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Program prepares students for life after high school


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Forty juniors and seniors at Whiteland Community High School are going to get help figuring out what they want to do after graduation, and seeing how math, science and language arts courses are needed to reach goals for nearly any job.

The students will still take traditional classes but also will spend part of their day with an instructor who will help them decide what they want to do after high school. The instructor also will meet with the students individually for career counseling and will track how well the students are keeping up in their classes.

The goal of the new program, which is called Jobs for America’s Graduates, or JAG, is to better prepare the students for life after high school. The program also should increase Whiteland’s overall attendance rate and graduation rate, interim principal John Schilawski said.

“It’s kind of a merging of the college and career readiness concept. And it’s focus is getting them ready to enter the workforce,” Schilawski said.

What is JAG?

Whiteland Community High School is adding a program next school year to better prepare students for college or careers:

The program: Jobs for America’s Graduates, or JAG

Number of students it will serve: 40. Twenty-two students must come from low-income families or be enrolled in the special education program

The point of the program: To help students create college or career goals for themselves, and to help them see how the courses they’re taking in high school will help them accomplish those goals

Where does the money come from: Recurring federal grants

Who oversees the program: The Work One workforce development agency

Who will work with the students: A single instructor, hired by Work One

JAG is paid for with federal grants and managed through the Work One workforce development agency. The money pays for an instructor who will work at the high school but won’t be a Clark-Pleasant schools employee. The only expense to the school district will be providing the instructor office space and paying for any field trips, Schilawski said.

At the end of last school year, four central Indiana high schools were a part of the JAG program, and an increase in funding meant five more could be added to the program. One of the four schools participating is Shelbyville High School, where new Whiteland principal Tom Zobel previously worked. Zobel recommended to Work One that Whiteland start using the program, Schilawski said.

Whiteland already has one alternative program for 60 students at risk of dropping out, the

Clark-Pleasant Academy. But most of those students don’t get along with other teachers or students, had life challenges that keep them from going to high school during the day or have problems with the lessons in their classes, which is why they’re now taking online courses. The students who will participate in JAG prefer to work in traditional classrooms, Schilawski said.

Twenty-two of the 40 students who will be a part of the program must come from low-income families or be in the special education program. Guidance counselors will help select students, and the high school will use grades and test scores to see if they should enroll, Schilawski said.

The students selected for the program will be those who don’t see how what’s being taught in class will be useful to them, Schilawski said.

“They aren’t able to make sense of what’s going on and how it’s applicable in their lives,” he said.

The job of the instructor will be to help students make those connections. For example, if one student wants to go to college to study marine biology and another student wants to become an auto mechanic, the instructor will show them both why they need to understand algebra, Schilawski said.

This is the second program Whiteland is launching this coming school year to better prepare students for college or their careers. The high school also will pay students and teachers $100 for every Advanced Placement test passed. The point of that program is to entice more students to sign up and pass the kinds of courses that will better prepare them for college-level standards.

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