ROI Launching Graduation and Career Coaching Initiative in Southwest Central Indiana School Districts

Initiative aimed at improving graduation rates and increasing the number of students pursuing post-secondary education.

BLOOMINGTON, Ind. – Regional Opportunity Initiatives, Inc. (ROI), has announced its first education initiative to support economic and community prosperity in the Southwest Central Indiana region. ROI, in partnership with Ivy Tech Community College – Bloomington, is launching a pilot graduation and career coaching program in nine public school districts. This is the first in a series of significant education and workforce initiatives that will be implemented in our region in the coming months and years.

The graduation and career coaching program is aimed at improving graduation rates and preparing students for pathways into technical certifications, associate degrees, and other postsecondary degree programs.

“There are exceptional opportunities in our region for young people to excel in the workforce,” said ROI Interim CEO Tina Peterson. “Our regional employers are hungry for qualified job applicants who possess the work ethic and skill set required for quality jobs in life sciences, defense, advanced manufacturing and more.

“These opportunities are unreachable, however, for students who do not graduate from high school and have not prepared themselves for success after school. If Southwest Central Indiana is to achieve its potential, we need these young people to achieve their potential, too, and we have a plan to help.”

Beginning with the 2016-17 academic year, new graduation and career coaches will work with high school and middle school students in Bloomfield School District, Crawford County Community Schools, North Lawrence Community Schools, Loogootee Community Schools, Salem Community Schools, Spencer-Owen Community Schools and Washington Community Schools. These coaches complement two existing coaches in Monroe County Community School Corporation and Richland-Bean Blossom Community School Corporation that are partially funded by the Franklin Initiative.

Working closely with school administrators and counseling teams, coaches will support targeted groups of students most at-risk for not attaining high school diplomas.

“We are thrilled to have been selected for this timely initiative,” said Salem Community Schools Superintendent Lynn Reed. “Salem is a growing community and the demand for quality employees is increasing. Our new graduation and career coach will not only provide support to students at-risk for not graduating from high school, but will also assist students in developing the necessary soft skills to be successful in the workforce.”

Coaches will work with students to create individualized high school completion plans, develop opportunities for students to experience and participate in work-based learning initiatives, and develop postsecondary plans. They will also help ensure students attend school, arrive on time, fulfill academic requirements and graduate with a high school diploma.

In conjunction with regional industry representatives and postsecondary institutions, coaching activities may also include career learning activities such as mock interviews, financial literacy training, soft skill training, and college or industry visits.

“Employers in Southwest Central Indiana welcome the news of career coaching in our schools,” said Radius Indiana President and CEO Becky Skillman. “We have an urgent need to grow the workforce to allow many companies to expand. Students who are prepared for the workforce will find unlimited opportunities, and our region of the state will prosper.”

In 2014, leaders from across Southwest Central Indiana (SWCI) came together for the purpose of improving the economic and community prosperity in the region. The Southwest Central Indiana steering committee commissioned a study from Battelle Technology Partnership Practice to assist in identifying the region’s assets, challenges and opportunities for growth. Educational attainment was identified as a key area for improvement. In the region, 14 percent of adults do not have a high school diploma. Over 36 percent of adults possess a high school diploma or equivalency, but do not pursue secondary education.

“Currently, only about 32 percent of our region’s population 25+ have attained some form of post-secondary credential,” said ROI Director of Education and Workforce Todd Hurst. “We have a long way to go to achieve the goal of 60 percent post-secondary credentialing set by the State of Indiana and Lumina Foundation. While this data indicates that there is a lot of opportunity to address attainment among the current adult population, it also indicates that we must change the paradigm for the next generation as well to make sure every student has a path toward a well-paying, fulfilling career in our region.”

ROI is providing funding, professional development, leadership and coordination of the initiative in partnership with Ivy Tech Community College Bloomington, which will recruit, hire and supervise the seven graduation and career coaches.

“Ivy Tech Community College – Bloomington is thrilled to partner with the Regional Opportunity Initiatives, Inc., to advance educational attainment in our state for the benefit of families and regional employers,” said Ivy Tech Bloomington Chancellor Jennie Vaughan. “Through the implementation of graduation and career coaches, the college is optimistic that Indiana’s high school completion, post-secondary certifications and degree attainment rates will improve.”

Fourteen school districts from across the 11-county region responded to the Request for Proposals for the pilot initiative. Selected schools will be involved in coach hiring decisions as well as the administration and day-to-day interactions between students and coaches.

The chosen districts represented programs with an identified need for support, the capacity to provide the resources needed for implementation of the program, and a districtwide commitment to improving outcomes for students.  Graduation and career coaches will work collaboratively with existing school staff, including counseling professionals. They are not intended to replace current staffing and counselors, but will provide targeted resources to improve academic outcomes for a set of students identified by the school for participation. Graduation and career coaches are expected to serve multiple schools in the region. With an average caseload of 55-60 students supported, ROI expects to impact 400 students in the region who might otherwise have been at risk of dropping out of school or of graduating unprepared for success after high school.

The strategy for ROI’s graduation and career coaching initiative was developed after studying two other regional coaching initiatives: The Greater Bloomington Chamber of Commerce Franklin Initiative’s graduation coaches and Ivy Tech College Connection Coaches. The Franklin Initiative has funded coaches in Bloomington since 1999. Of the 210 students participating in 2014, 97 percent graduated from high school. Graduation rates in Bloomington have improved by 10 percent since 2007. Ivy Tech’s Career Connection Coaches launched in 2014 in Vanderburgh, Perry and Parke Counties.

 About Regional Opportunity Initiatives, Inc.:

Regional Opportunity Initiatives, Inc., (ROI) is a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization established to advance economic and community prosperity in the 11-county region of Southwest Central Indiana, including Brown, Crawford, Daviess, Dubois, Greene, Lawrence, Martin, Monroe, Orange, Owen and Washington counties. Through an initial $25,870,000 grant through Lilly Endowment Inc., ROI is implementing an education and workforce plan as well as a regional opportunity fund for quality-of-place investments.

About Southwest Central Indiana:

Southwest Central Indiana (SWCI) is an 11-county area that encompasses Brown, Crawford, Daviess, Dubois, Greene, Lawrence, Martin, Monroe, Orange, Owen and Washington counties.

The counties of SWCI have been working together to leverage the region’s unique assets, including life sciences, defense and advanced manufacturing sectors; the third largest naval base in the world in NSWC Crane; a world-class education and research institution in Indiana University, and natural and entertainment amenities.

A strategic plan was developed in 2014 that focuses on six interconnected strategies: regionalism, workforce development and education, economic development, infrastructure, entrepreneurship, and R&D technology transfer. Read the complete SWCI Strategic Plan.

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