There are no shortcuts, but plenty of paths to success and wraparound support, at Detroit Public Schools’ Adult Education-West Campus
Like schools across DPS, this educational facility has storyboards of recent graduations with photos of successful students who have completed the program.
Data walls demonstrating academic progress are on the walls of every classroom.
A code enforcing appropriate behavior is posted for prominent viewing.
On Career Day, there’s a presentation from a Tuskegee Airman.
The classrooms are centers of differentiated instruction.
There are nutritional offerings. And students get free bus passes.
But inside this solid brick, nicely remodeled building facing Puritan Ave. in northwest Detroit, the students in the photos are all over 18 (one, 80 years old), the data walls paint progress toward GED and high school completion programs, the Rules and Protocols replace the traditional K-12 Student Code of Conduct, and the food service is provided as a partnership with the Salvation Army Harbor Light Center.
“Get Ahead. Get Inspired. Get Hired.”
“There are no shortcuts to Life’s Greatest Achievements.”
The messages on the wall in Room 109 reflect the mission of the school’s leadership and that of the administration of Detroit Public Schools’ Adult Education Department.
At the Adult Education-West Campus in the former Crary Elementary School, it’s pretty simple: They’re changing lives, and building and rebuilding confidences. Longtime DPS educator Dedria Willis, who has held the position as principal of this school for exactly one year, tells the stories she’s learned about every member of her ethnically-, age- and background-diverse student body. Among those:
- The 80-year-old student who became a graduate in 2012 after pursuing his GED for years, delayed by segregation at first and later family responsibilities.
- The husband and wife team that dropped out of school to raise their family and later returned to earn their GED together.
- The Vietnam-era veteran who had not realized that he had indeed earned his GED several decades ago, but completed the program here and still celebrated the accomplishment as if it was the first time.
“There’s a lot of motivation needed, from their teachers and their peers. Many of these students have not been in the classroom for a long time,” Willis says.
Adult Education features a GED program offering classes in four core content areas for individuals testing in at a 6th-12th grade level, and a high school completion program in core areas for those testing at a 5th grade or lower, as well as a high school completion lab.
With the addition last month of the new DPS Adult Career Academy program one mile away at Randolph Career and Technical Center, the first cohort of 25 students completing the program here is now additionally receiving training in the construction trades (HVAC, carpentry, electrical and masonry).
The Career Academy is designed to assist recent Adult Education graduates with opportunities to further their career growth through career and technical training. Upon successful completion, students will be prepared to become employed making 60% of journeyman’s wages through apprenticeship schools or enter post-secondary community colleges and universities.
Adult Ed West currently serves about 250 students during the day, another 75 in evening programs beginning at 4 p.m., and more than 22 High School Completion students (HSC). About 65 GED graduates will proudly march across the stage at King High School on June 8, 2014.
Willis describes the atmosphere in the building each evening as “quieter, even businesslike” as many of those students arrive after working a day job. At 5:15 p.m. on a recent Wednesday, adult students attentively followed math instructor Kenneth McDonald.
LeVar Rogers, 36, is following his wife’s path of recent program completion. She’s now enrolled in a bachelor’s degree program. He plans to attend Oakland Community College and pursue auto mechanics.
Jerome Lamar, 49, is working toward a GED with plans for a career as a medical assistant and additional training at Everest College’s Dearborn campus.
Kevin Lipke, who’s sitting in the classroom next to his mother, a fellow student, works in a barber shop and plans to become a barber.
“I’m going to do whatever it takes to actually get there,” he says. “Now I know I have to work hard.”
Above the competition
Unlike other providers, DPS adult education programs are completely free, including books, supplies and transportation passes. And when it’s time to complete the program, students receive a free voucher to take the GED test. Four graduates each year receive scholarships from Detroit Metropolitan Credit Union.
Moreover, there’s a synergy with the educational talent elsewhere across the school district, with the new transitional program to the Career Academy as an example. Adult Education also provides English as a Second Language programs and a range of additional services to 1,200+ students at 14 (soon to be 16) accessible community sites located throughout the district including those at Academy of the Americas, Bennett, Ronald Brown, Earhart, Gardner, Golightly CTC, Neinas, Priest and Western International.
The West Campus, like its East Campus counterpart in the former Richard Elementary School, underwent extensive facility modernization in 2012 and is a hub with many partnerships where additional services are provided onsite. Detroit’s Employment Solutions Corp. will soon occupy some former classrooms at the West Campus.
Investing in the future, and a potential student body of 216,000
According to Adult Education Interim Executive Director Mark Carter, these programs are about investing in the city.
“Right now in Detroit, there are 216,000 adults without a high school diploma or GED. We are investing in the human capital of the city. When they complete this program, they can land a job. When they have a job, they pay taxes. Then the tax base increases and we can work to redevelop the city.”