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GRPD-Boys & Girls Club's Drive For Success Equals Success

pic of century driving school car and student
Grand Rapids Police Department

Driver’s Education can be an expensive endeavor.  And as it turns out, some teenagers skip the high school experience because they cannot afford the classes.  But the Grand Rapids Police Department and the Boys & Girls Club teamed up-creating a new opportunity.  It was a pilot program, now approved for a second class. 

It was one of those casual conversations that turned into a great idea.  A staff member at the Boys and Girls Club of Grand Rapids was late to work one day because the bus she took was running behind.  Asked why she was taking the bus and not driving- she revealed she never took driver’s ed in school.  It was too expensive.  It was that conversation that got the wheels turning.

“Why can’t we as the police department, help facilitate a program, to get, at least for the Boys & Girls Club kids an opportunity to take drivers training.”

Officer Ray Erickson with the Grand Rapids Police Department works with Boys & Girls Club of GR Youth Commonwealth at the Seidman Center. He says there are three officers that work with the Boys & Girls Club on the “Drive for Success” program.  A pilot program, started last month, now prepping for another class in October. It is a partnership between GRPD, the City of Grand Rapids and Century Driving School. 

The students complete classroom instruction three days a week with the other two for actual driving time.  Once they pass, they’ll get their permit and can start their supervised driving hours.  But Officer Erickson says, this has turned out to be more than just driver’s training.  It’s an opportunity for Police Officers to mentor the city’s youth and bridge a common barrier.

“We talk with the kids about what they just learned in the structured class.  And we relate that to how we as the Police Department do our job when it comes to things like traffic violations, traffic enforcement.  Then we help kids understand what their rights are, what the law says and we help to disparage some of those myths that they may have grown up hearing.”

Officer Erickson says they started with six kids and hope it can expand. They’re looking at ideas now to tweak the program to make it even better for the students.  For more information on eligibility for the “Drive for Success” program- (which is free), you can contact the Boys & Girls Club at bcggrandrapids.org/drive.