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10.25.18 – SPOKES Notes & Photos

SPOKES Notes written by Roger Morgenstern 

  • Rotary was again on the road this week and we had a great lunch and program courtesy of the Gerald R. Ford Job Corps Program and their culinary trade students.
  • We got plenty of facts and figures from Benjie Williams, president and CEO of Human Learning Systems, a private company which obtained a multi-year operating contract for the local Jobs Corps facility as of Sept. 1.
  • Among those facts:
    • Job Corps is a no-cost education and career technical training program administered by the U.S. Department of Labor that helps young people ages 16 to 24 improve the quality of their lives through career technical and academic training. The maximum training time is 2 years; the average length of stay in Grand Rapids is 11 months. The program began in 1964.
    • The Gerald R. Ford Job Corps is one of three such programs in Michigan; the other two are in Flint and Detroit. There are 120 programs across the U.S. While some students are referred by local schools, the program is voluntary and students can leave at any time. For many participants, this is an opportunity re-start their future after dropping out of high school or college, or taking a break after finishing high school.
    • The local program, housed in the historic, century-old former South High School (which counts among its alums President Ford), is a residential facility where the participants receive instruction and live while in the program. There is on-site recreation at the campus, as well as health care and meals.
    • Transportation is provided to jobs across Kent County, where the students get practical experience with a goal of them leaving the Job Corps to enter the military and other jobs within the U.S. Department of Defense, college or private enterprise.
    • Local training programs focus on the culinary arts, certified nursing assistants and other medical administration, construction and homeland security.
    • The center has a $7 million annual operating budget, approximately 200 participants at any given time and a staff of 100.
  • Also joining Williams was the center’s new director, Monique Hampton. A Human Learning Systems employee since 2013, she has worked within the Job Corps across the U.S. since 2008 and is excited to be back in her hometown of Grand Rapids. Williams said Hampton’s hiring is part of his “master plan” to have the Job Corps more involved with the Grand Rapids community.
  • Williams said the program is tightly structured to help ensure success. “Productive rigor is healthy…we want our students to be so attractive that employers can’t resist the hiring decision.”
  • President Chelsea presented Hampton with a $1,000 donation from the Rotary Club of Grand Rapids Charities Foundation to support the organization’s good work!
  • More information is available at
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