In Our View: School = Job = Money

The formula might seem simple at first, but some students need help getting started

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Teenagers are much like adults in many ways, almost as many ways as teenagers insist. And one of those ways is measuring success. For adults and adolescents alike, that standard has three components: Show me the money, which means show me the job, which means show me the education. Achieving that trifecta is not as easy as many teenagers believe, and that’s why our state’s Jobs for Washington’s Graduates (JWG) is important.

JWG’s goal is to keep kids in school, increase state and local graduation rates and launch the students toward good jobs or postsecondary training or higher education. JWG has been operating only about a year, and it has both a federal connection and a local connection (in Clark County) to thank for its success.

That link to the national level is Jobs for America’s Graduates, which for three decades has designed and implemented programs for middle schools and high schools to keep kids from dropping out, and to bring dropouts back into the classroom. According to http://www.jag.org, almost 750,000 youths have been helped.

And JWG’s link to the local level is a success story in which all Clark County residents can take pride. JWG was created after the accomplishments of a pilot program at Vancouver’s Bridges Academy, which works with the Clark County Skills Center to target and support students with severe credit deficiencies and keep them from dropping out. Last academic school year, Bridges graduated 38 JAG students, almost quadrupling the success of two years previously, and this inspired the creation of JWG at the state level. In the state program’s first year, 472 students were served and a graduation rate of 80 percent was achieved.

That’s a remarkable success rate for most high schools or school districts, but it’s even more praiseworthy considering the fact that the JWG enrollment was composed entirely of students who were on the brink of dropping out.

How is all of this accomplished? First, by identifying barriers to the students’ academic success. The national JAG program says there are 35 possible barriers such as academic issues, low income, social struggles, behavioral problems and excessive truancy. A combination of any five barriers qualifies a student for JAG support.

And, as reported in a recent Columbian story by Estelle Gwinn, then comes the establishment of goals. Jill Neyenhouse, program coordinator at Bridges Academy, says this helps because it “shows students that they can be successful.” Fragile teenage minds often believe otherwise, but when those kids see adult specialists working in schools to help students develop career interests and improve learning techniques, lifelong changes occur.

The success of the Bridges Academy program has inspired Vancouver Public Schools to participate in the state JWG program, and it’s easy to see why. According to a report from the state Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction, Vancouver schools are showing a graduation rate of 64 percent and an annual dropout rate of 5.6 percent.

Specialized dropout-prevention programs help more than just the students. In fact, they help all Washingtonians, because when graduation rates are increased, overall skills of the workforce are improved and local and state economies are boosted.

We’re glad Bridges, JWG and JAG are showing progress. For more information: http://jobsforwashingtongraduates.wordpress.com/.