APPLEGATE: Grateful for community partners

Published 6:30 pm Monday, October 31, 2022

As a district, I believe it is vital to provide students ample amounts of opportunities to receive unique hands-on experiences that align with their interests and long-term career goals. After all, this allows students to apply learning to real-world scenarios. At Niles Community Schools, we’ve developed key relationships with area partners to create external opportunities for students to build upon their classroom experiences, while also reinforcing the level of talent our students offer. 

We know that teachers and staff play an instrumental role in a student’s development but having additional partners and mentors outside of school can help students flourish and find passions they weren’t exposed to before. Oftentimes, these experiences are reserved for college internships or apprenticeships, however, Niles students have access to opportunities to work in healthcare, education and automotive industries – all while still in school and working towards their high school diplomas. 

Through these programs and partnerships, Niles Community Schools is meeting students’ desires to get a head start on their future careers, explore the possibilities, and receive invaluable mentorship from leaders in the community. 

Niles Community Schools has a variety of partnerships with local businesses and corporations. Currently, students are placed in internships at Beacon Health Services, where they can support the doctors and nursing staff in assisting patients with behavioral, mental and physical health needs. Students are also gaining great experience from Gabrizio’s Italian Bakery and Café, a local staple here in Niles, as the eatery has joined our CTE Culinary Advisory. Learning how to make handcrafted cakes, desserts and coffee, as well as understanding what it takes to run a restaurant, provides a fun and unique perspective on the industry through a local lens. Plus, new this academic year, students can intern at Tyler Automotive in Niles, where they can learn the ins and outs of vehicles with experts. These experiences and more provide students with countless memories and skills that will last a lifetime. 

While learning these experiences in high school, students can build a reputable portfolio of new or enhanced skills for life after Niles Community Schools. This experience can open the doors to opportunities they may not have had before or allow them to identify careers that are not right for them – an invaluable lesson that can save time and money in the future. 

We are grateful to the Greater Niles Chamber and local community colleges – Southwestern Michigan College and Lake Michigan College – for their support in connecting our students and programs with employers. We also are thankful to the Niles YMCA as our educational and developmental partner and to HOPE, who has helped bring high-quality minority teaching candidates to the Niles area. Additionally, we give our thanks to the Berrien County Sheriff’s Department and Niles Police Department for their ongoing support and assistance in keeping our students, teachers and staff safe and secure as they continue to learn, grow, play and thrive. 

We, at Niles Community Schools, are thankful for our partners and the invaluable experiences they provide to our students year after year. Without them, none of this would be possible. These experiences make our students’ academic careers and extracurricular hobbies at Niles more robust and well-rounded so that when it comes time to leave the Vikings’ ship, it will be smooth sailing. 

We are always interested in developing new partnerships. Local organizations interested in working with Niles Community Schools are encouraged to contact my office.