GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — Michigan
Gov. Rick Snyder on Friday highlighted a Grand Rapids Public Schools program that he wants implemented in different cities across the state.
Sibley Elementary School Friday morning to see the
Kent School Services Network (KSSN) in action. The program puts DHS case workers and other services in the school so families can get the help they need in their neighborhood.
"It was exciting to be here because in many respects this was a demonstration that became Pathways," said Governor Rick Snyder.
Pathways to Potential is the program Snyder discussed in his
State of the State speech earlier this month. It would provide the same services Sibley has in other schools across the state. Snyder said he wants to pilot the Pathways program in four cities, Saginaw, Flint, Detroit and Pontiac. He told 24 Hour News 8 the program is in 21 schools right now, a number which will climb to 135 by February.
The KSSN program has been in place at Sibley for several years. Nine other schools in the district also have similar programs, as do several other school districts in Kent County.
The thought process behind programs like this one is it becomes sort of a 'one-stop shopping' for families who need help -- which will then help improve attendance and learning at the schools.
The governor visited several classrooms at Sibley where 97% of students get some kind of meal assistance, which means their families get some kind of help from the state.
Employees at Sibley said families feel more comfortable getting help in a school environment -- and that in turn helps students learn better.
"I know the only way you can educate children is to remove barriers," said Supt. Teresa Weatherall Neal. Neal was one of the creators of the KSSN program.
"It's been a real long hard journey and its been good and not so good but I think I'm at peace now," said Tracy Gatewood. Gatewood moved to Grand Rapids from Flint several years ago. She didn't really know anyone or how to get the help she and her daughter needed. "I really came up here with almost nothing. No kind of guidance. I didn't know what to do, I was just stuck."
She told 24 Hour News 8 she spent about a month-and-a-half in a shelter with her then 8-year-old daughter, before taking the girl to school and finding a DHS caseworker there who supported her.
"It changed me. My whole attitude changed," said Gatewood. "Now I like me."
The single mom now lives in a house and is employed. Her daughter graduated from Sibley and is currently at the Coit Creative Arts Academy and will be a freshman next year.
Gatewood said she doesn't want to think about where she would be without the help she got from her caseworker, Abbey Vanhoeven, at Sibley.
Vanhoeven said she focuses on success stories like Gatewood's. She said she sees what a difference the services in the schools provide to families and students.
"Kids are learning at a higher rate here because they don't have to worry about things that kids that don't have the things that they need at home would be worrying about in the school day," said Vanhoeven.
"This isn't just a case of government, this is a community coming together to help kids in the community and that's the way to view it," said Snyder about having these services in schools.
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Michigan is governed as a republic, with three branches of government: executive, legislative and judicial. The state also allows direct participation of the electorate by initiative, referendum, recall, and ratification.