TEEN CEO: Career Exploration Opportunities

Grand Rapids University Prep Academy’s school model uniquely blends students’ passions and interests with academically appropriate projects and experiences (both on-campus and off) that inspire, motivate and make classroom learning authentic and engaging. By pursuing what they already love, students stay excited about learning, connected to school and interested in graduating from college so they can achieve their dream job.

University Prep Academy’s TEEN CEO program allows students to begin exploring the correlation between their interests and potential careers.

In 6th and 7th grades,  a group of professionals representing many different industries visit the school three times a year to talk with students and have them participate in a hands-on activity. University Prep Academy partners with Junior Achievement of the Michigan Great Lakes to secure these quality speakers.

In 8th grade, each student participates in a half-day, off-site Job Shadow opportunity specific to their interests. The goal is for students to discover the breadth of jobs that may be directly related to those interests. It is an opportunity to expand their horizons beyond what they already know to what could possibly be. While much of this process is self-discovery, it is important for students to have guidance from mentors who can help nurture them along by answering their questions and sharing in their learning.

Beginning in high school, students participate in an internship experience where students are off-campus two days a week for six weeks. They are grouped into broad "industry pods" based on their interests. Each pod includes a lead education partner, and businesses and organizations that can showcase different facets of that career path. The academic site helps identify the track to get there. Each pod has a teacher/advisor that accompanies the students and works with them to create their finished project. This group format allows our students broader access to many different careers within each broad industry category.

For the 2013-2014 school year, the pods and some sample sites included:

  • Animals (visits to John Ball Zoo, Whiskers Salon, Kent County Animal Shelter, etc.) Academic Partner: Baker College
  • Communication- visual and written (visits to W.MI Center for the Arts & Technology, ArtPrize, GVSU News Dept., etc.) Academic Partner: Aquinas College
  • Computers (visits to Blue Water Technologies, Comprenew, Grandlan, Yeti) Academic Partner: ITT Tech
  • Culinary Arts (visits to Downtown Market, God's Kitchen, San Chez Tapas, The Omelette Shoppe, etc.) Academic Partner: Secchia Center/GRCC
  • Healthcare (visits to MI Blood, EMS Ambulance Service, Mary Free Bed, etc.) Academic Partner: GVSU Nursing Program
  • Law (visits to Varnum, local courts, State Supreme Court, Rhodes McKee, etc.) Academic Partner: Cooley Law School and Davenport University
  • Manufacturing (visits to Steelcase and Autocam) Academic Partner: GVSU School of Engineering

 Each component of the TEEN CEO program scaffolds off the other to create a sound understanding of career opportunities, skills critical to the success in different careers, college degrees required or helpful for those jobs and direct experience working within various industries.

The TEEN CEO program is also supplemented with multiple college campuses visits annually beginning in 6th grade, participation to college career fairs at local universities beginning in 8th grade, and review of college applications and scholarship opportunities beginning in high school.

Our students receive a vital introduction and intentional, continuous development of career exploration. The TEEN CEO program helps ensure that today’s students become the corporate and civic leaders, entrepreneurs and innovators needed tomorrow.


Previous internship experiences captured by the media include:

 (View WZZM feature on internship from spring 2011) (View WOTV feature on internship from spring 2012)

Here is a YouTube Video of our law students who worked with Cooley Law and various law firms, including Varnum.

Michigan Bar Journal, June 2013 about UPrep law students at Lansing Supreme Court (page 2 of the article, highlighted in yellow).



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Select Photography by Alice Gradzinski and Jeff Dykehouse (of Dykehouse Photography)
University Prep Academy 512 South Division Avenue, Grand Rapids, MI 49503 | P: 616.819.1010 | F: 616.819.1011