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Students ReConnect with Education as part of unique YOU program

Education ReConnection is a program through YOU that helps youth find their way back to education. This past academic school year, the program was a tremendous success. Coming from six local school districts, 36 students were able to rekindle their relationship with education with the help of their teacher Onika Powell.

"As an educator, the greatest gift is to see my students realize their potential, meet their goals, and to see their self-esteem increase over time," Powell said.

She has been teaching at YOU for seven years.

"Our students live very dynamic lives," Powell said. "Many are faced with obstacles that could prevent them from making education a priority. At YOU, we recognize that and created a program that allows students to juggle the demands of life while pursuing their education goals."

Powell's classroom is led a bit differently than a traditional one. Students get to work at their own pace, choose the classes they focus on each day, receive teaching when they need it and learn in a supportive, flexible environment.

When it comes to guiding principles, Powell says her main priority is making a genuine connection with her students.

"Before I start teaching content, my main goal is to build a solid relationship with my students," Powell said. "I am interested in who they are, their likes and dislikes, and hearing about all their experiences that led them to my classroom.

"Cultivating a classroom that is built on relationships, honesty, and respect are my three guiding principles. Students know that I am 100% invested in their success inside and outside the classroom."

Education ReConnection offers programs that meet students where they are; whether they come in seeking credit recovery, GED or high school diploma, the program bends to fit their individualized needs.

Of the 36 students in Powell's classroom last year, 12 went on to walk across the stage at their respective high schools, turn their tassel and, ultimately, receive their diploma.

"Here at YOU, we believe there is a pathway that typically leads to economic stability," YOU Director Eric Stewart said. "And, ultimately, that begins with high school education. The amount of opportunity that opens up when an individual finishes high school is exponential compared to the possibilities without one.

The Education ReConnection program provides a solid foundation for students to continue down their career pathway, which is what YOU is all about.

"I know that the work I am doing goes beyond the classroom," Powell said. "I am not only making an impact on them as an individual but also on their families and communities in Kalamazoo County as well."

To learn more about YOU and the Education ReConnection program, visit