New Beginnings: Enhanced Program and Goals

By Assistant Director Jacob Sabourin

Open Doors has made great progress over the past year and our outlook on the future is brighter than ever. I feel grateful for all the support The Geek Group and the Grand Rapids community at large has provided to our department, and I would like to thank everyone who has allowed me the opportunity to do this work full-time, and to attend the annual Liberated Learners conference in Massachusetts this summer, where I learned a truckload from professionals doing the same work as Open Doors in other parts of the country and the world. But this article is not about the past. This article is about the future.

This summer we’ve been holding Wednesday workshops in several different subjects: chemistry, computer autopsy, robotics, and digital storytelling, to name a few. They’ve gone great so far: we’ve brought many fresh new faces into The Geek Group National Science Center, and the reviews we’ve received from our guests have been outstanding (A’s and A+’s all around)! If you’re interested in more workshops this summer, please sign up at

These summer workshops are the beginning of a new stage in Open Doors’ existence. While much has changed over the past year in our transition to becoming a department of The Geek Group, it’s looking like change is remaining a constant here.

For the past several months, we have worked to establish five Pathways for our teen members to choose as they develop their educational plans. Each Pathway is supported by an Advisory Council of local experts who guide the vision and content of each program. Our four pathways are:

  • Pre-College

  • Technology

  • Art

  • Environmental Studies

Physical fitness and service learning will be components of all four pathways. As always, all education at Open Doors is self-directed by teens, both individually and collaboratively, which means that ultimately teens choose what they are learning on a day-to-day basis. We hope families will see these pathways as guidelines for structuring their educational plans, but we also see these pathways as a method of connecting teens to a network of professionals in their respective fields of interest. We plan to provide our teen members with a fully-developed professional network as they enter into adulthood.

Our full fall class schedule will be ready and available August 31. Until then, our tentative schedule can be found at

Open Doors will have a much more focused program this fall, but it will also be much more accessible for member families going forward. With the help of the Liberated Learners network, we will have a fully-functional E-Portfolio system through which we will offer several services to our member families:

  • Portfolio – a sleek, professional program with which members will document their daily work, post photos and videos, blog, and which they can submit to universities as part of a college application.

  • Support Reports – detailed monthly notes sent to families regarding the progress of each teen member’s educational progress.

  • Action Plans – a checklist system by which members can track and manage the progress of their projects and classwork.

  • Class Management – a tool for members to communicate with mentors and advisors regarding specific classes, featuring links and other materials.

Essentially, the E-Portfolio system will be a new method for maintaining the relationship between Open Doors staff, teen members, and their families.

I hope you can see at this point where Open Doors is headed. This year, we are offering more opportunities for teens to get into the community and make a difference. We are offering more opportunities to meet and learn from professionals. We are offering more opportunities to document and show all the incredible learning that happens at Open Doors. We expect our membership to double and even triple soon, so we are offering a greater and more diverse community. Open Doors is growing in a plethora of ways. As we continue to build this community, we will always need your help. If you would like to join us in developing this community of learning, please email me at, and remember: it takes a village to raise a child.

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