The University of Georgia is joining the state Great Promise Partnership, a public-private partnership that offers at-risk high school students a chance to get work experience while they’re still in school.
Students are paired with mentors in the program, which aims to teach not only specific job skills but so-called soft-skills, such as punctuality, time management and teamwork on the job. The young participants can earn both pay and academic credit.
“It’s kind of like a dangling carrot,” said Johnelle Simpson, who coordinates work-based learning programs, including the Great Promise Partnership, through the Clarke County School District.
Students must be 16 and identified by high school counsels as at-risk of not graduating for a variety of reason.
UGA’s decision came after UGA president Jere Morehead invited a number of community leaders to the campus this spring in a meeting focused on economic development and education, according to UGA’s announcement.
Launched as a pilot program by the Georgia Department of Community Affairs in January, 2012, Great Promise Partnership became affiliated with the state Department of Economic Development in 2013 and as of this July 1 became an independent non-profit led by former state senator and Department of Community Commissioner Mike Beatty of Jefferson.
Athens has been a bright spot for the program, and this year Simpson expects to have about 50 students participating. None dropped out last year, he said. Clarke is the only school district in the state that has a school-based coordinator for the program, he said.
Last year’s participation statewide was between 250 and 300.
UGA joins Caterpillar, Power Partners, Accurus Aerospace, the Athens-Clarke County government, the Athens Land Trust and other participants in the statewide program, modeled after a program begun years ago by Carroll County’s Southwire Corporation.
“Students (in Great Promise) have more options after graduation, but poverty shouldn’t be one,” Simpson said.
UGA’s participation will begin in January, the university recently announced.
UGA’s College of Education, the Office of the Vice President for Research and the College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences are slated to participate, among other units, according to UGA’s announcement. Specific jobs haven’t been slotted yet, and will depend to some degree to students’ interests.