Gateway to Success Academy breaks ground.

September 22, 2015
Members of the G2S board, from left: Anita Wilson, Dr. Lisa Stich, Jamie Bandstra (administrator), Douglas Bacon and Margaret Mitchell

Members of the G2S board, from left: Anita Wilson, Dr. Lisa Stich, Jamie Bandstra (administrator), Douglas Bacon and Margaret Mitchell

By Rob Alway, Editor-in-Chief.

SCOTTVILLE — A groundbreaking ceremony was held Tuesday morning to mark the official start of construction of the Gateway to Success Academy, a charter school that is scheduled to open in September 2016.

See related story here.

The school will be located in the old grocery store building on North Scottville Road between Johnson Road and U.S. 31. While it is technically located in Custer Township, the area is under the municipal authority of the City of Scottville.

gateway_constructionDuring a presentation held at the Mason County District Library Ludington branch, John Wilson, founder and board president of the Pennies from Heaven Foundation, spoke about the need in this area to increase education success rates. The foundation is one of the leading funders of the school, which is chartered by the West Shore Educational Service District.

Wilson said for the past three years he and Lynne Russell, executive director of the United Way of Mason County, have been working together on a strategy they call “community of choice.”

“We are beginning to implement several significant components of that strategy and we need to engage the entire community in order to assure their success,” Wilson said, adding the components include Gateway for Success Academy (G2S), Lakeshore Resource Network and a planned community food pantry.

The goal of the components, Wilson said, is to fight poverty, which is done by filling needs in transportation, child care, education, housing, health care and jobs.

“I’ve been working in the poverty space for 25 years with a bunch of people who are very passionate and working very hard,” Russell said. “But, I don’t see things getting better, a matter of fact they are getting worse.

“The problem is everyone is working in silos. We all work on our own little area and we don’t collaborate with each other to achieve positive outcomes.”

“Mason County has proven time and time again that it is a caring, giving community,” Wilson said. “I equate it to being a big family, everyone in Mason County is in that family. We should all endeavor to take care of our family. Some are ahead, some are behind but we’re all in this together, every single one of us. One of the keys to a healthy family is quality education. Not graduating from high school pretty much determines what the rest of one’s life is going to look like. That’s not the path we want to start our family members out on.”

Wilson said the graduation rate of the eight schools that make up the West Shore ESD in Lake, Mason and Oceana counties, is just under 80%.

“As a family I think we should strive to do much better.”

“The demand for alternative education is growing,” said Don Fallis, G2S board president. “Local superintendents recommend the charter approach, as it would create a public school, with its own district, that can be flexible in its methods to support the individual needs of students.”

Fallis said G2S will cover alternative education needs of the students throughout the West Shore ESD. He said the school will teach a method called project-based learning.

“Project-based learning makes learning relevant and uniquely allows for personalization of the educational experience. By emphasizing a hands-on curriculum, these students learn content and real world skills.”

Construction manager Josh Wickham of Heirloom Construction of Ludington, said he expects the school to be completed by June 2016. The building, that sits on 15 acres, has been disassembled down to its frame. 

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Betten Baker Ford

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