Kinexus Bridge Academy to offer the Career Online High School program to bring high school education and career preparation to unemployed young adults in Southwest Michigan. This innovative use of online education to promote regional economic recovery makes Kinexus a model for workforce development organizations across the country.

The Kinexus Bridge Academy has announced a partnership with ed2go and Smart Horizons Career Online Education (SHCOE), the world’s first AdvancEd/SACS-accredited online school district, to offer the innovative Career Online High School program to high school dropouts in Southwest Michigan. The collaboration will enable young adults to earn both high school diplomas and credentialed career certificates in one of several high-demand employment areas, including retail and food service.

The Bridge Academy is located in Benton Harbor, one of Southwest Michigan’s most economically depressed areas. The U.S. Census Bureau’s 2011 American Community Survey showed that 31 percent of Benton Harbor residents 25 years of age and older had less than a high school diploma or GED. This lack of basic education is a major factor contributing to the local unemployment rate of 29.8 percent and the fact that 47 percent of Benton Harbor residents live below the poverty level.

To address these staggering realities, Kinexus established the Bridge Academy in 2010 to provide training and education to young adults who do not posses secondary-level education. The Bridge Academy not only offers a high school diploma or GED, but also teaches trainees the skills needed by area businesses in order to address labor shortages and establish a long-term worker pipeline.

“For local businesses to have the talent they need, and for Southwest Michigan to be a truly vibrant place economically, we cannot simply accept these statistics,” said Kinexus Executive Director Todd Gustafson. “This partnership is a new solution to ensure that all of our residents—even those who are currently unemployed or undereducated—have the opportunity to contribute to the local economy and to ensure that we help develop talent that’s currently being lost.”

SHCOE partnered with Cengage Learning’s ed2go in 2012 to establish Career Online High School, which provides career-based online education opportunities for the millions of adults in the United States who lack high school diplomas. The program is accredited by AdvancEd, which is the unified organization of the North Central Association Commission on Accreditation and School Improvement (NCA CASI) and the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Council on Accreditation and School Improvement (SACS CASI).

Career Online High School’s newest offerings, which were designed to meet the demands indicated by local and national employment trends, include credentialed career certificates that develop real-world skills in the retail and food service sectors. Other certificate areas include Child Care and Education, Certified Protection Officer, Office Management, Certified Transportation Services, Homeland Security, and General Career Preparation.

By making Career Online High School available to Bridge Academy students, Kinexus has become a leader for educational innovation among workforce organizations, serving as a model for other such entities in both Michigan and the United States.

Bridge Academy students completing the Career Online High School program will attend supervised learning labs on the Bridge Academy campus, providing a blended learning experience that combines online delivery with onsite computers, resources, and teaching support.

Through this partnership, Kinexus has also joined the “Commitment to Action” agreement signed between SHCOE/ed2go and the Clinton Global Initiative (CGI) in July of this year. Established in 2005 by former President Bill Clinton, CGI is an organization dedicated to finding solutions to global issues, both economic and social. By becoming a part of the “Commitment to Action,” Kinexus adds the resources of CGI’s international network in informing the public about its new educational initiatives with Career Online High School.

About Kinexus

Kinexus is a nonprofit organization that connects people, investments, and organizations with strategies and services that make southwest Michigan region a great place to live, work, and play. We are dedicated to creating solutions for business, workforce, and community challenges that promote economic vitality in the southwest Michigan region. For more information, go to and follow us on Twitter @KinexusGroup and Facebook at