ASM Tech offers an alternative path through high school and college.

March 10, 2015
Left, Clayton Malkowski (MCC), Tyler Corliss (Hart), Kaci Clayton (MCC) and Travis Carr (Walkerville) work on Lego robotics during their ASM Tech core class.

Left, Clayton Malkowski (MCC), Tyler Corliss (Hart), Kaci Clayton (MCC) and Travis Carr (Walkerville) work on Lego robotics during their ASM Tech core class.

By Kate Krieger. Senior Correspondent.

VICTORY TWP. (Mason Co.) – Up to 40 high school seniors each year from the 14 school districts in Mason, Lake, Oceana and Manistee counties and the homeschool population sign up for a fifth year of high school, but in return receive two years of college for free.

ASM Tech Early College, at West Shore Community College is a program offered to high school seniors, where students can attend college full time their senior year and then an additional fifth year of high school, but they aren’t ever in a high school setting, the idea is full college emersion to allow for the students to receive as much college credits as possible before graduation.

“It’s basically a two-year, full ride scholarship,” ASM Tech director, Randy Boerema, said. “Every district is guaranteed two spots and then we have 10 additional spots, which are awarded from largest district to smallest.”

Students selected for ASM Tech are asked to write two essays during their sophomore year and then program officials discuss the students with their school district’s local counselors. Those selected meet once a month for a meeting during their junior year to prepare them for the transition to ASM for the next two years. The program focuses around students who are interested in the science, technology, engineering or mathematics fields, which is referred to as the STEM focus.

“It’s a public high school on a college campus,” Boerema said. “They each attend an English and core class and the rest of their time is either spent in the Career and Technical Education (CTE) program and/or in college classes.”

Tuition, fees and books are all paid for during the two years. The only thing not covered is transportation.

“We pay for everything, but getting here,” he said. “It’s a really cool thing.”

The idea of getting free college for two years was a major draw for many of the students at ASM Tech. Walkerville student Travis Carr, 17, said attending ASM really feels like he’s already out of high school.

“It’s almost like I graduated my junior year,” he said. “Two years of free college, that’s why I’m here.”

Carr is taking college courses and is involved in the CTE criminal justice program.

“What I take is completely up to me,” he said. “Since I’m still in high school, I can take the CTE classes. It’s definitely worth considering especially looking at the cost of college. When I finish, I want to transfer to Grand Valley State University for a four year degree.”

Clayton Malkowski, 18, is a Mason County Central student, who is looking to go into the medical field. He said attending ASM Tech was worth the extra year of high school.

“I saw the opportunity and I wanted to better myself,” he said. “I wanted to be with other people who care about their education and I thought the program sounded like me.”

Malkowski said during his previous high school years he was pretty quiet, but ASM Tech has helped him break out of his shell.

“The people in the program have brought me to be more outspoken,” he said. “These people help you become the person you want to be.”

His parents were very supportive of his choice to come to ASM Tech, he said adding he would suggest the program to anyone looking to better themselves. He is currently taking 13 college credits and plans to transfer to Central Michigan University or Michigan State University when he completes the program.

For 18-year-old, Manistee High School student RuthAnn Staffeld, ASM Tech was the only way she could make her college dreams come true.

“If I hadn’t done ASM Tech, I wouldn’t be going to college,” she said. “College is expensive and this is a way financially I could do it.”

Staffeld is in college classes, along with the CTE program from construction, with plans on transferring to Ferris State University to major in construction management.

“I like the flexibility,” she said. “The class schedules are different and I get to choose my classes and times. That’s definitely one of the better things about it. It really pushes you harder and harder. I was in CTE last year, too and once I was in there, construction just became a part of me.”

All three students agreed the atmosphere at ASM is a lot more mature than the traditional high school setting. They all stated that there is “no drama” at ASM Tech and all the students really get along with each other and push each other to be their best even though they may be going down completely different career paths.

ASM Tech’s motto is “it’s your fault.” Boerema said that it’s the student’s fault for doing poorly and it is also their own fault for all the success they might encounter while enrolled.

“They have us here for two years to work individually and to walk aside them,” he said. “The credits they earn are transferrable. The goal is that they don’t need us anymore when they’re done and that they can navigate college or understand what employers want.”

Students must possess a 2.2 grade point average to apply and some motivation to work hard.

“Motivation is hard to teach,” Boerema said. “We can take that B-C student and make them successful in college. The other great thing about it is that since they are still considered high school students, they still have all the financial aid and scholarship options any other high school student has, yet they already have two years of college completed, too.”

ASM Tech really offers high school students a lot of options, especially if they already have a decent idea on what they plan on doing after high school graduation.

“If anyone asked me, ASM is the one program everyone should do, “Staffeld said. “If the government could pay for everyone to go to it, that’d be awesome then everyone could be on their dream path.”

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