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High school students at Careerline Tech Center (CTC) are making history as they share the history of one local community through a collaboration with the City of Ferrysburg. While gaining real-world experience, the students have created the first audio accessible historical marker in Michigan.

The vision for a historical marker that commemorates the City’s heritage was one of Rebecca Hopp’s,  the now former City of Ferrysburg Mayor who teaches in the Tech Center’s Entrepreneurship and  Global Business program.

Rebecca wanted to recognize the accomplishments of Hezekiah Smith, a free Black man who was a landowner and civil rights activist in Ottawa and Muskegon Counties in the late 1840s, and she wanted to be sure everyone had access, including individuals with visual impairments

After 18 months of research, Rebeccah applied for and received approval for a Michigan Historical Marker for Smith’s Bayou, named after Hezekiah Smith. The marker, dedicated on August 13, 2021, was the first for the City of Ferrysburg.

Rebecca says she applied for grants to cover much of the cost of the marker. For items grants didn’t cover, she knew she could rely on students at Careerline Tech.

“Working at Tech, I see firsthand the skills they learn and how eager they are to use them,” Rebecca says. “Collaborating with the Tech Center on this project allowed us to create a fully accessible historical marker and give the students real-world work experience to place on their resumes and college applications.”

Rebecca worked with students from three different Tech Center programs to create a marker with an embedded QR code that accesses a voice-recorded history lesson posted on the City’s website. Her team included  Jenison High School senior Aidan Palmbos, who is also a student in CTC’s Software & Game Development program and Ethan Doxey, a Hamilton High School senior and student in Rebecca’s program. Ethan lent his voice to the audio recording while Aidan created the QR code and links to the city’s website historical marker page. A group of Applied Welding students worked to ensure the QR code was securely affixed to the marker.

“Working on this project with Mrs. Hopp gave me experience talking to customers, providing professional documentation, problem-solving and most importantly applying the skills I've learned in Software and Game Development into the real world,” Aidan says. “This work provided real-life, customer-based work experience for my resume and college applications thanks to attending Careerline Tech Center.” 

Rebecca is pretty excited about the “firsts” that this project involved, making history of its own. “What makes this collaboration even more exciting is this marker is the first-ever to link a QR code to an audio recording of a Michigan Historical Marker allowing individuals with visual impairments to learn about Hezekiah Smith and his contributions to the local communities,” Rebecca says. “I’m proud our amazing Tech students were a part of this moment in history.”

You can learn about the history of Smith Bayou and Hezekiah Smith on the City of Ferryburg website.

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