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Joyful Sounds Music Studio doubles client base, adds two new teachers to its growing community

Eastown's Joyful Sounds Music Studio has hired two new teachers and expanded its programming to accommodate its growing client base, which owner Michele Venegas says has nearly doubled since this time last year.

"There's definitely more research out there that talks about the benefits of music for young children and babies, so I don't know if it's that or just people looking for something to do," she says. "The parents obviously value music and appreciate it, and so they're looking for this activity and once they get in we can teach them a little bit more about the importance of music at such a young age. I think a lot of people are like, 'Oh my word, what on Earth would you do with a four-month-old in a music class?' We can educate them as to the benefits and the value of that."

Venegas opened Joyful Sounds in the Blackport Building at 959 Lake Drive SE six years ago with two different 45-minute classes – one for just pre-mobile infants and their caregivers, and the other a mixed class for ages birth to five and their caregivers. 

The most recent new hire, Sonja Noykos, will teach a new program with Music Together http://www.musictogether.com/
 curriculum designed specifically for ages five to seven without a caregiver, while music therapist Audrey Stein will bring a new level of expertise and potential to the program's scope. 

"I have wanted to have a music therapist on board, although our classes are inclusive for kids with more mild special needs. So, having her there, we are able to take on some kids that have a little bit greater needs," Venegas says, adding that with so much of special needs children's therapy being individual or one-on-one sessions, she hopes more families will be able to take advantage of a uniquely inclusive activity for families who want to connect. 

"The nice thing about this is that the families can come together and it's an activity that they can all do together with all of the siblings and the (parent)," she says. "In fact, a lot of what we do in there are things they do in their therapy or speech therapies and things like that but they just have a good time and it's in a really fun setting." 

Venegas says she expects to open a second location in the near future and "imagines this time next year (Joyful Sounds) will have a lot more going on," but says right now she's focusing on outreach efforts and hopes to partner with organizations like Bethany Christian Services to offer classes to families with foster children or other organizations that help young mothers and pregnant teens. 

"We're sitting on a lot of potential right now and there are a lot of avenues that we're going to be [exploring] so I feel like yes, we have grown quite a bit since last year, but I also feel like we're kind of sitting on the verge of a lot of bigger growth," she says. "It's endless. The possibilities are endless, so we're putting out our feelers across the board."

For more information on Joyful Sounds Music Studio and the Music Together program, visit www.kidsmusicgr.com

Written by Anya Zentmeyer, Development News Editor
Images courtesy of Joyful Sounds Music Studios, LLC. 

Related articles:
Children, parents move to happy rhythms at growing Joyful Sounds music experience studio
 

Davenport's "Employment Guarantee" putting the money where the mouth is

Davenport University's recent announcement of its innovative 'Employment Guarantee' for accounting students is generating a buzz in the region. And it is just the beginning.  

Executive Director of Career Services Shelley Lowe says the accounting program, which she describes initially as a "pilot program," will be the first of several student guarantees that will position Davenport as a leader in professional and career education. "We are putting the money where our mouth is," she says. "We are  confident we are preparing students and programs that are in high demand."

The innovative "Guarantee" will provide additional semesters of education for accounting graduates unable to find employment in their field of study within six months of graduation. Davenport is one of only a handful of schools in the country that have similar programs.  

To be eligible, students have to meet several criteria laid out by the program, such as maintaining a 3.0 GPA in their major and overall, and internship and other experiential learning experiences. Qualified graduates unable to find employment may receive up to three additional semesters up to 48 credits total of instruction tuition-free, with students responsible for fees and books. The additional courses, worth up to $30,000, should help most students obtain a second major.

Lowe says she expects the program to spread to other colleges and programs beyond accounting such as nursing and technology. She says future roll-outs will be based on ongoing market analysis, and says Davenport is focused on educating current and future students about the program and the eligibility criteria. The core message: "Start preparing now. Start planning."  

Lowe highly recommends that students who want to get a head start in participating in this program should find as many experiential opportunities as possible. Her advice includes encouragement to "volunteer or get an internship" and "start building a professional network."

To learn more about the "Employment Guarantee," including the qualifications, visit the site here.

Writer: John Rumery, Innovation and Jobs News Editor

It's official: It's back to school at coLearning

The Factory's coLearning program is now officially, official. The State of Michigan has certified the technology and design training and learning initiative as a proprietary school, a very important milestone for both the program and its students.

The certification will reinforce the learning outcomes for the students and assist in expanding career opportunities for coLearners who may be job-seeking upon completion of their course. For employers who invest in their employees' professional development, the certification demonstrates to clients their expertise in given areas. Certification will also help give employers and individuals access to funding through state programs like Michigan Works.

To date, the program has completed six courses and graduated over 100 coLearners. Amongst the courses that were scholarship-based, the leadership team at The Factory estimates a nearly 70 percent placement rate for individuals seeking jobs through coLearning courses.

The next round of coLearning courses begins September 4 and includes courses like Design Thinking, User Experience Design, Content Strategy, Intro to PHP, and Intro to Ruby. Aaron Schaap, Factory founder, says the new courses reflect the ongoing evolution of the program. "We continue to thrive in the technology space, but wanted to expand beyond the scholarship model for technical courses and reach the strong design community in West Michigan through our course offering," says Schaap.

To keep the engine humming, Schaap says that Annie Klooster will be taking over for Lauren Starrett, the past program director who is leaving for a new career opportunity, and that he anticipates adding more staff in the near future. Schaap says "coLearning is moving pretty fast and we are looking to hire more people to help grow the school. We don't have these roles finalized yet but most likely we'll continue to need people to help with admissions, recruitment, student services, and more."

To learn more about the program you can visit their site here.

Writer: John Rumery, Innovation and Jobs News Editor

Grand Rapids exporting "geek expertise" thanks to The Geek Group

Grand Rapids has a long history of exporting technology, furniture, and automotive products throughout the world. Now it can add "geeks" to its latest list of exports.

The Geek Group has announced that a new chapter has opened in the SoDo District of downtown Seattle, WA. The SoDo MakerSpace will be just the second official chapter of the Geek Group. The Geek Group of Western Massachusetts opened six months ago in Springfield, MA.   

Josh Spencer, director of development at The Geek Group, describes the expansion as a "test franchise" which is the direct result of ongoing demand in communities from throughout the world that want an organization with the same values and creativity as the Grand Rapids-based The Geek Group.

Spencer says the success of The Geek Group is very appealing to other communities and that by working through a franchise model, new groups would be able to access "the largest group of makers in the world," a claim which he says based on their global membership of over 25,000 scientists, inventors, engineers, artists, tinkerers, and general geeks in over 140 countries. 

Spencer also says that by working through The Geek Group, new maker organizations can avoid growing pains by using their proprietary operating system, which can help groups with development, inventory control, point-of-sale, programming, membership, content management, and operations.   

In the short- to mid-term, Spencer says The Geek Group will be using the experiences from their first two chapters to help them learn and craft a scalable franchise program that will allow more cities to establish their own chapters. He says they anticipate adding a couple of more cities in the next year followed by a careful, growth-oriented expansion, saying that it is important to "to maintain our authenticity" and it is critical that "all Geek Groups keeps an eye on our core mission."

To learn more about The Geek Group, you can visit their site here.

Writer: John Rumery, Innovation and Jobs News Editor.

Local 'Ed Tech' startup takes a student-centric approach to learning

Tom Bieniewicz and Scott Goldberg are the founders of Kickstand, an education technology startup based in Grand Rapids. Their first product is Edify, an individualized learning management system (IMLS) that the duo believes will have a significant impact on how school districts, teachers, students, and parents interact in the classroom.

Bieniewicz says that although the education industry is crowded with competition and often resistant to change, the opportunity for innovation is tremendous. "The learning management system (LMS) space is very large but our research has shown us that it is lacking a system that individualizes and customizes learning at the classroom level," he says. Bieniewicz says that many systems are merely platforms to manage content, which serves a purpose, but they are not designed for any level of customization, which he says is critical to meeting the different learning styles of students.

"Our offering, Edify, has these features (content management), but our differentiator is that we truly individualize learning by having a student-centered system that has tens of thousands of learning resources and question types which are tagged to a state standards," he says. Bieniewicz says when a student answers a question incorrectly on a assessment, their software automatically identifies the appropriate resources (videos, tutorials, etc.) so the student can review the most relevant material.

The startup currently employs seven and has immediate openings for developers and teacher consultants, who will work directly with school personnel to train and assist in implementation.

To support the growth of the business, Goldberg and Bieniewicz are electing to use crowd funding instead of venture capital, and have just launched a Kickstarter campaign.  

To learn more about Kickstand and Edify you can visit their site here.

Writer: John Rumery, Innovation and Jobs News Editor

 

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
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