Welcome to the third annual
“Pianos ’Round Town, the
brainchild of Hancherlian-
Amos, a visionary pianist and
of Ypsilanti, is co-owner of
Nelson Amos Studios in Depot
Town. Her signature event is
scheduled from Sept. 21 to Oct.
PRT was adapted from a
multi-city tour event called,
“Play Me, I’m Yours,” featuring
by Luke Jerram. Hancherlian-
Amos does most of the heavy
lifting in getting this free event
Every autumn, Korin
Hancherlian-Amos can walk
out the front of her downtown
Ypsilanti store and bask in the
sound of her own creation.
Fall might be in the air, but
so are the melodious notes of
strategically placed keyboards.
Just about anybody can belly
up to the keyboard to play.
“Naturally, it’s a draw for
pianists to play, but it’s also fun
for people to try to play who
otherwise wouldn’t try if they
didn’t have this opportunity,”
she said. “Also for kids,
sometimes it’s their very first
time ever touching a piano.”
Hancherlian-Amos has been
playing since she was 5 years
old, and knows how inviting a
lonely keyboard can be.
“Whenever I see a piano, I
sit down and play, so I want
to instill that in other people,”
For the event, the eight
pianos that will live on
Ypsilanti’s streets will be on
loan from Steinway Piano
Gallery of Detroit. The Depot
Town Association will fund the
street permits costing $60 each.
The Ypsilanti Convention
Bureau will donate $1,000 to
deliver and pick-up the pianos.
Executive Director Debbie Locke-Daniel of YCB is excited
for the event to return.
“I think it brings a lot of
publicity to our area,” she said.
“I think we have a lot of culture
in Ypsilanti and it’s drawn to
A former resident of
Ferndale, Locke-Daniel can
remember a time when that city
was “deader than a doornail.”
“Now it’s this fashionable,
funky town that people are
attracted to,” she said. “I
think a younger demographic
are moving here, which is
changing the face of the
During the course of the
event, Hancherlian-Amos will
provide free piano lessons to
anyone while she’s working at
Nelson Amos Studios. Although
there is a lot of logistics
involved with the pianos, the
demand from each of the
local businesses to get one is
“When I go around with the brochures, each business
always asks, ‘How can I get one?”
she said. “I have to explain
over and over the spacing rule
for the pianos and why steps
would make it impossible to
get the piano in and out of the
building each night. The goal
of the pianos is for them to be
Café Racer, a motorcycle and
coffee shop, is participating for
the third straight year. Owner
John Craddock, 41, of Ypsilanti
thinks it’s great for the evenings
his shop has bike nights.
“When you can get people
to jam out on the piano, it’s
awesome because you can
hear it echoing through Depot
Town,” he said. “On bike nights,
they’ve got the whole street
filled up with bikes and people
are outside drinking a little bit
and then someone jumps on
the piano and everybody starts
singing along. They’ll even get
people from the street to join
Victoria Pebbles can finally breathe a sigh of relief, knowing that her three children can get to school and back without having to worry about all the questionable characters living at a nearby homeless camp.
On June 22, the Michigan Department of Transportation evicted the homeless residents from “Camp Take Notice” in Scio Township, less than 200 yards from Pebbles’ home. About a month earlier, about 70 fed up residents and business owners appealed to the township to evict the campers.
In the neighborhood closest to the camp, an Elizabeth Street resident recalled finding human feces, drug paraphernalia, toilet paper and trash in the front of her yard closest to the street.
“It wasn’t just the church people but it was taxi-cabs and pizza delivery people,” she said the resident, who asked that her name not be used. “It’s a nice quiet neighborhood, and then all of a sudden between 300-500 cars turning around in my driveway every day because of this camp.”
So she built a two-foot barricade on the end of her two driveway entrances to keep strangers from turning around in her driveway.
“At first, I was patient. I’m a teacher by trade and so when it started, I thought I would educate whomever I saw turning around,” she said. “I would explain and then ask for it not to happen again. Over time, it just became out of control.”
Brian Durrance, 50, of Dexter, vice-president of Michigan Itinerant Shelter System-Interdependent out of Necessity, or MISSION, said depending on the night at least 35 of the campers could be found sleeping in a shared parking lot off of First United Methodist Church and First Baptist Church of Ann Arbor located near Washington Street in downtown.
Out of the 19 houses located on Elizabeth Street, more than half found ways to barricade their driveways, sometimes with flowerpots, especially for the busy Sunday church deliveries.
Beginning of the end
In mid-May, a petition started circulating among residents and businesses in the neighborhood, calling for CTN’s removal. Rounding up 114 signatures, the campaign was led by nearby resident who also asked for his name not to be used for this story.
“Every business from Kmart to West Gate has signed the petition,” he said, adding that a nearby car dealership complained that the homeless would break into cars to stay warm during the winter.
“The only reason I didn’t get more (signatures) is because, unlike the campers, I have a job and a life,” he said. “I bet that if I had a little more time, I could have easily gotten 500 signatures.”
More than two years ago, when CTN sprouted up on MDOT property located off of Wagner Road in, between Jackson Road and Dexter-Ann Arbor Road, residents generally favored helping those in need.
“At first, I didn’t have a big issue,” Pebbles recalled. “When I first learned about it, the economy was tanking, and a lot of people lost their jobs and homes.”
As the surrounding roads began to line up with cars for Sunday supply deliveries to the camp from its 19 supporting churches, however, some residents recalled being snubbed and harassed.
One resident said she couldn’t let her dogs out. Another one feared for the safety of her grandchildren.
In addition, Pebbles would also have to watch her kids get on the bus every morning and then have them call home once at school, to ensure they were OK.
“There were ex-campers who were using drugs living across the street on the gravel portion of the road,” she said. “So I would watch my kids before they got on the bus. My dogs would also bark at every movement across the street because they thought someone was in our driveway so that with the bus situation and the dogs, it became a nuisance.”
Durrance agreed that an encampment like CTN would attract campers who are not from Washtenaw County.
“When people show up at the Delonis Center to find that it’s full, they send them with a blanket and then refer those folks to the camp,” he said. “Some stay, some go, but sometimes those folks find that we’re the community they crave.”
As the camp grew, and the nuisance worsened, sanitation became another concern. There was no running water on the land and defecating on the property over a prolonged period of time became a public health issue.
Safety concerns also began as campers had reportedly crossed M-14 to access the camp and neighbors and drivers feared being unable to see transients walking along Wagner Road at night.
But those concerns didn’t stop Durrance from protecting and funding the camp through donations.
“I will say that we sympathize with the neighbors, and we are not at war with them,” he said. “We improved that site.”
Durrance said that when CTN was opened, the campers took out 800 bags of garbage just to create a place they could live in. They continued to remove trash up and down Wagner and Elizabeth Road weekly, he added.
“As a community, we took that auxiliary area across from Elizabeth Street, which had homeless people in it, and we cleaned it up,” he said. “We also have a zero-tolerance for pan-handling within two miles of the camp.”
The quest to end homelessness
Of the 40 former CTN campers who were approved for subsidies to pay for one year of rent, 32 have been housed and 19 are in the process of being placed, according to the Washtenaw Housing Alliance. But those numbers vary depending on who’s speaking.
According to Durrance, there were 70 at the camp at the time of eviction on May 29. As of Aug 28, 25 of the 70 had been housed.
“Their promise was to house 50, but they’ve only housed 25.” he said. “There are 40-50 still on the street, and we’re finding them in various places.”
According to Executive Director of the Washtenaw Housing Alliance Julie Steiner, 20 of the campers who wanted help on May 29 vanished from the area, four of the campers were illegal aliens and five had incomes that proved to be enough to find housing. Steiner said that if the five campers that had enough income needed help finding housing, the Washtenaw Housing Alliance would have been able to help.
“Every two weeks, all of the case managers who are working with folks on helping them find housing meet together and share where people are at and help each other,” she said.
The five organizations in Ann Arbor that are aiding in the housing of the campers are The Shelter Association of Washtenaw County, Home of New Vision; an organization dedicated to supporting people with substance abuse, Michigan Ability Partners, PORT; Project Outreach and the Washtenaw Housing Alliance.
“When we were faced with not enough housing for all of the campers, we looked at our local resources to see what we could do. We added to the pot of money,” Steiner said. “Of the people who are currently housed, those 32, nine of them are housed with our resources in Washtenaw County, not money from the state.”
Steiner also added that Washtenaw County is challenged because of all the students.
“Landlords can get bazillions of dollars from the students and the landlords get the parents to cosign on these apartments, so there’s really no incentive for them to rent to people who have challenging housing histories,” she said. “And this isn’t new. This isn’t just CTN, this is homeless people across the country.”
She added that at any given time during the year, there are more than 200 people living outside – in the woods – in Michigan.
“There just isn’t enough affordable housing in Washtenaw County,” she said.
As for Durrance, he’s not going to stop planting homeless encampments.
“I know that the crime in our community can be managed just like in any other community,” he said. “I am committed to serving for that small niche of folks who don’t have anywhere to go when the system can’t provide assistance.”
Google your goodies; it’s healthy for you
When I went on the job hunt in June, I reopened my Facebook and cleaned out all the videos, photos and posts on my wall that I wouldn’t want prospective employers to see. Out of necessity to connect, Facebook became my way to network with people in my field to find a job.
About every two weeks, I obsessively search Google to make sure there are no images or content displayed that I wouldn’t want seen. Everybody should do this.
Obviously, my name is Anna Fuqua-Smith, so a Google search would place me on the first page of the search results due to the distinction of my name.
If you’ve never “Googled” yourself, chances are, you’ve been Googled several times. People crave information about each other – and you.
Google has almost become a first-class dating site in some respects.
Once information about you is put online, there is little control over who sees it, how it’s used or how long it’ll be available.
It’s good practice to know what’s going on with your online reputation to ensure you can answer questions about it in case it comes up in future situations.
I once found out an ex-boyfriend was in prison because of a Google search. Thanks for the update, Google.
Some couples have even resorted to Googling possible child names to ensure prominent placement in a Google search when their child grows up. My parents named me with two last names because they eventually knew they would come to hate each other. Obviously, distinction didn’t matter in 1985.
The world’s largest professional network, LinkedIn, guarantees its customers to be placed high in Google search results.
While Nathan Clark is over there, twiddling his thumbs not caring about his online reputation, he should care about his conventional name, especially if he’d like to be a grown-up journalist some day.
At least I can find myself Google, with a good reputation, while Nathan Clark might be blindly waiting in the unemployment line for years to come because he doesn’t know what exists on the Internet about him.
Dead man talking: Get over yourself!
I like being me, don’t you? Of course you don’t. You’re not me. You’re you, and you need to stop looking yourself up on Google.
I know we live in an integrated society where everything we do is recorded, cataloged, seen, forgotten and later found again. I get that. A little paranoia is natural. But when you look yourself up on Google all the time, you’re not practicing a good habit; you’re being a narcissistic [expletive].
Searching for your name on the Internet is a pastime reserved for egomaniacs, infuriated that the world is or isn’t talking about them, and escaped convicts trying to stay one step ahead of local law enforcement.
Unless you are already famous, looking yourself up isn’t even effective. When I type Nathan Clark on Google, the first thing that pops up is an obituary for an old man who made shoes. I’m not a cobbler and I’m fairly certain I’m not dead. Then again, Google is pretty smart.
There’s no need for a regular person to be combing the Internet for information on themselves.
When did we become so narcissistic? What happened to humility? Have people forgotten that the world does not revolve around them?
Since the rise of reality television, ego has become America’s biggest export. Hordes of Americans strive to be in the spotlight, regardless of why they are there in the first place. Whether it’s “American Idol” stardom or random acts of stupidity seen on “Tosh.0,” Americans will do anything to get noticed. Why?
Even if you do find yourself on the Net, it’s usually something you put there in the first place, like your Facebook page. Good job; you found yourself!
Perhaps after singing beautifully on national television or being hosed with bear mace on YouTube, looking for yourself online would be a wise decision. But if you’re just a regular person, there are better things to waste your time on.
Then again, maybe I am a dead man, like Google says. I could be wrong.
As the admissions recruiter for Washtenaw Community College, Julie Killich spends a lot of time these days visiting high schools throughout the county and conducting multiple tours as part of an initiative to strengthen WCC’s presence.
“From the standpoint at the high school, I let the prospective students know that a two-year college can be viable option upon graduation,” she said. “They don’t realize they can get all of the same things at WCC rather than a university.”
While the program was put into effect this winter, WCC has also invited all of the Washtenaw County public high schools to offer sections of courses on their high school campuses.
“We’ve been contacting the high schools because when we had met with the superintendents and principals, a message that came through clearly was that we could best partner with them by offering classes on the high school campus,” said Linda Blakey, associate vice president of Student Services
In addition to the initiative, Killich is also working with the high school students on the possibility of enrolling into dual-enrollment classes whether they are at the WCC main campus or one of the extension sites.
“They are coming to the campus, taking the compass test and seeing if they’re ready for dual enrollment,” she said. “There are even talks of possibly offering a class on how to be a dual-enrolled student.”
While visiting area high schools, Killich is often asked about WCC’s sports department and class sizes.
“The students support the small class sizes,” she said. “A lot of students are interested in knowing that we have Club Sports at the college level. They think they have to go straight to university for that.”
Although the Admissions Department is becoming more aggressive in the recruiting process through high schools, Trustee Richard Landau believes that resources like social media such as Facebook and Tumblr are being under used.
“We rely largely on guidance counselors who may be focused on placing students in four-year colleges rather placing students at WCC,” he said. “We have all of these students at the college who have tremendous contacts, and I’ve always thought our students are our greatest ambassadors.”
And while Killich has confirmed that social media can be a viable option when recruiting high school students, Landau also believes that WCC will see more customers with the increase in dual enrollment sections.
“I think social media is a viable option and it’s a direction we’re heading,” Killich said.
After discovering a drainage problem during the 2011 baseball season, $24,000 was needed to install draining tiles thorughout the infield. (Courtesy photo)
WCC’s baseball team finally set to play after college pours more money into new diamond
The baseball field that doesn’t drain properly has become a drain on the college’s budget.
After a $2.2 million investment to build the athletic fields, Washtenaw Community College has to spend another $24,000 to build drain tiles around the infield in an effort to make it playable—and safe.
News like this comes as a relief to coach Brian Moeglin, who would often spend up to eight hours on the field with players to get it ready for games.
“I can’t say we would do all the work. Facilities would usually come out and help me and the team get it ready for games,” he said. “One time it rained on a Tuesday and on Saturday, we spent eight hours taking water off the field so we could play on Sunday.”
According to Rick Westcott, superintendent of Grounds and Fleet, the problem made baseball unplayable for most practices.
“It was a bad problem. It was so bad that if it rained, it would most likely take four to five days before the field would dry out,” Westcott said. “The problem was the clay. It was like a swimming pool and would hold water.”
After several meetings with college officials, Westcott called in a consultant who was responsible for building Comerica Park.
“He suggested the drain tile would take care of the problem,” Westcott said. “Then we hired a company that specializes in ball fields and they spent about a week out here.”
Bob’s Landscaping Services, of St. Clair Shores made the repairs.
“There is 480 feet of weeper tile that went into the ball field. It’s all drained into the bio-swell that’s at the field which is a good thing,” Westcott said. “We haven’t experienced any similar problems on the softball field like this.”
According to Conference Service Manager Patrick Downey, the baseball field will be rented out to community groups for $50 an hour at a two-hour minimum. Currently, the field is reserved for 10 hours externally and 80 hours for WCC’s team.
Although athletes competing in soccer and lacrosse experienced wear and tear problems on the soccer field, the problem on the baseball field is not same.
“We weren’t really aware of all the play that was going to happen on the baseball field and didn’t know about the clay problem at first,” Westcott said. “We knew we had to do something to this field due to the initial problem from the original installation.”
And Moeglin is looking forward to an improved season on the field.
“Last year, we were only able to get on the field twice before our first game. We were doing practices on the (outside) basketball court and in the parking lot,” he said. “We were trying to do drills in the outfield grass. I’m just ecstatic they took care of the problem as soon as the weather broke for this season.
“This year I can do proper tryouts on the right field,” he said. “And it’s great to see the baseball field draining even better than the softball field.”
Despite changing industry, jobs are out there and WCC has programs to get you there
While some may think that manufacturing in Michigan is dead, Mark Sturtevant believes that his training in automation technology is going to get him a job. He attends classes in the building around campus that many students aren’t even aware exists, the Industrial Technology building. It is filled with much of the machinery used in the industry.
“I started full-time this semester,” said Sturtevant, 39, from Addison. “I believe I will get a job out of this, and I really enjoy the robotics. When I looked around at other schools before I came here, I saw that this school was teaching what’s going on in the real world.”
According to Ross Gordon, the interim dean of Vocational Technology, many companies are looking to fill positions in the manufacturing industry. The companies often struggle to find enough skilled workers to fill these openings. Some companies even hire workers and then train them through Washtenaw Community College.
Detroit resident, Andre Wallace, 21, a welding major, hasn’t been able to find steady full-time work. With a recent grant class provided by Washtenaw Community College, he is able to have a 100 percent guarantee that even before completion of this welding and computer numerical course, he’ll be able to start working immediately.
“It’s been difficult due to a lot of high-paying work being seasonal,” he said. “I look at this course and it being paid for as a blessing and it gives me hope that I can find a career in Michigan without leaving my family.”
With professional equipment like towering robots and hydraulic machinery, these are daunting programs to enter. While learning to use this equipment isn’t easy, there are jobs in the field, which is much better than unemployment, according to Gordon.
Expertise in hydraulics could be used to test products, such as car doors. While a person couldn’t slam a truck’s door precisely the same way every time, hydraulics could be used to do so.
Even though there are many jobs available in these fields, there aren’t a lot of students in the corresponding programs.
“It’s very much a high-demand job right now,” said Jim Popovich, a vocational technology instructor. “It’s hard to find people with these skills. It’s not a very big program. Some people are convinced that there are no longer jobs making things anymore.”
With only about 138 students enrolled across several of the main manufacturing disciplines, four sections of classes ended up being canceled due to low enrollment this semester. This is bad for the programs, because according to Gordon, they are cautious when scheduling classes by putting up only the ones they think will succeed.
“People believe manufacturing is dead, and that’s just not true,” Gordon said. “Industry is d esperately calling out to us, telling us they need qualified employees.”
While the manufacturing game has changed, there are new positions that need to be filled.
Within the robotics discipline, people are needed to program and maintain the robots in order to keep them performing the correct tasks. Instead of picking up heavy pieces of metal and putting them onto a conveyer belt, a robot can now be automated to do so.
These programs are always being updated so that they stay current with the industry practices, Gordon said. There is even a program that offers some training in most of the fields known as Manufacturing and Industrial Computing, allowing students to take classes in robotics, fluid power, numerical control and machine tool technology. This means that students will have training in all of the major disciplines of the field, and become that much more employable.
Gordon thinks that while parents may urge children to take a more academic path in college, students should remember that when choosing this field they are more likely to get a job.
Welding and fabrication major Ben Gerber, 21, of Dexter, sees a lot of jobs he can get as a welder, so taking advantage of resources that WCC provides is essential to him.
“I decided that taking more advanced classes would make my resume look even better,” he said. “Education like this is where the jobs are at. This course has a lot of pressure to make deadlines but when I’m done, I know I’ll have a job. And I’m very grateful that this course is paid for – and so are my parents. I’m already getting calls for jobs, and I’m not done with the class.”
After the abrupt shut down of the soccer field last October, it’s finally up and running full-time again.
For athletes competing in sports at Washtenaw Community College, this comes as a relief after the college closed the field due to excessive wear and tear and a record rainfall last summer.
In an attempt to protect the college’s $2.2 million investment in the athletic fields, only WCC Sports will only have access to the soccer field. In the past, the college would rent it out for $50 an hour to outside community groups for games, practices or camps.
That is no longer an option. College ofcials have decided that 450 hours of playable time were feasible for the soccer field before further investments would have to be considered. WCC Sports needs 425 of those 450 hours.
“We only have two options. Either reduce the number of hours of play on the field or change the turf and go to a more expensive artificial turf which has more financial implications,” said Damon Flowers, associate vice president of Facilities Management. “We decided the first right of refusal
would be the college and Club Sports, so that only left over 25 or so hours for the whole season to external users. We decided we can’t really have external users on the soccer field.”
According to Patrick Downey, Conference Services manager, the soccer field was rented out to external users for 347 hours in 2011, which at $50 per hour resulted in $17,350 in revenues. Club Sports reserved the soccer field for 235 hours before it was closed just five weeks into the Fall semester totaling 582 hours.
“I’m technically going to continue to reserve the fields for (WCC) Sports, but will not be renting out to external users at all,” Downey said.
With the quick-changing weather in Michigan this time of year, when it is difficult to accurately forecast a frost, grounds personnel needed a one-to-two-week window with no play to allow the seed to germinate before freezing temperatures hit.
The drainage on the field didn’t help either.
“We have a lot of clay on this campus just generally,” Flowers said. “Clay is not a soil material that drains well. Rain plus clay equals a muddy mess.” According to Flowers, the decision to keep external users from using the soccer field will help the field recover for future play.
“We have had record-setting rain in September 2011. If you play on the field, it needs time to recover,” Flowers said. “So with rain and saturation, it didn’t appear that it would be very viable to continue renting out to external users.
“From the point of view on injuries and physical appearance, who wants to play on dirt? Glass is alive. You just can’t keep running cleats on it day after day. Eventually it dies,” he said. “So it came down to how many hours does the college need and how many hours can the field be active?”
Club Sports Coordinator Erica Lemm said she regrets that the community can’t rent the field out, but sees it as an opportunity for the athletes.
“If the community could use the field, it would be a great resource. A lot of community members talk about how much they liked the field, but it did put WCC Sports (teams) at a disadvantage halfway through their seasons,” she said. “WCC also needs the field through the season, not
Madonna nears end with immature ‘MDNA’
No one knew Madonna would age so gracefully. At 53, 12 albums later and a shattered divorce, Madonna can confidently say she’s experimented as an artist and crossed the line – sometimes for the good and sometimes for the bad.
Her newest installment, “MDNA” is just bad.
Opening with an addictive hook produced by Benny and Alle Benassi, “Girl Gone Wild,” experiments with some European flavor and electronic beats. The lyrics, however, open with an apology: “Oh my God/ I’m heartily sorry/For having offended thee/And I detest all my sins.
And that’s not even the actual song; what’s the apology for?
As the album progresses, it’s a downward spiral of lyrics that haven’t matured over the years. “MDNA” is full of teeny-bopper lines that rip off Katy Perry and Kesha and that’s not a compliment. At 53, she hasn’t grown.
And then there’s, “Give Me All Your Luvin,” featuring Nicki Minaj and MIA that opens with a cheerleading, “L-U-V Madonna” chant. Later on in the track, she boasts, “ Every record sounds the same, you’ve got to step in my world.”
And she’s right. This entire track sounds the same. Add Minaj and it’s dumbed down for the manic love-lost high-schooler.
The best track on this garbage-ridden installment may be, “Love Spent.” Madonna experiments with a Bollywood beat. It’s one of the only tracks in which her mess of a relationship with her ex-husband shines through and her feelings are exposed in the rawest form for the world to see.
The club-dance sound governs the entire record. However, Madonna trips over her aged disco ball most of the time. She sounds best when she brings down the tempo in, “Falling Free.”
Not only does Madonna take us to the club, she beats us up with her ridiculously stupid lyrics, exhausting us to the point of never wanting to hear her again.
Retirement should be in Madonna’s near future.
Sparks fly as students in the vocational technology grant program are hard at work learning to weld — among other skills necessary for their future employment. (Adrian Hedden/The Washtenaw Voice)
New grant class guarantees 100 percent placement
Basilio Arecheja is a single father of three children, has a felony, and, like so many others in Michigan, has not had consistent work for the last three years.
For the Belleville resident, Arecheja, 38, and 24 other students at Washtenaw Community College, there may be a light at the end of the tunnel.
WCC has partnered with Macomb Community College in an effort to create qualified candidates for the increasing job demand in welding and computer numerical control. The grant is worth $150,000, and it is being used to fund supplies for the course and tuition for the students.
Arecheja counts it as a blessing.
“When work shut down, I was just surviving on unemployment, and that barely pays the bills,” he said. “There was no grant class for me unless I could apply for a grant and get a shot to show that I could do it.”
Half of the students will spend January and April in welding and the other half in CNC and then swap in the beginning of May to finish the course in July. The students meet every Friday from 8 a.m.-5 p.m. and, according to Ross Gordon, interim dean of Vocational Technology, they will have 100 percent job placement upon completion of the course.
“We’re actually going to bring a recruiter down at the end of March that’s specifically tied to this program, and we’ll be ready to hand off as many resumes that are ready and let the students start working with her to find placement,” he said. “I’m anticipating that some students will fall off. I’m hoping that the students can work for these companies while finishing this course.”
And job placement isn’t the only resource Gordon is providing to the students. The students will go through CPR training, resume writing, interviewing and networking skills and will also obtain the 10-hour Occupational Safety and Health Administration card showing employers that they’ve been trained in how to be safe.
“This is not always the safest environment. Students may be doing heavy lifting, doing a redundant process over and over again or standing next to these machines,” he said. “Or welding, it gets hot, and so the CPR training is provided so they can protect themselves and the people around them.”
When WCC was approached by MCC, the main objective was to employ people who had never done welding or CNC work and then immediately send the students into the work force. Welding instructor Coley McLean, 35, of Detroit, immediately saw a problem in the objectives and went to work to form a syllabus dedicated to higher-paying jobs in welding and CNC.
“Department of Defense jobs are intense,” she said. “When I designed this course, it was in mind that students applying for this course would already have a welding background and then they would start learning more DOD materials like thicker plates and special welding techniques.”
“It’s a totally different course than what the other community colleges are teaching,” she said. “I sat down with several companies and asked them, ‘What do you need?’ and modeled the course after that so
these students look good on paper and have the skill set necessary to handle an intense job.”
Welding major Stephanie Domeier, 30, of Willis, is spending the first half of the course on the CNC training side as a new mother.
“I probably wouldn’t have been able to take this course if it hadn’t been for the grant,” she said. “I’m very confident that I’ll be able to find a job when I leave. I’m working immensely hard to ensure I’m placed as soon as possible.”
With the growing demand for talent in welding and CNC, Gordon is worried that if students aren’t trained fast enough to fill jobs, that companies struggling to hire qualified candidates will leave southeast Michigan.
“We’re going to be satisfying those high-end welding jobs,” he said. “With the combination of welding and CNC, that gives the students a well-rounded skill so that way they have twice as many job opportunities available to them.”
As for Arecheja, Gordon believes companies are in dire need of skilled employees and will thus provide job security to candidates with felonies.
“We’re focused on these students trying to turn these jobs into careers, and I think companies will overlook past records because they need qualified people in these positions,” he said. “These jobs are not seasonal and lets these students plan for their lives.
“I always tell students to stay with us for one year and we’ll get you a job. Stay with us for two years, and we’ll get you a career.”
The Farm at St. Joe’s, located on the campus of St. Joseph Mercy Hospital in Ann Arbor
College to get on agriculture bandwagon?
While Washtenaw Community College students were enjoying their spring break, Special Project Administrator Victoria Bennett conducted a farm tour for several instructors from biology, health and business to evaluate the need for an agriculture program.
“Michigan produces the second-largest number of crops next to California,” she said. “If you look at a map of agriculture produce in Michigan, the bottom half of Michigan is the heart of the produce. We’re already producing the agriculture; we’re just not training people to do it to carry on other farms.”
And as small farms pop up, such as the Farm at St. Joe’s, Tantre Farms and the Tillian Farm Development Center, Bennett saw a need for a small-niche market that would eventually need to be filled.
“Farms are popping up at schools, hospitals and jails and we anticipate that’s an emerging area,” she said. “On a somewhat larger scale, the average age of a farmer is 58. Farms are not being passed on from parent to child anymore, so who’s going to take over for these older farmers once they pass?”
And with that realization, Bennett went into action.
Calling in Dean of Business and Computer Technologies Rosemary Wilson and Dean of Math, Science and Health Martha Showalter, Bennett put together a strategic proposal of the possible needs a program in agriculture would need, and the trustees were briefed on it as a strategic initiative at their annual retreat held earlier this month.
“The research we’re doing right now is a cross-disciplinary approach to this,” Wilson said. “We’re not talking about putting together a program that’s going to rival Michigan State University’s agriculture program. We’re particularly looking at small-scale farming.”
Dean Martha Showalter (Math, Health, Science), Dean Rosemary Wilson (Business), culinary instructor Alice Gannon-Boss, recycling manager Barry Wilkins, owner of Goetz farm John Goetz and computer science instructor Ernest Clover are led through a recent farm tour to determine whether an agriculture program is necessary at WCC.
As part of several career days and talks with the community, Bennett and the faculty team realized that the children of farmers are not taking over farms like they used to. Many farms are closing up shop.
“The upcoming generation doesn’t necessarily have a clear career path or a way to study farming and pick up all that knowledge that was traditionally handed down in families,” Wilson said. “People who are going into farming very often will have some basis of knowledge in the actual growing part of it but not the business part of it and that’s critical for survival if you’re going into farming.”
For now, the goal of the program is to fill the smaller-niche farms such as the Tillian Farm Development Center. For the actual program, it would primarily be focused on the entrepreneurial side with a small education series on the actual growing of crops. It is not intended for campus green to be dug up to make way for the program, but rather through internships at local farms.
“That’s the important piece of partnering with area farms to make sure the applied things are put into place. We’re not going to plow up 40 acres of campus green,” said Stuart Blacklaw, vice president of instruction. “There’s a possibility we could do a hoop house on campus so there’s some application on campus, but those are fairly minor in comparison to the amount of work that farms are actually involved in.”
According to Associate Vice President of Facilities Development and Operations Damon Flowers, the space is available.
“The location and soil conditions would have to be correct. Direct sunlight, or no direct sunlight and shade would have to be considered,” he said. “Accessibility to students would need to be looked at. Protecting it from other animals on campus would need to be considered.”
Flowers even has a location in mind for the potential program.
“There’s a clearing over at the Occupational Education building that’s a bit elevated facing the north. It’s basically a big planter box,” he said. “It’s clear and free from animals so that could be a possible place.”
And as far as job demand in Southeast Michigan, Wilson says research is being done quickly to evaluate it.
“People think as farming as the kind of thing where you see endless farms as far as the eye can see,” Blacklaw said. “So many more people are in agriculture now and these little micro farms are popping up everywhere.
The Home Grown Local Food Summit will be held April 2 from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. in the Morris Lawrence building.