$4M Grant for GISD

April 15, 2014

Galveston Independent School District has been awarded a $4 million grant to better prepare high school students for college and the workforce.

The U.S. Department of Labor and the U.S. Department of Education created the Youth CareerConnect grant to provide funding for high schools to implement a career-based curriculum to train students for the competitive job market awaiting them after graduation. It focuses prominently on high-demand careers with an emphasis on science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM).

Before being considered for the grant, the application required the district and its affiliates to sign four partners invested in the outcome and are active participants in the program.

The district got commitments from Workforce Solutions, Texas A&M University at Galveston, The University of Texas Medical Branch and others, said Erica Adams, executive director of Galveston Sustainable Communities Alliance, which was heavily involved helping Galveston attain the grant.

“You had to have a local education agency, which is GISD; a workforce agency to show labor market and help identify high skilled growth, which we signed Workforce Solutions to do; a higher education partner through Galveston College; and employer partners, which we have TAMUG, UTMB and Watson Architect & Associates,” she said.

There are four career pathways students can choose to pursue throughout their high school experience including information technology services, engineering, as well as two health sciences in patient care technician and emergency medical technician.

Information technology services and engineering will be offered for 10th-grade students, while the two health sciences will begin for students in the 11th grade.

Students participating in the grant program will take an individualized development plan, which helps students and career advisers determine which of the four pathways to take.

“The individualized development plan is a personal plan for a student,” said Marcia Proctor, director for Instructional Resources and Special Initiatives at GISD. “It lays out what classes, internship they want to get into, certification they’ll need. It gives them a plan in high school so they have some career perspective.”

Dual-credit courses are offered to students so they can begin their higher education before graduation.

“Students take certain courses and dual credit in high school and then get career certifications along the way either at Ball High or Galveston College and, hopefully, we set up internships with local businesses,” Proctor said.

Students also will be required to participate in a 30-hour mini-internship and 10 hours of service learning.

While internships are where students are mentored at a workplace to gain hands-on experience, the service learning is a project that enables students to utilize the skills they’ve learned to contribute back to the community.

“The service learning by definition is a method of teaching,” said Gina Spagnola, president of Galveston’s Chamber of Commerce. “It combines the classrooms instruction with meaningful community service. What it does is it emphasizes critical thinking and heightens the sense of community.”

Guest speakers will attend Ball High and Odyssey Academy to motivate students, specifically underrepresented groups such as minorities and females to break occupational stereotypes and provide multiple career options.

Galveston is one of 24 recipients around the nation receiving the grant, totaling $107 million.

Two of the 24 grant recipients tied for the highest award. Both Los Angeles United School District and Prince George’s County Economic Development Corporation were awarded $7 million.