STANFORD — Up to 40 Fort Logan High School students will have new chances to boost their employability and job experience, thanks to a $135,000 grant from the Bluegrass Workforce Investment Board.
Principal Scott Montgomery said the grant he applied for, which was awarded June 20, is aimed at helping low-income students improve their numeracy, literacy and job skills.
“The money is not earmarked as much as a lot of grants are, so they do give you some leeway there so you can help it to fit your program,” Montgomery said.
The grant provides funding for up to 40 students who meet income eligibility requirements and are between the ages of 16 and 18.
Montgomery said the grant pays for up to 20 of those students to get work experience.
Local employers can hire the students, and the grant will pay the students’ wages at a rate of $7.50 per hour for up to 20 hours a week and for a maximum of five weeks.
“It’s a win-win situation to me,” Montgomery said. “Kids are gaining valuable experience, and employers can also receive some benefit from that as well.”
Montgomery is meeting with local jobs leaders such as members of the industrial board and Chamber of Commerce to set up partnerships to provide jobs for the eligible students.
Beyond paying students’ work wages, Montgomery said he plans to invest in technology and curriculum, including a career-development program, that will help Fort Logan students find jobs or move on to college after they graduate.
In addition, students in the program will visit the Bluegrass Workforce Investment Board to practice interviewing skills and go through mock interviews.
Montgomery told the Lincoln County Board of Education recently the money can be spent on a wide variety of expenses including field trips.
“We’ll have the opportunity to take these kids to places they’ve never been,” he said. “I couldn’t be more excited.”
Montgomery said Fort Logan is one of 10 organizations to receive grants from the Workforce Investment Board this year and one of only two public schools to ever receive this type of funding, the other being a high school in Estill County.
Montgomery is seeking advice from a leader at the other public school, which has been involved with the grant program for about 12 years, to get her perspective on the best ways to use the grant funding.
“I’m going to be using her as a resource,” he said. “I don’t want to reinvent the wheel, and I don’t want to think I’ve got a great idea that she’s already tried.”
The grant can be renewed for up to three years after the initial year if Fort Logan students who use the program are successful enough in finding jobs or going to college.
“If we can reach our goals, which we’ll be working hard to do, it could bring well over half a million dollars into the county,” Montgomery said.
To qualify for renewal, 60 percent of students must graduate, and 65 percent must find employment or begin post-secondary education.
Fort Logan currently has an 87-percent success rate for its students going to college or a technical school, finding a job or serving in the military, so the school is already in a good position to meet the requirements for grant renewal.
Montgomery is excited about the potential to increase his students’ employment chances, especially in such a bad economy.
“Anything we can do to get kids more employable this day and time I think is a must. It’s just tough out there right now for a young person trying to get started,” he said. “Even if you’ve got a college education, it’s hard out there right now. So if we can provide them with some skills that the workforce is needing, then we’re just all that much better off.”