"GRPS values diversity and inclusion. Our children get an opportunity for a real-world environment."
Omar Cuevas and Elizabeth Ruiz describe themselves as being like “The Brady Bunch”. Together, they have 6 children attending 3 different GRPS schools. Three attend Innovation Central High School, 1 is at City High Middle School, and 2 attend CA Frost Environmental Science Academy.
“It’s been a great experience from the start. We were very intentional in what schools we were going to pick for our children all the way through high school and I could see that Grand Rapids Public Schools definitely provides our children the opportunity to prepare for their future,” said Omar.
Omar and Elizabeth are thrilled with the schools their children are attending, especially Innovation Central. Innovation Central is home to four academies: Academy of Modern Engineering; Academy of Business, Leadership & Entrepreneurship; Academy of Design & Construction; and Academy of Health Science & Technology.
“The way I see it, it’s almost like they are already experiencing that college life because you see different programs within one building, yet they provide some interaction between the different programs themselves,” said Omar.
In choosing Innovation Central, Omar and Elizabeth wanted to make sure their children were engaged in the process and that the school they would be attending was the best fit for their individual interests. They found that Innovation Central offered the right program for three of their children.
Omar describes, “We talked to our children about what their interests were and found out that they matched up to the curriculum offered at Innovation Central. So it provides them with an opportunity to feel like they have some say in what their education’s going to look like in high school. They have more buy-in and are therefore able to even provide more emphasis on their studies and at the end of the day be able to be more successful because it’s something that they want to study. It’s aligned with what their focus is and what they’re passionate about.”
Emily, a 16 year old in the Academy of Health Science & Technology, said, “That school is such a big help, I love that school. Honestly I can say that the teachers there are very supportive and I know that they’re just encouraging you every single day to do your best.” Emily hopes to continue her education after graduation to become an obstetrician/gynecologist.
Omar Jr., also 16, is in the Academy of Modern Engineering with plans to pursue biomedical engineering after graduation. He likes the focus Innovation Central has on preparing students for their future. He said, “Going to different colleges, field trips, really opened up my eyes to see the different careers out there in that field.”
Ashley, 15, is still deciding which academy she wants to enroll in. All freshmen at Innovation Central sample each of the academies before choosing one at the end of their freshman year. Originally, she thought she wanted to be in the Academy of Health Science & Technology, but she is now considering the Academy of Design and Construction. No matter which path she chooses, Omar and Elizabeth know she will be set up for success.
“The partnerships that Innovation Central has with other colleges and universities, it’s present and you can see it. So you’ll see summer internships, as a result of Innovation Central. Some of my high school children have been to Ferris in the summer; they’re going to Michigan State this summer. It’s because of the focus that Innovation Central has on further education.”
Omar and Elizabeth are also happy with the education Ana, age 15, is getting at City High Middle School. City High is the top performing school in West Michigan and 2nd highest in the state. It’s internationally recognized International Baccalaureate program challenges students to become critical thinkers. Omar and Elizabeth credit the program with pushing Ana outside her comfort zone.
“City is an awesome opportunity for our daughter. She has an opportunity to be challenged academically, as well as has a rigorous work schedule, which is only going to make college life even that much easier because she’s already going to have the behaviors in place that will allow her to be successful- time management, being able to work with a large workload,” said Omar.
The youngest of Omar and Elizabeth’s children attend CA Frost Environmental Science Academy. Adrian and Samantha are in middle school, and their parents are excited that CA Frost is adding a high school option, beginning with 9th grade in the fall.
“We love CA Frost. It’s a family environment. The principals to the teachers, everyone seems to love what they do and they make it very evident with the way that they treat our children. They apply what they learn in the classroom outside. Either doing stream studies or going to the Blandford nature center. You see the engagement of the students because they see a real life application,” said Omar.
Across all three schools and throughout the entire GRPS system, Omar and Elizabeth have seen a commitment to diversity.
Omar said, “They value diversity and inclusion and we see that, not only in the student body, but with the administrators, board members, teachers, we see it all over. It’s very important for our children because they can get an opportunity for a real world environment.”
They also appreciate the supports available to students who are English language learners. Omar said, “I think the public schools in Grand Rapids have done a great job being able to address the concerns of those individuals that English is not their first language. And found a creative way to integrate them into programs, such as Southwest Community Campus, where we have English learners along with Spanish learners. So it provides an opportunity. In a symbiotic way, everyone is able to benefit. But they also have bilingual programs in place; they provide additional assistance to students that need the extra support.”
Act now! Apply today! Seats for theme schools and Centers of Innovation are limited and an application is required. Apply online at apply.grps.org, or visit any GRPS school or the Administration Building at 1331 Franklin St SE for a paper application.