New career tech program at Westwood Heights

New career tech program at Westwood Heights Schools brings skilled trades to classroom
Posted on 05/09/2022
By Dylan Goetz | [email protected]
MT. MORRIS TWP, MI – Urban communities don’t always provide access to skilled trades.

Eric Eggleston wants to change that.

The founder and CEO of Youth Development Coalition, Eggleston helped develop the new career technical education construction program at Hamady High School and Academy West Alternative Education, both in the Westwood Heights School District, in Mt. Morris Township.

It is one of the only career technical education programs in the country that offer high school credits, college credits, state certification and payment opportunities all under one roof at Hamady High School.

“This is about access. So often in the skilled trades, you see nepotism,” Eggleston said. “Urban areas just don’t have access to opportunity. With a program like this, it gives them access.”

The program is paid for by a $500,000 youth bill grant and $1.5 million in federal funds.

Students earn experience in masonry, drywall, tile setting, carpentry, insulation, brick laying, plumbing and electrical, among other construction-related skills.

“Some of them have never swung a hammer before. Being able to put a hammer in their hand and watch them make a few mistakes but then see them grabbing it the right way and swinging it the right way – it lets me know that they are learning something,” CTE Skilled Trades Manager Skeetter Holmes said.

Students can earn 47 college credits through a partnership with Delta College and nine high school credits, which is more than a third required to graduate.

For passing each module in the certification process, students can receive stipends for their work, earning up to $800 as they complete exams.

“It keeps me going and makes me want to come to school even more,” senior Christopher McKenney, 17, said.

The program is working to partner with the City of Flint and the Genesee County Land Bank to use students’ hands-on experience to build houses in Flint and revitalize the same neighborhoods that students are from.

Despite the district being located in Mt. Morris Township, many Hamady students live in Flint.

Eggleston has a goal to get green-lighted to build five new houses in Flint at a time, with the intention of selling them to young, new homeowners and using the money to go back into the program and the city.

2nd Ward Flint Councilwoman Ladel Lewis spoke highly of the program and its intentions to give back to the community across municipal lines.

Located in the old woodshop classroom, students recently built box gardens that will be given out to local residents.

Students are assigned roles in their specific groups to carry out each task.

“The kids have so much pride being in charge of the whole process,” Westwood Heights Superintendent Les Key said. “... We can see the instant pride and the inspiration, so that’s what it’s going to take. We want our kids to believe in themselves.”
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