Firm uses technology to reach troubled students
Success Virtual Learning Centers partners with schools to complete graduation requirements.
Students who have left high school before graduating now have a new option to complete their learning in a virtual setting.
Success Virtual Learning Centers, which works with schools to create virtual learning opportunities for local high school students, recently partnered with Hope Academy of West Michigan to open a site at the former Lighthouse Academy-North building, 1260 Ekhart St. NE.
The site has nearly 1,000 square feet of space and now services about 70 students through the location. The virtual learning center has approximately 100 available openings for the 2015-2016 school year for high school students in the Grand Rapids area.
The company also has collaborative agreements with school districts in Ionia, Belding, Central Montcalm, Tri County, Lakeview, Three Rivers, Escanaba, Menominee, St. Louis and Vestaburg.
“Our goal is to re-engage any student that has chosen to leave school or dropped out of school for one reason or another,” said Dallas Bell, executive director of Success Virtual Learning Centers. “It is imperative for our community to ensure everyone has the opportunity for a high school diploma. Our virtual learning center can provide that opportunity. It is a second chance well worth taking.”
The new Grand Rapids center is funded through Berrien Springs Public Schools, said Jeff Bouley, educator at the new center.
The program uses Edgenuity software, commonly referred to in the public school system as e2020, as its main curriculum. Students are provided with Dell Latitude laptops that only allow school-related activity, he said.
The program also offers students dual-enrollment in college, drop-in tutoring and assistance with finding local employment.
“Students are going to go at their own pace, work on their time. They’re provided a laptop and Internet (access) — all of it for free. It’s a virtual program, so students are able to complete their courses and electives (online). It’s a virtual approach a lot of places have implemented,” Bouley said.
“I give one-on-one instruction. We follow the same academic calendars as Grand Rapids Public Schools … completing six classes a semester,” he added.
As long as students are on schedule, they don’t need to physically be in the center. But some students realize they’re more efficient if they come in, and some are required to come in, Bouley said.
“We don’t leave excuses for students to not get the work done,” said McPherson Mroz, center director.
The students are high school students ages 14-22. Many of those in the new center are from Union High School, Ottawa Hills High School and Covenant House, a charter school funded through Grand Valley State University, Bouley said.
The students who come to Success Virtual Learning Centers usually “don’t fit the traditional mold” and are there for a number of reasons, he said. Some need extra attention, some are struggling to learn around their peer group and need a different space in which to learn.
Some of them are in the juvenile justice system, and some are just trying to get enough credits to graduate.
“We’re the last line of defense,” Bouley said.