West Michigan is her home, but billionaire Betsy DeVos only got to visit for a short time Tuesday in her new capacity as Secretary of Education.
She was in Grand Rapids for a series of official visits. One - to push science, technology, engineering and math education at the Van Andel Education Institute. Another, at Grand Rapids Community College, to look at technical programs, teaching skills like machine work and culinary crafts.
She answered several questions from fifth and sixth graders about the science projects they were working on. These students go to school in the Grand Rapids area and study at the institute's STEM program.
From there she visited GRCC's culinary kitchen, machine lab and several other facilities to discuss all of the possible workforce options available to students.
"I've heard from many many students who have originally pursued a traditional four-year college or university program only to find out that they really didn't like sitting at a desk job, so they've returned to a program that will allow them to work with their hands," DeVos said. "We need to not only support and encourage those kinds of opportunities but make sure that students have the opportunity to know about and understand the multitude of options that they do have."
While there is always room for improvement, DeVos said the West Michigan community is doing a very good job at meeting the needs of students, and for her, Tuesday's tours solidified that concept.
DeVos also said the move to year-round Pell Grant funding is an important step but believes other steps should be looked at to help students reach whatever their goal is and however they choose to complete a higher education program.
Several people demonstrated against DeVos's visit, saying she's bad for education in America.
"We want her to stop attacking public education, to stop attacking queer and trans students, to stop make it harder for students to get out of debt," protestor Philip Snyder said.