Whitehall-Yearling High School freshman Kory Miller wants to be a U.S. Marine.

A new program in the Whitehall City School District this year is giving him a push in the right direction.

Miller, 15, was among the dozens of Whitehall-Yearling students who participated in report-card conferences earlier this month, a program of Communities in Schools.

Communities in Schools is a national organization offering support in public and charter schools to help at-risk students stay in school and achieve, said Jeff McCreary, site coordinator for Communities in Schools at Whitehall-Yearling.

This is the first year Communities in Schools has been offered in Whitehall, McCreary said.

"My teacher told me about (report-card conferences) and I thought it would help me," Miller said.

Volunteers for Communities in Schools -- business owners, professionals and other residents -- conferred individually with Whitehall students Feb. 1 concerning their report cards.

The mentors offered advice for improvement and issued certificates to each student -- some recognizing that students were well on a path toward success, others indicating more work is required.

Miller, who also aspires to be a Navy SEAL, said he knows he needs to improve his grades and believes the program will help him.

"(The adviser) told me it isn't too late and with a little extra work, I can improve my grades," Miller said.

Communities in Schools also provides students with insight into their post-graduate lives.

"It links our community with our students (and) gives them a real-world sense of ... the importance of getting to school every day and getting good grades" and how those actions connect to jobs or higher education, McCreary said.

Communities in Schools in Whitehall is funded via a grant associated with Columbus State Community College, said Vincent Coleman, program director for the central Ohio affiliate of the program.

Established about 20 years ago, it remains the only Ohio affiliate.

JOIN THE CONVERSATION #communitiesinschools Tweets!function(d,s,id){var js,fjs=d.getElementsByTagName(s)[0],p=/^http:/.test(d.location)?'http':'https';if(!d.getElementById(id)){js=d.createElement(s);js.id=id;js.src=p+"://platform.twitter.com/widgets.js";fjs.parentNode.insertBefore(js,fjs);}}(document,"script","twitter-wjs");

According to its website, Communities in Schools strives to offer students "five basics." They are:

* A one-on-one relationship with a caring adult

* A safe place to learn and grow

* A healthy start and a healthy future

* A marketable skill to use on graduation

* A chance to give back to peers and community.

Communities in Schools is offered in more than 2,000 school districts in 25 states and the District of Columbia, funded by United Way and a variety of grants, Coleman said.