Letter to the editor: Why do schools only celebrate college-bound graduates?

Editor’s note: The Portager publishes letters to the editor from the community. The opinions expressed are published not because they necessarily reflect those of the publication but because we feel they contribute meaningfully to the local discourse on matters of public interest.

For this letter, the Portager reached out to Kent City Schools to offer the opportunity to respond to the letter. Their comments are at the bottom.

Let’s take a moment to recognize the all the graduates who aren’t the star athletes, or the college-bound scholars. The kids who work really hard and yet never feel the spotlight.

Our local school districts MUST do a better job of this. Kent City School District, for example, held multiple assemblies honoring graduating seniors. They required all students, and invited senior parents and the community, to sit through hours of recognition for their college bound peers. And yet they did the bare minimum for students who are headed for employment after graduation. They received no awards at the honors ceremony or mention at graduation; they received no community accolades or promotion in school publications. The one assembly ostensibly held to recognize ALL students for their next step of Education, Enlistment, or Employment was intentionally held at a time when most students in trade-based programs were off-site for training or work. How sad, and how shameful.

At a time when we need more tradespeople, when the schools are theoretically promoting career tech programs, we need to do a better job of actually supporting these students. Yes, we can be proud of the scholarship dollars and the kids going off to traditional educational programs. But it takes nothing away from those students to ensure that the students who work hard in other programs are also recognized for their accomplishments.

Kent City Schools are spending millions of dollars to put in a facility to train kids to work in manufacturing as an expansion of their career tech programs. And yet they refuse to spend an extra moment, something that would cost them nothing, to recognize the students in current career tech programs for the excellent work that they do. In fact, in neglecting to recognize these students, they are missing a huge opportunity to promote the very career tech programs that are already great asset to our community, filling a significant need in several key trades.

At a time when student mental health is at an all-time low, it is critical that we take the time to consider the well-being of ALL of our students. High school is a pretty miserable time for many people; this has not been improved by the pandemic, social media, and the current state of world affairs. Schools must do better to show concern for all of their students, not just a select few who earn academic and social awards. In fact, the kids who don’t earn these awards are probably the ones who truly need the recognition. For many of them, it will be their ONLY graduation ceremony. Their ONLY change for community recognition and public accolades. Aren’t they worth just a moment of time? Our schools may say that they are, but their actions scream otherwise. Kent City Schools, you need to do better.

As a community member, if you are reading this, please know that you can make a difference. Please take just a moment to congratulate the “other kid.” The one who may have worked just as hard — likely harder — but for whom the spotlight doesn’t shine. They, too, will go on to do great things and they deserve our praise and support. Who knows? The one moment that you take to recognize one of these “invisible” students might change a life.

Michelle Smith

Comment from Kent City Schools

Kent City Schools is committed to the vision for ALL of our students to reach their full potential in an equitable and inclusive environment. We understand how important it is for parents to see their children recognized for their efforts during this journey. Every senior was asked to participate in our special E3 (Education, Enlistment, and Employment) Celebration ceremony held on May 3 in the Theodore Roosevelt High School Gymnasium. Theodore Roosevelt High School student body, faculty and staff, Kent City Schools District Leaders, Board Members, and Supporting Businesses were present as each student signed a certificate committing to themselves and their next step into young adulthood. The event was also live-streamed and archived on YouTube.

Each student in a Career-Technical Education received a Career Passport. The Career Passport is a vinyl, portfolio presented to each student who has attended a Career-Technical Education program and has completed the program requirements. Kent Theodore Roosevelt High School Career-Technical Education held a special Career Passport ceremony on May 7, 2024, recognizing an all-time high of 213 students who achieved a Career Passport in Kent Career-Technical Education programs. Additionally, at the Theodore Roosevelt High School Commencement this past Saturday, Principal Dennis Love recognized the 88 graduating seniors earning Career Passports in his Commencement Address.

Kent City Schools’ commitment to workforce development was recognized with the recent announcement of $2,329,250 in special state funding for creating an Engineering and Advanced Manufacturing Center at Theodore Roosevelt High School. The school district has extensive support from the community, local businesses, industries, and public officials. This investment and our long tradition of outstanding Career-Technical Education programs continue our efforts to assist all of our students in reaching their full potential and contribute to our local workforce and community’s future success. Next school year Kent City Schools will have the most students ever attending Career-Technical Education at Theodore Roosevelt High School.

We hope everyone in our community congratulates our graduating seniors as they embark on the next chapter of their lives, whether it be further education, starting a career, or other exciting endeavors, we want to show our support and pride.

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