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Literacy Center offers bilingual positions, hopes to bring literacy to more West MI families

Reflecting its mission, "building a literate community and transforming lives by strengthening reading and language skills," the Literacy Center of West Michigan is offering new positions for bilingual, English and Spanish, speakers.

The Literacy Center provides support to adults throughout West Michigan who need further help developing their literacy skills.

The two positions offered, a part-time community literacy assistant and receptionist position and a full-time program assistant, customized workplace English position, require similar skills from the candidates.

"We're looking for someone who has an interest and passion for working with people in the community," says Lindsay McHolme, director of the Community Literacy Initiative. "We want someone who values cultural awareness and inclusion and has professional communication and organization skills."

Of course, the most important requirement is bilingualism.

"As we seek to improve literacy in our community, we know there are more Spanish speakers now than there were 10 years ago," McHolme says. "We want to be accessible to the community. We're looking to meet all needs."

According to McHolme, 21 percent of adults in West Michigan are low literate: they have some reading skill, but not enough to easily function at a job. However, the Literacy Center's staff and its programs, like the Family Literacy Program, are reaching out to the community and improving those numbers.

"Seventy percent of children of Family Literacy Program families met their literacy growth target, according to district assessments," says Dan Drust, manager of the Family Literacy Program. "This group was compared to similar students whose parents had expressed a need for Family Literacy Services. Only 57 percent of comparison group children met their growth targets."

For more information, or to apply for a position, click here.

Writer: Nicholas Garbaty, Rapid Growth Intern
Images courtesy of Literacy Center of West Michigan

New locations opening bring 160 teacher, teacher's aide, admin jobs to Gilden Woods Preschools

Appletree Learning Centers and its partner program Gilden Woods Early Care & Preschool Centers are in the throes of opening at least four new Gilden Woods locations in Michigan, bringing some 160 new jobs to the state.

Appletree Learning Centers began in 1998, catering to children six weeks old through 12 years, offering early education opportunities, after-school learning and play environments, and enrichment programs that include Spanish, gymnastics, and music.

Since partnering with Gilden Woods Early Care & Preschool Centers in 2012, the company has opened its 13th school and looks to open four new schools in the near future: Portage (broke ground in April), Kalamazoo, Lansing, and Walker.

"We're planning to add 160 employees in the next year, most of whom will be teachers and teachers' aides," says Beth Johnson, marketing manager. "Early education equips the (children) for school so they are socially ready, emotionally ready, and mentally ready -- all the different facets of the early education program to help them be a success in school. We start with the infant, then they can stay at the same school for preschool, after-school programs, and summer camps."

Each new school opens some 40 positions: school directors, teachers, teachers' aides, cooks, and bus drivers and other support staff. About 75 percent of the jobs are full-time.

Teachers need qualifications such as a Bachelors, Child Development Associate (CDA), or Associates degree and/or CEU hours in child related fields to meet the Licensing Rules of Child Care Centers for the State of Michigan.  

"The culture here is based on the premise 'Would this be best for my own child?'" Johnson says. "We want to hire people who want to establish relationships with these families, because they've trusted us to be a part of the development of their most precious gift, their child."

To find out more and to apply, click here.

Writer: Deborah Johnson Wood, Development News Editor
Images courtesy of Appletree Learning Centers and Gilden Woods Early Care & Preschool Centers

Holland's Outdoor Discovery Center seeks nature lovers to fill two new job positions

Connecting people with the joys of our natural surroundings, instilling a love of the earth, and developing programs that nurture caretaking of our wetlands and its inhabitants are opportunities awaiting new employees of Holland's Outdoor Discovery Center Macatawa Greenway.

The nonprofit organization, located at 4214 56th St., seeks to fill two new positions immediately: naturalist and program assistant.

Due to growth Executive Director Travis Williams calls "phenomenal," the 150-acre center hired seven employees in the past 12 months, and recently added the two new positions to help the center keep up with its popularity among schools, church groups, and visitors.

"The Outdoor Discovery Center started in 2000 to connect people with the outdoors through education programs for area schools, community churches, scout groups, libraries, teaching about the outdoors and natural sciences," Williams says. "We merged with the Macatawa Greenway in 2009 to preserve and protect land along the Macatawa River, about a 10-mile river corridor, to protect the water quality, create park spaces, protect wildlife."

The organization maintains trails through wetlands, woods, and meadows, manages a visitor center that hosts upwards of 37,000 visitors a year, plus feeds and cares for birds of prey, reptiles, and amphibians.  

The naturalist will help manage the visitor center, engaging with the public in face-to-face presentations and answering questions, and helping develop educational programs for schools and other community groups. The ideal candidate will have at least five years' experience in natural sciences or outdoor education, and/or a degree in a related field.

The program assistant will perform some of the same face-to-face engagement with visitors, but will work only on weekends. Other responsibilities include helping prepare programs.

Both positions require someone who will care for the birds, reptiles, and amphibians, clean their cages, water the native garden around the building, and even help with posting on social media.

"All of our employees have to be interested and willing to handle live animals and talk to the visitors," Williams says.

To apply for one of the positions, stop by the center or call. Click here for contact information.

Writer: Deborah Johnson Wood, Development News Editor
Images courtesy of Outdoor Discovery Center Macatawa Greenway

GR Current adds new entrepreneur-in-residence

Dr. Stanley Samuel has joined GR Current as an entrepreneur-in-residence, where he will focus on helping to grow the life science and medical device community in the region.

In his new role, Dr. Samuel will provide a wide range of consulting and coaching for startups, from ideation to technology validation. He will also help advise on company structure, business planning, investor pitches and plan out the regulatory path with the FDA. "Any company in (the) medical device and life science industry needs an understanding of how a product is received by the FDA. It is very important to lay it out early and get feedback," says Samuel.

Besides his role with GR Current, Dr. Samuel is the founder of OcuSano, Inc, one of several life science startups that is choosing to base their operations in Grand Rapids, even though the region is not yet really known for these types of businesses. "The industry is not real well known here yet," says Samuel. "GR  Current wants to focus on recruiting talent to West Michigan. Life science can be a big job creator." Dr. Samuel adds that these are typically high paying professions, including engineering, drug development, chemists and pharmacology.

If interested in accessing the services at GR Current, Dr. Samuel suggests you make an appointment and drop in to their new facility: "Go to GRCurrent.com and you can contact anyone on the team." He says you don't need a business plan to make an appointment. "You can come with an idea. We are encouraging the entrepreneurial spirit," he says.

Writer: John Rumery, Innovation and Jobs News Editor

The Geek Group launches new program to support grassroots innovation

There is a new resource in town for the ever-growing community of inventors and entrepreneurs.

The Geek Group has announced a new program called ‚ "Destructive Innovation Tuesday" which takes place every Tuesday from 5:00 p.m. - 7:00 p.m. Anyone who has an idea for a new project, product, or experiment will have the opportunity to share their idea with a revolving panel of manufacturing and science experts who then will provide feedback and assistance with taking the idea to the next level.

Josh Spencer, director of development at The Geek Group, says their program exists to fill the need for manufacturing assistance and serve as a gateway for other programs in the community like Start Garden and GR Current. "We see  ourselves as a feeder system. We are the first step for people with ideas," says Spencer. 

Spencer says that they feel individuals will have a much better chance to have their idea funded by working through The Geek Group's program, especially for entrepreneurs in the science and manufacturing space.

The program will be free for members of The Geek Group and $10 for non-members. Since space is limited, participants are required to register by contacting Josh Spencer by email at josh.spencer@thegeekgroup.org.

Writer: John Rumery, Innovation and Jobs News Editor

Serving more schools creates need for two Kent School Services Network coordinators

Kent School Services Network, a human services organization that serves 16,000 students in 28 Kent County schools, seeks two new coordinators who are bilingual in English and Spanish.

Part of the need comes from KSSN adding a new school, Westwood Middle, to its client list.

"We're in our eighth year as community school initiative, bringing health and human services to the poorest schools," says Executive Director Carol Paine-McGovern. "We break down barriers to learning, create a neighborhood hub at the schools so students and parents don't have to drive to get the help they need. We're creating opportunities for services right in the school setting where they're comfortable."

Each school coordinator works within a specific school, communicating with faculty, students, and parents to get help for students who don't get enough to eat at home, don't have clothing, have transportation issues, or maybe have parents who don't speak English.

They coordinate connections with agencies who can provide services, such as Network180 and the Department of Human Services. Children who are struggling in school, or whose families need food stamps, family therapy, or other interventions, can be referred to the KSSN coordinator by a teacher or principal, or can come to the coordinator directly.

With the addition of Westwood Middle School, the coordinator from Burton Elementary/Middle will move to Westwood, leaving an open coordinator position at Burton. A second position is at Stocking Elementary.

Paine-McGovern says she's looking for someone with a bachelors' degree, who is bilingual and has an entrepreneurial spirit, with strong communication skills and the ability to speak to groups and pull various people together for a common cause.

"You're not in an office, you're out in the schools melding a lot of job responsibilities and juggling lots of types of partnerships," she says. "We want someone who can be a strong communicator with principals, teachers, parents, and partners in the process."

To apply, click here, then on Employment Opportunities.

Writer: Deborah Johnson Wood, Development News Editor
Images courtesy of Kent School Services Network

Kendall College creates new position to coordinate community projects

Katie Moore is the director of community engagement at Kendall College of Art and Design (KCAD), a newly created position that will make it easier for businesses and organizations to connect with the college and for students to connect with the community.

The new position is designed to allow KCAD to drive growth and innovation through community partnership efforts. Moore says the long-term plan is to create a center for community engagement, but in the short term her focus will be on creating a process for organizations interested in working with Kendall to submit their proposals and then be connected with the most appropriate class and professor.

Moore cites a recent project with the Meijer State Games of Michigan, where there was an opportunity for students to create a logo for an event. Students were then able to apply design and branding principles they were learning in class to a real-world project.

This type of collaboration is a real win on multiple levels for students, says Moore: "As a former student from Kendall, the most positive experiences were when I was working on projects in the community. Making connections and understanding how the business of art works is very important for students."

Moore says they accept any type of project request (private industry, nonprofit, governmental) and that she will then review and find the right fit and right time for all parties involved. She says the best approach to learning about the program is to email her directly at Katiemoore@ferris.edu.

Writer: John Rumery, Innovation and Jobs News Editor

New job openings at Elevator Up and coLearning

Elevator Up, the West Michigan firm that specializes in building websites, apps and mobile experiences, is hiring.

Currently posted is the position for a new business developer. Two more positions, visual designer and product manager, will be posted in the near future. 

Aaron Schaap says the new positions reflect the need to serve the growth of their customers. "Hiring isn't a focus on getting larger but continuing to get better at what we do and putting the right people in place to lead. We continue to enhance our ability to not just help organizations balance business goals with users' needs, but to also help them craft those digital experiences and work with them to launch those products to market."

Besides the positions at Elevator Up, Schaap also has an immediate opening for his coLearning initiative, a learning platform that provides a wide variety of classes in the technical, design and marketing world taught by area professionals. "Now we're ready to develop a dedicated team to take it to the next level," he says. "Our 'admissions recruiter' is the first open position that will be responsible for filling classes and making sure people get into the right courses."

For both coLearning and Elevator Up positions, Schaap stresses the benefits of working for an organization that has a focus on intrinsic rewards. "We let people be part of the whole process. We have a lot of leadership opportunities in Elevator Up. There are specific roles but everyone has a lot of autonomy. We are very open as an organization."

To learn more about Elevator Up and coLearning, you can visit their sites here and here.

Writer: John Rumery, Innovation and Jobs News Editor.

Innovative writing program focuses on K-5th grade

WriteSteps is a common core writing program focused on K-5 students. It was founded in 2007 by Suzanne Klein, a former elementary school teacher who discovered she had a gift for teaching young children how to write -- and a gift for entrepreneurship.

The educational company provides a proven curriculum and training for teachers through its website http://writestepswriting.com/. Services that are available included daily lesson plans, online classroom demonstration videos, and coaching for teachers who want to become better at teaching writing.

Klein says the "game-changer" for WriteSteps came in 2010 when Common Core State Standards where introduced and provided students, teachers and parents with new benchmarks for what students were expected to learn. She says her business helps teachers solve some of the biggest pain points in teaching writing at the elementary level: time, materials and training. "When we ask elementary teachers what are the issues they face, they always say  'time'." Klein says the two other issues are quality materials (curriculum and lesson plans) and adequate training. "There are not any writing courses being taught."

Although the company was founded in Ann Arbor, it recently moved its headquarters to Grandville, MI and employs 20 team members, many of whom are teachers or former teachers. 

Klein says her business is in growth mode. She is working to create programming for students to directly access that would complement the teacher material. She does add that there are no plans, at least for now, to expand the writing instruction beyond K-5th grade, preferring to focus on what they do best, saying, "We are elementary school teachers."

To learn more about WriteSteps, you can visit their site here or follow them on Facebook here.

Writer: John Rumery, Innovation and Jobs News Editor

New creative firm transforms ideas into images

Andrew Montpetit's new venture is aptly named Thoughts You Can See, as Montpetit specializes in helping clients visualize their ideas and notes through images, videos and infographics.

The concept of visual note-taking has been gaining popularity. There are a multitude of books, websites and even conferences that are devoted to promoting this form of communication.

Although there was no "aha" moment for Montpetit, he says the inspiration for him to start his business came from his exposure to entrepreneurship and ongoing encouragement by members while working at The Factory as an office manager.

"I started Thoughts You Can See because I saw people doing and creating amazing things, but having a very hard time explaining what exactly it is that they were doing and creating. I wanted to help these people and others tell their story in ways that were memorable and interesting. I don't necessarily make the next amazing thing, but want to help the people who do share it with the world," says Montpetit.

After starting his LLC, Montpetit soon had his first client and project, creating an "explainer video" for GR Current

Besides videos, Montpetit says another service he provides is a novel approach to providing notes from a meeting. "I sit in a meeting, listen to brainstorming sessions and collect the main ideas with images. I then create a take-away for the organizers to use as a follow-up."  

The benefits? Montpetit says it can be powerful. "'Visuals are very powerful instruments if used correctly. They are fairly universal for the most part, they can say far more than words can and, when done right, they can create a powerful experience that really reaches people."

To learn more about Thoughts You Can See, you can visit his site here or his Facebook page here.

Writer: John Rumery, Innovation and Jobs News Editor

Wege Prize designed to find collaborative solutions to complex problems

Kendall College of Art and Design (KCAD) and the Wege Foundation have announced the creation of the Wege Prize, a new collegiate competition for teams of five students from five different areas of study who will work across disciplines to solve "wicked" problems.

"Wicked" problems are challenges that the organizations deems as being highly complex -  problems that need to be approached from multiple perspectives in order for solutions not to have unintended, negative consequences.

Wege Foundation CEO Ellen Satterlee says the partnership between the two organizations is based on mutually shared values surrounding education. "We had been involved with the renovation of the Federal Building, providing one of the lead gifts. In working with David Rosen from Kendall, they knew of our mission for environmental education and they wanted to build a program around the principles that would engage the students and capture the essence of 'Economicology' (education, environment, empathy, ecology, economy, and ethics). They came up with the competition and we really liked it."

Once the "wicked" problem is defined, the cross-disciplinary student teams will approach the solution through the design thinking process. The best solution will earn each member of the winning team a $3000 scholarship, and each member of the second and third place teams $2000 and $1000 scholarships, respectively. According to Kendall administration, this program is designed to be scalable and, within three years, it could be become an international competition.

Details are in the process of being finalized. To learn more about the program you can visit www.wegeprize.org for more information.

Writer: John Rumery, Innovation and Jobs News Editor

Kickstarter and Start Garden alumnus shifting into high gear

After two successful Kickstarter campaigns and funding through Start Garden, Marie-Claire Camp has been able to move from the design phase to the growth phase for her concept of Children's Wallet Cards (profiled in Rapid Growth in September, 2012).  

Camp says she has raised a total of $41,790 through two campaigns on Kickstarter and $10,000 through two different Start Garden grants, which has allowed her to move from one educational deck of cards to five decks and also develop a complimentary interactive iPhone app.

At the same time, she has moved from selling her products only online to having a presence in multiple brick and mortar retailers. "I'm in several retail locations in West Michigan: 6.25 Paper, Beyond Paper, Pooh's Corner, HopScotch, Minds in Motion in Grand Rapids Children's Museum, and Sand Castle for Kids," says Camp.

Besides developing new products, Camp has been building the online community to support her customers. "My mom, Lisa Ann Camp, was a Montessori teacher for over 25 years, with a Masters in Education from Harvard. She has been consulting on the resource area on the site for parents, teachers and small children. The area includes activities for small children to encourage early learning at home."

Next up for Camp: more growth. "After fulfilling all of the Kickstarter rewards and pre-orders, my goal is to expand into 30 more retail stores in the U.S. and 20 international shops. I'm also working on organizing my next Kickstarter campaign; it's on schedule to launch in summer 2014 as well. I can't disclose what I'm working on quite yet, but it's about twice the size [of] my last campaign".

To learn more about Children's Wallet Cards you can visit Camp's website here.

Writer: John Rumery, Innovation and Jobs News Editor

Holiday gift program gets a makeover and investment through Start Garden

There is a personal backstory to the Elf Factory's tag line: "a handmade holiday school program specializing in gifts that parents don't have to pretend to like!"  

Kirsten Field, founder of the Elf Factory, explains the inspiration behind her new venture. "I volunteered at my kids' schools and I was disgusted at the products for the holiday workshop. I knew there had to be something better."

Describing herself as a "stay-at-home-mom getting back into the workforce," Field submitted her idea to Start Garden and received $5,000 in funding after she ran one pilot program with an elementary school. Field says she will use the Start Garden funding for  customer development experiments with five new schools and ultimately try to determine if the idea is scalable. "Our goal is to get a 75 percent participation rate at the schools."

Operationally, Field says that once a school decides to go ahead with the Elf Factory program, she partners with a parent organization and then provides all the craft materials  order forms, timelines, online training videos, and other tools they would need to run an Elf Factory at their school. The concept is designed to for simplicity (approximately four minutes to make a present), affordability, and a much higher quality product than existing holiday programs.

Currently, Field is the only full-time employee but she has four part-time staff that help with assembling the craft boxes.

To learn more, you can follow on Facebook for Elf Factory updates or check out their website at www.elffactory.com.

Writer: John Rumery, Innovation and Jobs News Editor

Grand Rapids web developer launches WordPress tutorial classes

Brian Richards, co-founder of the popular WordPress Grand Rapids Meetup group, was having difficulty finding someone to help him with a very technical WordPress issue. As he researched the problem, he started thinking about others who have had the same the issue, especially the more technical aspects of working with the software.  

"I then started thinking, 'what if I could hire some real smart guys to teach about WordPress and then make the sessions available be watched freely from your own home?'"

His solution is WPSessions, an online platform that provides both live and recorded sessions made by WordPress experts, which are then made available for purchase. Each session will typically cost $25, but Richards also plans to make the courses available for free after a three to four month period.
Richard says he has hired 27 speakers to give sessions over the next nine months. Featured topics include business development, theme design, security, and optimization. The first live session was June 22 and featured Topher Derosia, Daniel Espinoza, and Pippin Williamson discussing building WordPress plugins.

Richard acknowledges his project is in the very early stages of development and he is still fine-tuning the business model, but knows that with the popularity of WordPress and the feedback he gets from WordPress Grand Rapids members, "it could grow into something bigger, especially if it catches on with the greater WordPress community."

You can learn a bit more about the concept in Richard's first blog post here. and a bit more about the first session here.  You can also follow WPSessions on twitter @WP_Sessions.

Source: Brian Richards, WPSessions
Writer: John Rumery, Innovation and Jobs News Editor

We're getting the band back together

Triumph Music Academy, a Grand Rapids-based music school, has grown from four teachers to eight and from 80 students to over 200. The school has also doubled its space in just two years. James Hughes, owner, says this is just the beginning.

Originally, Triumph only offered guitar lessons. "It was me and three guitar instructors," he says.

However, to paraphrase an oft-cited quote, "no plan survives the first contact with customers," Hughes and his team quickly learned that the need for quality music education went far beyond guitar lessons. "We got a lot of interest in our services, but our clients wanted more," he says. "We've added drums, voice, piano, ukulele, bass guitar, song writing, and composition."

Besides adding more variety, Hughes says they have learned something else. "People get excited about playing with other people. No one locally is helping people form bands."

With that insight, Triumph has also become a business incubator for several bands with a focus on not only helping them become better musicians, but also better business people. "We can help bridge the gap from taking lessons to playing real gigs," he says.

Hughes says one of the bands recently had their first show and learned how to do everything working musicians need to do.

"They first came up with own name (There Goes the Neighborhood), and then they were selling tickets, collecting money, putting on wrist bands -- everything. This is how music works."

Hughes says he has several bands working through the academy in multiple genres including punk, modern folk, rock, '80s hair metal, and covers.  

"Our school is for people interested in learning music as a hobby or going all out and making music as a career," he says. "Everyone who teaches here is a full-time musician -- the real deal. We can tell them, 'this how you can make it happen.' This is how to fill out self-employment tax (forms). You do not learn that in music school."

To learn more about Triumph Music Academy, you can visit their site here or their Facebook page here.

Source:  James Hughes, Triumph Music Academy
Writer; John Rumery, Innovation and Jobs News Editor
75 Education Articles | Page: | Show All
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