The Dirt on Conservation: Program prepares students for college

H.E.L.P. is an acronym for Higher Education Learning Partnership. This type of organization is more commonly known as a P-16 (Preschool-Bachelor’s Degree) Council. Because of the Soil and Water District’s participation as informal educators in the county when the partnership was formed, I was asked to be a member of the group.

As the need for higher education facilities in Monroe County became more evident, Belmont Technical College entered into an agreement with the Monroe County Commissioners to provide higher education opportunities locally, including the development of a P-16 Council.

Priorities

While in the organizational stage, our priorities were to try to find members with an interest in education willing to cooperate and we needed to set the priorities for the group. To begin this process we engaged the assistance of existing P-16 councils.

Representatives from Stark and Highland counties advised us how to proceed. Our three main goals for the Switzerland of Ohio Local School District were: make sure preschools remain funded, increase the high school graduation rate and increase the college enrollment rate.

The first goal was easy. While state funding diminished, the local district continues to fund much-needed preschools. We are still working actively on the other two goals.

A pipeline has been developed showing where gaps in the educational progress may occur. The council is constantly looking for ways to close these gaps. We are committed to help educators find ways to increase student success.

The Switzerland of Ohio HELP Committee has so far received $15,000 in grant money and supported a Seeds4Success grant for the school district that made it possible to hire an OACHE college access coordinator at 20 hours per week and $10,000 for college access activities.

The second annual College and Career Expo was held with more than 30 exhibitors. Sessions were held regarding financial aid, post-secondary/dual enrollment (taking college courses while in high school), and a panel of college students discussing college life.

The council is hosting a series of business luncheons with local employers to identify the needs of employers and how education can support those needs by making local job seekers more employable.

Event

A College Access event is planned for Feb. 9. Prospective students considering any institution and their parents may attend and receive free assistance in completing student financial aid forms.

The Kuder career assessment program is being purchased for local schools through grant money. This software is now going to be offered to junior high school students and high school students. The software matches abilities and interests to guide users to a career path.

Modeled after the Ohio University Access and Success study of Appalachian Ohio, the HELP committee worked with the high school guidance counselors, who administered 145 surveys in the spring to the high school seniors related to their plans after high school.

Ohio University’s Voinovich Center compiled the results for the committee, which provide a baseline of data that can be used to track students’ planned intentions against real-world outcomes after high school.

Results

Sixty-three percent of local seniors said they plan to continue their education after high school and 44 percent said they can afford college, 25 percent said they couldn’t and 29 percent said they did not know. The survey also included questions on the preparation factors for college access including whether students had taken the ACT test, completed the necessary federal financial aid forms and made college visits.

The Switzerland of Ohio HELP committee is helping identify transition points in education where students may experience difficulty or need additional support. The primary goal is to significantly increase the advancement of education or training rates beyond high school and with adults through college enrollment and vocational, skills or military training opportunities.

New Council members are needed. To learn more, contact 740-472-5477.

About the Author

Tammy Jones has been the Program Manager for the Monroe Soil & Water Conservation District since 2003. She has an Associate’s Degree in applied business from Belmont Technical College and a Bachelor of Liberal Arts Degree from Wheeling Jesuit University. Tammy can be reached at (740) 472-0833 or tj.mswcd@yahoo.com More Stories by Tammy Jones

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