Westerville students soon will have new pathways to careers, thanks to a state grant awarded to a consortium of central Ohio districts and Columbus State Community College to create a local Pathways to Prosperity program.
The Westerville City School District, along with 11 other districts, was awarded $14.4 million by the state's Straight A Fund.
With the Pathways to Prosperity program, which was launched by the Harvard Graduate School of Education, local school leaders hope to combine high school experiences with career, college and work and technical experience to help students find a clear journey from the classroom to the workforce, said Scott Reeves, Westerville's executive director of secondary academic affairs.
"It's for students who may not be headed to or desire a four-year college after high school," Reeves said.
The hope, Reeves said, is that the program will be able to help those students attain viable work credentials that can be used after high-school graduation.
"In addition to having a diploma, students should have a plan," Reeves said. "This (program) helps students without a plan to develop one."
The grant will be used as seed money to get the program started for the next school year for a planned 1,350 students in the 12 districts, Reeves said. After that, the program will be sustained financially by the partner districts.
As districts launch into the new year, representatives from each district in the consortium, including Reeves, will meet regularly to make the program a reality for the next school year.
The focus, Reeves said, will be on identifying which job sectors have the greatest need for workers in central Ohio and building connections with companies and people in those fields to help connect students.
The district already has been working internally to identify students who might be interested in participating in the new program, Reeves said.
"We're already looking at the impact on our students," he said. "I don't think we'll have a problem finding interested students and families."
Superintendent John Kellogg said the grant provides the district with an exciting opportunity to offer more post-secondary experiences and pathways for students.
That has been a priority for the district, Kellogg said, as fewer and fewer students are finishing college degrees in four years, more adults are returning to school to find new career opportunities and many young adults are having difficulties finding jobs.
"Where do you fix that? That's where those pathways come in, that pipeline to a career," Kellogg said. "We build things that help kids understand their aspirations."