Local students receive Dept. of Education award. 

May 15, 2022

Local students receive Dept. of Education award. 

West Shore School News is a presentation of West Shore Educational Service District in partnership with Mason County Press and Oceana County Press.

LANSING – Two local students were among 57 high school and five college students statewide to receive the Michigan Department of Education’s (MDE) 2022 Breaking Traditions Award. 

The two students, Mason VerStrat of Ludington High School and Emma Greene-Gardenhouse of Shelby High School are students in the West Shore Educational Service District Career and Technical Education (CTE) program. VerStrat is a health occupations student and Greene-Gardenhouse, is criminal justice student.

According to a MDE press release, each of the recipients overcame obstacles and stereotypes to succeed in CTE programs considered non-traditional for their gender. The students are “breaking traditions” by pursuing careers in which less than 25 percent of persons working in that field are their gender.

“These 62 students overcame perceived barriers to achieve success in career and technical education programs that are non-traditional to their gender, which makes them role models for their peers who may be considering or might consider similar career paths,” said State Superintendent Michael Rice.

“Michigan benefits from the Breaking Traditions Award recipients through an increasingly diverse workforce necessary to meet the challenges of a 21st century economy,” Dr. Rice said.

There are three levels of awards: Excellence, Merit, and Recognition. The highest secondary and post-secondary BTA winners received the excellence award that includes a $500 scholarship from the Michigan Occupational Special Populations Association (MOSPA), an award plaque, a certificate, and a letter of recognition.  Merit winners receive an award plaque, a certificate, and a letter of recognition.  Recognition winners receive a certificate and letter of recognition.

Awards criteria included:

  • Completion of a CTE program nontraditional to their sex;
  • Enrollment in a Michigan high school, career center, or post-secondary program this year;
  • Nomination by a teacher, counselor, administrator, or other staffer employed by the student’s school or career center;
  • Satisfactory academic standing, acceptable citizenship, and disciplinary history; and
  • Contribution to awareness of non-traditional careers through successful participation in one or more of the following activities:
    • Exemplary completion of a program considered non-traditional to the student’s gender;
    • Successful competition in a program-related event or contest;
    • Participation in a CTE student organization;
    • Recruitment of other students into programs non-traditional for their gender;
    • Mentoring of other students in CTE programs non-traditional for their gender; or
    • Significant contributions to the student’s CTE program.

Applicants provided two letters of support and wrote a brief narrative explaining the career obstacles that they faced and key accomplishments.

MDE’s Office of Career and Technical Education oversees high school instructional programs that teach students skills in a specific career cluster. Most programs offer early college credit opportunities to provide a seamless transition to post-secondary education. These programs support Michigan’s Top 10 Strategic Education Plan guiding principle to provide students with access to high-quality instruction regardless of their gender, sexual orientation, ethnicity, race, economic status, native language, or physical, emotional, and cognitive abilities to close the student achievement and opportunity gaps that currently exist.

“The Breaking Traditions Awards extend beyond individual students. These awards also represent the quality of the school culture,” said Dr. Brian Pyles, Director of CTE at the Michigan Department of Education. “Clearly, these schools embrace an inclusive student-focused instructional environment supported by staff, students, and community.”


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