Students at two South-Western high schools will have the opportunity for additional assistance in college and career readiness after Franklin County commissioners approved an expansion of the I Know I Can program.

The commissioners approved an $871,833 contract Jan. 16 with the nonprofit social-service organization to expand its program to the South-Western and Whitehall city school districts.

Under the contract with the Franklin County Department of Job and Family Services, a college adviser/success coach will be assigned to both Westland and Franklin Heights high schools in the South-Western district and to Whitehall-Yearling High School beginning this month.

The advisers will work with students on a one-to-one basis, helping them put together a college-career plan, Franklin County Department of Job and Family Services director Joy Bivens said.

The goal is to increase the number of students who enroll in college by 20 percent and to assist as many as 2,100 students with college or career readiness at the three schools, she said.

"The advisers will be working with students to help them put together a road map for success so they are ready to take the next step after high school, whether that's attending a four-year or two-year college or to be ready to begin a career," Bivens said.

For students looking to attend college, the assistance will include helping them with the application process, finding sources of financial aid or scholarships and even accompanying them on college visits, she said.

I Know I Can has partnered with Columbus City Schools for more than 30 years.

"They have a longstanding record of having a positive impact on student success," Bivens said.

"We're very excited about the opportunity to have college advisers from I Know I Can placed in our schools, especially at no cost for us," said Brad Faust, South-Western's assistant superintendent of curriculum.

"What I like about this program is that it will provide our students with individualized assistance throughout their high school years," Faust said. "The advisers will be working with our students to make sure they are remaining on track for college or career readiness."

By working directly with students, the mentors from I Know I Can will be able to address each student's individual needs, he said.

One of the reasons the commissioners approved the contract to expand the program into South-Western and Whitehall is that many students in those districts, as with Columbus, have needs or face barriers and will benefit from the additional assistance, Bivens said.

"In our district, we have many students who are going to be first-generation college students in their families," Faust said.

"Their families may not have the knowledge of the application process or where to go to get financial assistance or what they should be looking for during a college visit."

Although South-Western's high school guidance counselors have assisted students with college preparedness and will continue to do so, it's just one aspect of their overall duties, he said.

"There's just only so much time they can offer to helping students with preparing for college," Faust said. "Having the advisers from I Know I Can in our buildings will be a helping hand for our students and our staff."