Addressing the stereotype of Central High School
Only four miles and change separate two contrasting institutions, one of which is Central High School, smaller and less recognized, but many do not know what Central is really about.
November 27, 2018
When walking into Central High School, it’s hard not to notice how different it is than Grand Haven High School. As students enter the building in the morning, every teacher lines up at the door, greeting each with a good morning high five and telling them to have a good day.
That’s something you don’t typically see at a high school. Yet, these acts continue throughout the day.
Passing through the narrow yellow-tile hallways, the small student body can appear similar to a family. Sure, many don’t physically look like the person next to them, but each shares a sense of trust, uncommon but unique.
With less than 125 students and only seven full-time teachers, those attending and working at Central are closely knit. Every teacher knows every student’s name. Another thing you don’t see at Grand Haven High School.
“Everyone here has each other’s backs, we all come here for the same reasons and we get really close. I think that the teachers here are also more empathetic because a lot of us have tough lives,” student Eliza Christopher said. “We have a full food pantry that you can use at any time, there’s also clothing you can take if you need it and we have showers for us to use whenever we need too.”
It has often been assumed that Central is basically Grand Haven High School’s student rejects; that kids do not choose to go to Central, they are sent there because of bad behavior.
“We all are kind of misjudged by everyone,” student Stormee St. Bernard Sylvester said. “Not to be rude because I’ve never gone to [Grand Haven High School] but I just feel like people there think it’s a bad stigma; that the only reason why we’re here is that we got caught doing drugs or something like that.”
However, this is false. Central High School is simply a school with students who need more help learning. In short, it’s another secondary option in Grand Haven.
“So Grand Haven has two high schools, we have two high schools intentionally,” said Central High School Principal Paul Kunde. “For 95 percent of students going to Grand Haven High School, it works just fine. But there is a segment of the student population that the high school is just too big and is too much for them and they get lost. So these students come here.”
Having the opportunity to make up on past classes where they might have struggled without the direct support prior to Central, students have a curriculum that is altered to fit each of their needs. Administrators set up specific courses and agendas for that sole purpose.
“So a student can you earn basically two credits per quarter which gives them the opportunity to gain eight credits in a year,” teacher David Funk said.
This strategy is most noticeable in Central’s block schedule; featuring longer classes and shorter marking periods. It gives kids who need extra help what they need. Classes are also much smaller, around 20 students instead of 30. This gives those select students who have a hard time with the large classes at the big high school an opportunity to grow.
“We have four classes a day versus six, so each class each day is 90 minutes,” Kunde said. “The first hour is dedicated to normal class time, the teacher teaches. Then the rest of the time is for students to start homework, or ask questions. It is the best time for students to get one on one help.”
There are many parts of Central that are unusual to a normal high school. Many students do not play sports, on average only about three to four play, mostly because many of the students at Central do not have adequate transportation or many have jobs that take up most of their time.
Students at Central also have many ways to earn more graduation credits. They have a mentorship program which assigns a student to a mentor and by meeting with them you can earn credits. Also, being a member of clubs like calling all colors or student council gives students credit that can be used to earn their diploma as well.
“So we have to earn more elective credits than you do at the big high school, but we have a bunch of different ways you can earn them,” Christopher said. “So by working, joining clubs, volunteering or having a mentor, we can get those credits. I really like having a mentor, I meet with a teacher once a week and I get credit for doing it.”
A big part of Central that many of the students who go there have recognized after switching, is the family environment throughout the school. Students have found that with smaller class sizes and so few teachers, you grow close with everyone around you. It’s changed the course of academic and future success for numerous students.
“We’re not the alternative high school,” Funk said. “We’re the other high school option in Grand Haven.”
If you were to walk around Central, you may realize this. That Central is not just a school. It is a family.
“Central gets a pretty bad rep sometimes, but I feel like even after the first week of school I know everyone here,” student Chloe Davis said. “I have never had a problem here and we all just care a lot about each other.”