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CTE staff awarded over $200,000 to further their education through Michigan’s ‘Grow Your Own’ grant

Utica Community Schools Career and Technical Education (CTE) department was awarded over $200,000 through the State of Michigan’s ‘Grow Your Own’ grant. This seed allows UCS to fund the education and certification of its existing staff to help address current school staffing needs.

“It was motivation to go back and take the classes,” said James Zerilli, computer science teacher at Stevenson High School.  “If it helps me, helps the CTE program and is a grant, then absolutely, because the cost of tuition is really high – it helped a lot.”

Geoff Clark, Director of Career and Technical Education at UCS, said the district was awarded the grant in June and quickly partnered with Western Michigan University to provide CTE course training for current or future teachers.

“The money from the state allows us to pay for teachers’ course work and reimburse for books and registration fees associated with these courses,” Clark said.

So far, 11 teachers have taken advantage of the grant and will receive CTE certification through Western Michigan University.

Zerilli is looking to gain a different perspective through his studies and has already benefited from his first course.

“I think anyone that works with students would benefit,” said Zerilli. “Secretaries, paraprofessionals, lunch aides, custodial staff – we’re all teachers; we work with students on a daily basis and teach students life skills in some way, shape or form.”

UCS is eager to have as many staff members benefit from the grant as possible and anticipates more staff will consider the program in the future.

“It shows that UCS is investing in its staff,” Clark said.

“When you get opportunities, you go for them,” said Zerilli. “Education is at a point of opportunity and this opportunity was brought to us.”