(KTRE) - San Augustine and Jasper Independent School Districts have both received grants for their proposals to connect “opportunity youth” with resources to set them up for success in the future.
Opportunity youth are defined as 16 to 24-year-olds who are technically not in school; they’re either home-schooled, dropped out, or they’ve graduated high school but chose not to pursue post-secondary education.
“Whether it’s a certificate, whether it’s a 2-year degree, whether it’s a 4-year degree,” said Dr. Jason Mixon, assistant superintendent of San Augustine ISD. “We’re actually calling it Operation Reconstruct. So, we’re wanting them to reconstruct their future path, and this is giving them an opportunity to do that.”
According to Aspen Institute’s Opportunity Youth Forum, which was designed to support collaboratives across the country "harness the power of cross-sector collaboration to make substantive progress for opportunity youth.” The collaborations with partners across the country will work to build education and employment pathways for those with the least access to opportunity in the San Augustine and Jasper districts.
“The results of this initiative is to encourage all sectors of the community to evaluate their strategies beyond stand-alone efforts, as our experience has shown that working together with a common agenda, shared metrics, and strong coordination and communication across systems, can aggregate the impact of community actors,” said Melody C. Barnes, former director of the White House Domestic Policy Council and Chair of the Aspen Forum for Community Solutions.
“The Aspen Institute opportunity will allow our Jasper community to connect to a vast network of people, communities, and resources," said Dr. Gerald Hudson, superintendent of Jasper ISD. "Sharing a common goal, we will work to develop and implement sustainable, robust programs to reengage our disengaged youth through providing industry-based skills, access to education and college opportunities, and help transition students to careers.”
For students who either dropped out, or graduated high school without moving on to fruitful opportunities, Mixon said he realized it wasn’t matter of the students failing, but a matter of the district failing the students.
“We realize that we must change operationally how we are engaging our youth in San Augustine County," Dr. Mixon added. "Our district will initially engage with 30 Opportunity Youth from the county and reconstruct their future and future generations of their family.”
During the next year, both school districts will work to bring together the kindergarten through 12 systems higher education and other post-secondary providers; municipal and state governments; national and local philanthropy and nonprofits; and private sector and labors leaders in their communities, to design stabilization supports, education credentialing, and employment reconnection strategies for young people who have extraordinary barriers to success.
“This grant will pay for 30 individuals to come back, and it’ll pay for their re certification tasks, it’ll pay for if they wanted to go to some type of colleges courses to launch them,” Mixon explained. “This gives us an opportunity to home-grown some of our talent and supply it to the workforce here.”
Over the next five years, the initiative will emphasize the re-engagement of young people 18-24 years old who are neither enrolled in school, college, nor participating in the labor market, according to Aspen Institute.
Mixon said a high school teacher has been chosed to help the district navigate the higher-ed landscape and work with former students chosen for the program. A former San Augustine elementary school is being renovated into an education and career center, which will serve as the Opportunity Youth headquarters.
Mixcon added that it won’t slow down educators from their original focus: the K-12 students who can still be set up to succeed.
“We’re excited about it, we’re excited for the community,” said Mixon. “We’re starting to recruit, we’re starting to get information out to the community about what it is., and we’re anxious to get this rolling."
Applications will be accepted for nominations in July, when San Augustine and Jasper ISDs receive the grants. If you’d like more information, please contact San Augustine and Jasper ISD.