Source: Sherman Publications

Remove Images

WAY: Widening Advancement for Youth at Brandon Schools

by Susan Bromley

February 01, 2012

Brandon Twp.- Ryan Vanden Bossche, 16, was struggling in school last fall. Academically, he was fine, but constant harassment from his fellow students made him unhappy.

His mother, Denise Vanden Bossche, was frustrated. The Brandon Alternative High School sometimes provides an option for students who do not do as well in the traditional school setting. But for Ryan, Denise wanted something even more outside the box.

She found another choice when she learned about the Widening Advancement for Youth (WAY) program at a school board meeting last fall, and at the end of the first trimester, Ryan left the stressful school environment he was in to learn at home through online classes in WAY.

"Parents need to be empowered," says Denise. "Ryan wasn't happy in the school population. I feel he is getting as good an education now as he would in school."

Carole Beverwyk, assistant superintendent of curriculum, instruction and accountability for the district, said Oakland Schools began offering the online program to county districts this fall. The program is 100 percent based in the Michigan Merit Curriculum and is project based and individualized. Each student accepted for the program received an iMac workstation (laptop) and free internet connectivity. Students work with a WAY project coordinator who helps them design interdisciplinary projects through which the student learns state curriculum. Currently, Brandon has 10 students participating in the program.

"Our goal is to ensure all students receive a quality education that will prepare them for success in post-secondary education in their chosen career path," said Beverwyk. "One size does not fit all."

Students who apply for the program are interviewed with their parents so there is a clear understanding of the program and the responsibilities for independent learning. The program is 100 percent online education with the exception of a lab at the Oakland Technical Campus in Wixom, where students can meet with project leaders and academic coaches. This lab is optional, however. Student proficiency on curriculum standards is determined by the WAY project leader.

"Instruction comes from the research the student is doing and guidance from the project leader," said Beverwyk. "It's very personalized and responsive to student interests."

The disadvantage to the program, she added, is the lack of face-to-face relationship with other students and teachers found in the traditional school setting, as well as high school activities.

"People will tell me he's not getting his socialization," said Denise. "But he is more social now. He doesn't need to be subjected to nagging and tormenting to consider himself social. He still does things with his friends. He's getting more socialization now, because he selects what he wants to do, where he wants to go and who he wants to see."

Ryan checks in with a mentor on a daily basis, usually by e-mail. Denise said her son is learning with a more hands-on approach, with the ability to do reports, create movies, and do other projects rather than take traditional tests to show what he has learned. If the project is done correctly, he will receive credit.

Denise expects Ryan to graduate in a year in the accelerated program, which is year-round. He will not participate in the BHS graduation commencement ceremony, but can walk with the Brandon Alternative High School graduates in their ceremony if he chooses.

"I think its teaching Ryan independence," Denise said. "No one is standing over him every day and it's good for him to grow up and learn independence and how to do it on his own."

For more information on the WAY program, visit or call 313-444-9292.