GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. — As part of News Literacy Week, FOX 17 paired up with a West Michigan school to help the next generation understand how stories are gathered.
Over the past month, Anchor Alyssa Hearin, Photojournalist Troy VanWingen and Executive Producer Kayla Penokie have worked with a group of students at Innovation High School to produce a story that was important to them.
They chose to tell the story of their school and how its different academies benefit them on a daily basis.
Innovation Central High School switched its way of teaching about seven years ago, creating five different academies that help students have a better understanding of which field they would like to go into upon graduation.
"We don't want students just to graduate and get a job, we want them to be somebody,” said Principal Mark Frost.
Frost says the five academies help his students do just that. During eighth grade orientation, students select which one they would like to go into.
“There are health sciences, business, engineering, design and construction and teaching, and so all the students have all the classes that every high school in the state of Michigan have to have ... but where were different is the electives the students take, the classes they take are all embedded in those areas,” he said.
At the end of each month, the students and staff at each academy come together as a whole.
"Each academy has their own guest speaker come and talk about different careers if you're interested in,” said George Maldonado, a senior in the Design and Construction Academy. “If you're not interested in you can still pay attention in case you do want to do that in the long run and they give us a project or a slideshow you could say and explain what they do and what company and how you can benefit and some of them can pay for your college."
Those guest speakers help students stay engaged and get a chance to see what their future could look like.
“This school is all about engagement in so many ways and one of the ways is the field trips we take, we take over 100 field trips every year to get students out of the school so they're not just hearing about these professions and careers, they're getting to work sites and job places so they can picture themselves as these professionals,” Frost said.
Kathy Hodder, the lead teacher in the Health, Science and Technology Academy, says this way of learning can help students figure out whether or not they should go into a specific field.
"I taught here prior to the academy being here and I feel like it's much more focused we have many students that have a better idea and a better track of where they want to go as they go through high school, so definitely beneficial,” Hodder said.
Students aren’t just being prepared for college — they can graduate and get right into the workforce.
"So they can graduate high school and they can come out as a certified EMT, they can come out as a pharmacy technician ... and they can also come out with college credit for some of the health classes we offer,” Hodder said.
Overall, it’s an opportunity the district hopes will help their students find success.
"By the time the juniors and seniors, especially seniors when they understand they are one step away from getting out in the real world and going to college they really pay attention to these opportunities that we have for them so the students buy into it, the staff has bought into it and because of that we have a 90% graduation rate the last four years which really is remarkable,” Frost said.
"It's a phenomenal opportunity for all the students that are in that academy,” Hodder said.
More information on News Literacy Week can be found on the News Literacy Project's website.