For six years, the Kalamazoo Innovative Learning Program (KILP) has been working with students who need to focus on credit retrieval, but program administrator Kimberly Kirshman said many in Kalamazoo Public Schools still don’t know how it helps students “find a positive path toward graduation.”
KILP launched in the fall of 2016 with 60 students. The program now has 97 students in its hybrid format that focuses on getting students through GradPoint classes to retrieve credits required for graduation. The program can help students either get caught up on credits so they can return to their home high schools or can help them complete credits quickly so they can graduate in a timely manner. KILP requires only 19 credits for graduation versus the traditional 26.
While students work independently at home most of the time, they are required to attend two-and-a-half-hour in-person sessions three times a week with teacher Matthew Gorton and full-time tutor Morgan Kenbeek, who can help them with any content they might be struggling with and to take tests and quizzes. The program is housed in the Oakwood Center.
“Mr. Gorton and Mr. Kenbeek are great,” Kirshman said. “They work really well with every kind of student.”
The student population is based on referrals from Loy Norrix and Kalamazoo Central high schools. Some students are identified by counselors, but parents and students who are interested in the program can also self-refer by contacting their counselor to see if KILP might be appropriate for their learning situation.
Students and families will also find other supports available through KILP. Kirshman said staff will connect students with resources through the district’s homeless liaison and mental health services from Integrated Services Kalamazoo, when necessary. The staff has also helped students connect with classes through the county Education For the Arts and Career & Technical Education courses.
“But honestly most of our students aren’t interested in extracurriculars; they just want to be done,” she said. “We want to make sure students have what they need to continue their educations.”
The program provides students with maximum flexibility if they are dealing with family or health issues, and it promotes a sense of independence.
“Some kids think they are going to hate it,” Kirshman said. “I tell them give it a week. We’ll get you through. This is a place where they can come in and feel like they’re almost in a college environment. No one is bothering them about tardies or detention. They don’t ask for permission to go to the restroom.
“We treat them like adults and we find that they act like adults. We’re able to do things that you can’t do in a large environment. We try to meet them where they are.”
Kirshman said one of the best parts of her day is wandering down to check in with the KILP students.
“I interact with these students who traditionally have not been doing well and to get to experience them having success is amazing.”