STEM teacher and student


A hands-on early college program from Kent ISD

This degree and certificate program is designed for tinkerers, inventors and those who love to take things apart – just to see how they work. Sound like you?

Launch U offers students a quick path to an Associate Degree and a job, in a growing field full of high tech tools like robots and industrial lasers. The program starts in 10th grade, continues through high school, provides industry certificates along the way – and with just one more year – a specialized Associate Degree from Grand Rapids Community College.

And it’s all tuition-free –  a savings of about $10,000 while earning this Associate Degree.

West MI needs a growing number of Advanced Manufacturing and Design professionals in the next 5 years* Employment information courtesy of Talent 2025

How to Enroll

It starts with you!

Print out and complete the GRCC dual enrollment application. Take this to your school counselor and let them know you'd like to sign up. The counselor completes enrollment in Kent ISD's online enrollment system, just like other student programs. If you have difficulty enrolling, call (616) 447-5670.

Your ticket to a great career from Launch U. Print, fill out this form and give it to your high school counselor.

GPA Requirement: GRCC has established a 2.5 GPA threshold for dual-enrolled students.

2 Educational Tracks / 3 Career Pathways

Launch U offers two educational tracks and three career pathways to choose from:

Educational Tracks

Student selects one

  • Associate Degree Track    Students choosing the Associate Degree track will attend their home high school each morning and will come to the Kent ISD campus each afternoon for our 3rd session (11:55am- 1:55pm) for Launch U classes during 10th, 11th and 12th grade.  During the 13th year of Launch U, students will attend classes at Grand Rapids Community College.  At the end of 12th grade, most local high schools will allow the student to walk with their class; however, the student will not receive their high school diploma until the conclusion of their 13th year.  Students will graduate with their high school diploma AND an Associate of Applied Arts and Sciences from Grand Rapids Community College.

  • Certificate Track    Students choosing the Certificate track will attend their home high school each morning and will come to the Kent ISD campus each afternoon for our 3rd session (11:55am- 1:55pm)  for Launch U classes during 10th, 11th and 12th grade.  At the end of 12th grade, the student will graduate with their high school diploma AND a certificate from Grand Rapids Community College.

Career Pathways

Student selects one                                     
(Hear from local industry professionals in these career fields in the next section: Interviews with Industry Professionals)


  • Mechanical Design Pathway: For the Designer - This pathway is for creative individuals who love to innovate, design and physically inspect objects.

Example jobs from O*Net Online:
Industrial Designer
Mechanical Drafter  
Mechanical Engineering Technologist


  • Industrial Technology Pathway: For the Builder – This pathway is for makers who find a thrill in tearing something apart and rebuilding it to specifications.

Example jobs from O*Net Online:
Electrical Engineering Technician
Industrial Machinery Mechanic
Mechatronics Technician


Example jobs from O*Net Online:
CNC Operator/CNC Programmer
Mold Maker
Tool & Die Maker


Staff from local companies are helping create Launch U, which will feature key industry connections with students, like:

  • Behind-the-scenes workplace tours
  • Job shadows in different companies and fields
  • Industry certificates to demonstrate specific skills to employers
  • Internships with area employers

And perhaps most importantly, for students who complete the program – potential jobs and good careers with advancement will be waiting.

Information on careers related to Launch U and hundreds of other careers is available on the Department of Labor’s resource site.

Interviews with Industry Professionals

Meet local industry professionals in these careers today

We talked with three people working at AutoMatrix, a division of ArtiFlex, about their positions, the work they do and the company's current job openings. They told us Launch U was a great way to prepare for good jobs in their industry.

Greg Wolf, chief technical advisor, shares an overview of Mechanical Design, Industrial Technology and Tooling & Manufacturing. Greg says positions are open now and he needs many more people trained to fill the jobs of the future.



Tim Reed, general manager, tooling division describes how complex parts are created using tool and die making.  If you want to be part of a team creating the building blocks of the products of tomorrow, this path may for you.



Jon Dyer, business development and engineering, says mechanical designers bring ideas to life.  From the computer screen to the robotics that build the biggest products, engineers solve problems creatively.

Is a Technical Education Right For You?

Citrus College supported the production of “Success in the New Economy” to help a broader audience begin to understand preparation today for tomorrow’s labor market realities. The end result is a compelling case for students to explore career choices early, make informed decisions when declaring their college education goal, and to consider technical skill acquisition, real-world application and academics (career technical programs) in tandem with a classic education. This balanced approach to life and learning results in a well-educated and employed workforce.

Direction and Motion Graphics: Brian Y. Marsh ( 
Written and Narrated by: Kevin Fleming (

Course Examples

This hands-on early college program will offer several career paths, each with its own set of courses. The paths include Mechanical Design, Industrial Technology and Tooling/Manufacturing. Example courses are drawn from each of these paths.

 10th: Regular HS Classes           11th: Regular HS Classes             12th: Regular HS Classes

 Plus options like:                                    Plus options like:                                     Plus options like: 

 Mechanical Power Transmission       Advanced Engineering Graphics         Die Design

 Mechanical Concepts                           Metallurgy                                                 Welding

 Blueprint Reading                                 Industrial Graphics with CAD               Digital Logic

View sample schedules

View Counselor FAQ's

View links to the programs at GRCC

Video: For Educators

In the News

From WoodTV8



From School News Network

Launch U 20x5 Champion Team

Kent ISD has created a campaign called 20x5 - the goal is for 20 employers to join us in supporting Launch U within their circle of influence.

Talent Champions

An organization who partners with Kent ISD to inform their internal stakeholders and external partners about Launch U and agree to refer a minimum of 5 students to the early-middle college program:

  • Alliance CNC
  • Amway
  • ArtiFlex
  • Autocam Precision Components Group
  • Cascade Engineering
  • Custom Profile
  • DeWys Manufacturing
  • Die-Matic
  • Enterprise Tool & Die
  • Lacks Enterprises
  • MEC Inc.
  • Michigan Turkey Producers
  • Paragon D&E
  • Plasan Carbon Composites
  • Pridgeon & Clay
  • Ranir LLC
  • RoMan Manufacturing
  • Swoboda
  • Wolverine Coil Spring

Talent Advocates

An organization who partners with Kent ISD to promote Launch U widely to their member populations:

  • Association of Human Resource Management
  • Discover Manufacturing
  • Express Employment Professionals
  • Hello West Michigan
  • Home Builders Association of Greater Grand Rapids
  • Management Business Solutions
  • Northwood University
  • ResourceMFG / ProLogistix
  • West Michigan Works!
  • Western Michigan University
  • Wyoming-Kentwood Chamber of Commerce

For More Information on Launch U, please call (616) 447-5670

Enrollment for 2017/18 has closed

Designers of Launch U:

Laura Elsner, HR Manager, DeWys Manufacturing

Steve Heethuis, Training Director, AutoCam Precision Components Group

Steve Harvey, Principal, Forest Hills Eastern High School

Steve Gough, Principal, Comstock Park High School

Lisa Jacobs, Executive Director of Community Services, Early College Coordinator, Rockford Public Schools

Brady Lake, Principal, Caledonia High School

Amy Koning, Associate Dean of Operations, School of Workforce Development, GRCC

Dan Clark, Dean of Lakeshore Campus and Academic Outreach, GRCC

Rusty Anderson, Mathematics Consultant, Kent ISD

Jarrad Grandy, Director of Career Readiness, Kent ISD

Bill Smith, Assistant Superintendent, Kent ISD

Ron Caniff, Superintendent, Kent ISD