Nov. 29, 2023 GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. – After some factory jobs and time in the Army, Kwame Presley was ready for a career. But he didn’t have four years, or even two, to pursue a degree.
“I just wanted something nice, quick and easy so I can start my career while my daughter is still young,” he said.
Presley found what he was looking for in Grand Rapids Community College’s three-month, online Computer Support Technician program. He recently shared his experiences on the national podcast “All In: Student Pathways Forward,” joining GRCC President Charles Lepper and Melissa Goldberg, director of competencies and credentials at Corporation for a Skilled Workforce, as guests this month.
The accelerated Computer Support Technician program offered the flexibility and support that Presley needed as he juggled his education with his family responsibilities.
“Sometimes my daughter, she would lay on me while I did my schoolwork, and there were some days I would have to go to doctor’s appointments and stuff like that,” he told podcast host Marc Goldberg, adding: “I had class in the morning and then I could do my studying when my daughter was asleep.”
Help offered by his instructor, professor Moss Ingram, went beyond class hours.
“I emailed him to let him know I was going to start courses soon; he was most helpful,” Presley said. “He gave me a few YouTubes and some websites to look up before courses so I could study ahead of time. His team is amazing. They offered to help find me employment. The career I’m in now – I ended up getting this offer a month before I graduated.”
For Lepper, Presley’s story was familiar.
“His story is very similar to many of the students we serve throughout the college – an older adult, returning,” Lepper told Marc Goldberg. “He took advantage of a program that had stackable credits that allowed him to apply that to an associate degree. He also earned some certifications along the way.”
Goldberg noted that GRCC was unique in allowing the program’s 16 credits to count toward an associate degree.
“The noncredit workforce training side of the house says it’s great training leading to job opportunities, but it hasn’t always stacked into an associate degree or even a transfer degree,” he said. “So that was outstanding to hear, that that’s the way it was designed: strategically and thoughtfully and understanding students’ short-term and long-term goals.”
Lepper shared information about support available to GRCC students: through its food pantry, community partnerships, scholarships and the “Get Help” webpage’s list of resources.
“We’re here to transform lives, so our mission is pretty basic, and a big part of that is working closely with our community and our employers,” he said.
Melissa Goldberg, whose organization works to increase economic mobility, particularly for people of color and others historically excluded from success, noted that GRCC is a national leader in workforce training.
“Their workforce training program is actively involved in integrating equity-based practices in their programs to promote employment and equity by enhancing engagement and best practices,” she said. “And they have a plan and are working toward developing tools and strategies to identify and address equity gaps and impact labor market access and outcomes.”
For Presley, his GRCC credential was a “stepping stone” into his career. A self-described “puzzle guy,” he loves working as an IT specialist at Twisthink, which partners with companies to develop digital strategies and solutions.
He’s eager for Ingram, who helped him with his resume, to visit Twisthink’s new headquarters and plans to add to his skills by pursuing a bachelor’s degree in cybersecurity from Ferris State University this spring.