Adults with disabilities trained for skilled trades

Barry County

PRAIRIEVILLE TOWNSHIP, Mich. (WOOD) — As a refugee from East Africa, Tesfalidet Woldemihret struggled with traditional schooling after coming to the Grand Rapids area.  

He had trouble speaking English and also had problems with his vision. But when he enrolled at the Michigan Career and Technical Institute near Plainwell, everything changed.

“I found what I want to do in life: to help people,” Woldemihret told 24 Hour News 8 Friday.

The specialized training at MCTI helped him become a certified nurse assistant. He officially graduated from the program Friday.

“I say thanks to God. I am Christian and thank God for these things,” he said, smiling.

Woldemihret was one of more than 200 graduates, the school’s largest class ever.

All of the students on campus are 18 and older and have various disabilities, mostly related to learning. MCTI offers training in 13 programs, everything from millwork to the culinary arts to electronics.  

“I think it’s life-changing for many of our students,” MCTI director Paul Mulka told 24 Hour News 8 at the graduation ceremony.

“We all have a chance here, where we probably couldn’t have had anywhere else,” student Dylan Haywood said.

The students are also helping fill the skilled trades gap in Michigan. Schupan and Sons Inc., a Kalamazoo company that deals in metals, is one of the businesses that partners with MCTI, giving students jobs after they graduate.

“It’s amazing,” CEO Marc Schupan told 24 Hour News 8. “All they need most of the time is an opportunity, because they want to do well and they appreciate having a job.”

MCTI is run by the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services. Details about the programs and who’s eligible to enroll are available online.

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