Up in the Northern part of Muskegon County, tucked away behind Michigans Adventure and just a stones throw away from Ice Box Brand Ice Cream, there's a little hidden gem of education that not many have heard of, it's called the Duck Creek Learning Center. Part of the White Lake Community Education program. I first learned about this school when I was asked a few years ago to come and talk to the kids about some of the struggles I had early on. I was one of those kids in school that didn't quite "get it". I wasn't very attentive when it came to book learning, I was much more inclined to be "out front" when it came to needing attention and through all that...the frustration of "What do we do about this kid?" led to "Let's try this Ritalin stuff" and if you've followed along long enough...you know the rest of the story. No harm, no foul. It's just what the best minds had to work with at the time and back then...the idea of "alternative learning"..... that was a taboo that no one talked about. I came from a household that had one thing in mind...traditional school...straight to college and on to a degree. I, on the other hand wanted to be the one short fat Irish guy in KISS some day. It led to a wrinkle or two in the educational process.
Today, there's a different approach. Some younger people, just don't thrive in what we traditionally call a school setting. Some are much better at learning "hands on". There's an amazing resource for them at the Career Tech Center. They teach skills and trades and when the kids leave, they are ready to start their career with the tools and skills they need. Today's Career Tech Centers...no one is building birdhouses or ash trays, I promise you that. There are also programs in place that kids who learn better independently or in smaller groups can thrive and that's what you find at Duck Creek Learning Center. It's a much more relaxed atmosphere, still focused on the essentials but minus the pace of what you'd find in a normal school. The social pressure is lower, the group is a little tighter and the teachers are focused on the students, sometimes on a much deeper level to help them through not only the academics, but maybe some of the things life presents outside of school and their teacher/student bonds are long lasting.
Well, like any school the kids at Duck Creek had their world turned upside down in March when the plug got pulled. Off to the Zoom classes, the independent learning, the lack of connection with the teachers and counselors...missing friends etc. It was an apple cart turned over like anywhere else. But...they did it! They stuck it out, they pulled it off and the Class of 2020 at Duck Creek got their moment in the spotlight just like any, But...since it's a pretty small group...there wasn't a big parade, there's no football field to light up or spray paint initials on. No big PA system to read names over, not even a gym on the campus to practice safe social distancing in. So, the staff got inventive and decided to do something unique. They took the tour to the kids! One by one, the staff and administration went to the graduates houses on June 9th with caps, gowns and diplomas. If they were unable to meet at home, a parents work would do just fine. Anywhere to give these hard working kids their well earned moment.
Bob Switzer is a teacher at the school and let me know what was to come. The first stop was a celebration at Moise Darling's mom's work. She works at Muskegon Community College and right there at the Stevenson Center, by the bust statue of Dr. Rucks, Moise got his moment. We spent a few minutes talking to the new graduate as well as Bob. Take a listen.
To celebrate an accomplishment....we're all about it! What life has in store for the graduates of Duck Creek Learning Center this year, only time will tell. They will all find their place. They will all be contributors to society, family and friends. They deserve accolades and celebration too! The also deserve a little gift, so, below, you'll find the "graduation parade" slide show video minus the interview portion for all of the graduates and families to download and keep. Couldn't be more proud of the hard work and drive of the kids at Duck Creek! Go forth and make us all proud!