By Wayne Gates –
Local students are getting a career preview, thanks to a grant from the Ohio Department of Education and local sponsors.
The Community Con-nectors grant is funding adult mentors and a summer camp where eighth graders can get a look at local academic and technical opportunities.
Eighty students participated in the program last year, and the program has been funded for 120 students for the upcoming school year.
The grant is being run through the Brown County Chamber of Commerce and Educational Service Center. Evelyn Yockey is the Community Connectors Grant Program Coordinator.
Yockey said that the ODE funded $61,180 last year and has approved $86,165 this year.
The grant is a 75/25 match. Yockey said that Duke Energy provided the local funding to make the program possible last year.
“We focused on eighth graders and we focused on career education. The idea was to expose these students to possibilities so they could make their next four years of school work for them,” Yockey said.
“We held a four day summer camp at Southern Hills Career and Technical Center last month. The students were given hands on opportunities to participate in the programs.”
The programs at Southern Hills Career and Technical Center included Early Childhood Education, Cosmetology, Clinical Health, Criminal Justice, Information Technologies, Graphic Arts, Auto Mechanics and Construction.
The students also spent half a day at Southern State Community College.
“We talked about college credit plus, we talked about college life after high school and looked at some of the programs at SSCC,” Yockey said.
She added that the idea of the camp was for students to be able to answer some basic educational questions.
“What classes do they need to take? Do they need to focus on college credit plus classes or do they need to go to the career and technical center? (The camp) really helped them with their career choices. It helped them figure out what they want to do, what they don’t want to do, so it’s been a really good program,” Yockey said.
First State Bank is a sponsor of the program this year, Yockey said.
Each school in Brown County participated in the program last year as well as Bright Local, with is also served by Southern Hills CTC.
Yockey said that she expects the program to have long term benefits for students.
“I think it’s going to help with graduation rates, I think it’s going to give these kids a focus to realize that there is a career choice out there for them.”
She added that there is a way that people in the community can help.
“Our biggest challenge is finding adult mentors to give the students some one on one interaction,” Yockey said.
She said that there is a short training period scheduled for the fall, and after that, the time commitment for mentors would be about one hour per week.
Yockey said that anyone who will have free time later in the year can always call her.
“We can add mentors throughout the school year. We have no problem adding people that want to help our students,” Yockey said.
Anyone interested in helping to sponsor the program or volunteer as a mentor for students is asked to call Yockey at (937) 378-6118.