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Promise Student Series - Joseph Birdsall


KzooConnect is back with another installment in the Promise Student Series! This week’s guest is Joseph Birdsall, a member of Loy Norrix High School’s class of 2011.

Birdsall had been a student within the Kalamazoo Public Schools (KPS) since he was in preschool. When he was in 7th grade, The Kalamazoo Promise (The Promise) was introduced to the community. Despite only being in middle school when the news about The Promise broke, Birdsall recognized that it could provide him with a life changing opportunity.

“The Promise solidified the idea of attending college for me,” he said. “In high school, it clicked that not all of the financial burden was on my shoulders.”

With his tuition covered, Birdsall was able to take his time in finding a degree that would interest him.

“At first I did not know what I wanted to study,” Birdsall admitted. “I ended up graduating from Western Michigan University (WMU) in 2018 with a Bachelor of Arts in both Earth Science and Environmental Studies.”

During the summer of 2012, Birdsall began to work part-time as a technology aid for KPS’ secondary summer school. Working in this capacity paid off as he was eventually asked to apply to a full-time position the day of his college graduation.

“My boss approached me about an hour after I graduated and suggested that I apply for the position of District Data Specialist within KPS,” Birdsall said. “My primary responsibilities include aiding teachers in data programs and applications.”

Although he is not immediately working in the field related to his degree, Birdsall is familiar and comfortable in his current role.

“Geographic information systems and data programs will be important as I look at pursuing a career in environmental study,” he stated. “You need to understand how to use data points to locate items or areas of interest.”

Outside of work, Birdsall enjoys mountain biking at Markin Glen Park when the weather is warm and snowboarding at Bittersweet Resort during the winter months. In terms of Kalamazoo cuisine, he is a big fan of Crow’s Nest.

After graduating from college debt free, Birdsall often stops to think about what other students must do in order to finance their education. He hopes that current Promise scholars are cognizant of how rare this resource is and that they make the most out of it.

As far as advice for future KPS graduates, Birdsall recommends weighing all of one’s options.

“Take a moment before you jump in,” he said. “Think about what you are good at, what you like doing, and how that would translate into a degree or profession. Trade schools are now included as a part of The Promise, so be sure to consider those options as well.”

Great advice, Joseph! We appreciate your time.

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