school-to-career pathway support, ACT preparation, connection with a mentor teacher, and earning a Jenison Public Schools diploma to name a few. Students also have the opportunity to participate in Jenison’s outstanding fine arts programs.

Students looking for an alternative educational experience may also be encouraged to know that Jenison International Academy plans monthly outings to allow students to build community and enrich the overall learning experience. This year JIA has enjoyed volunteering at Mel Trotter, visiting a local radio station, ice skating at Christmas, tailgating at JHS football games, and visiting ArtPrize in the fall. Activities and updates are shared using Facebook and Twitter.

JIA director, Mrs. Rebekah Redmer, is proud of the tremendous academic achievement of the academy, and feels their success is the outgrowth of the three years of planning and research done by the district before launching.

“[Our achievements are]…directly attributed to the support of the parent(s) in the home (i.e., the learning coach).  We enter into an educational partnership with each family, working together to ensure academic goals are achieved.  JIA is just one of many outstanding programs that JPS has put in place for our students.”

If you or someone you know is interested in a different kind of educational experience, Jenison International Academy would welcome a conversation. Call Colleen at 616.457.8477 or check out their website at

School is changing and Jenison is changing with it. If you have a student ready for change, we hope you’ll consider Jenison International Academy.