A program intended to help high school students succeed and graduate will be implemented at Jennings County High School.

Ivy Tech Community College Columbus received a $74,724 Carl D. Perkins Career and Technical Education grant from the Indiana Department of Education to expand the iGrad program to Jennings County, according to an Ivy Tech news release.

Students are provided with a graduation coach or assistance from a tutor or mentor. The program strives to ensure students receive the academic, social and other support needed to successfully complete high school and enter post-secondary education or careers by connecting students to career readiness skills.

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Local businesses and industry have identified career readiness and training in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) fields as the two greatest needs for new and potential employees. The iGrad program expansion will directly address both of these needs among students.

The iGrad program launched in Bartholomew County in 2012 as an intentional collaboration of Ivy Tech, Cummins Inc., the Community Education Coalition, Bartholomew Consolidated and Flat Rock-Hawcreek school corporations, and the Heritage Fund — The Community Foundation of Bartholomew County, and has helped reduce the number of students who drop out of high school and increased the county’s graduation rate.

“The iGrad program shows students that they can succeed in school and helps guide them to develop and achieve education and career goals,” Ivy Tech Columbus Campus President Steven Combs said in the news release.

The recently formed North Vernon Mayor’s Education Council set career readiness and college attainment as their two work priorities after listening to needs identified by local businesses and industry.

“The iGrad program will bring thoughtful and focused initiatives that will greatly benefit our community by preparing our students for education beyond high school and high-demand, technical careers,” North Vernon Mayor Mike Ochs said in the news release.

The career and college readiness coaches will collaborate with Jennings County High School administrators and teachers to offer the Ivy Tech Community College Career Ready Endorsement to high school STEM students. The Career Ready Endorsement is divided into four areas that build personal knowledge, academics, career development and community mindedness, and is designed to guide students to a successful college or career placement.

“It will help all students in making certain that they graduate from high school while also better preparing them for the local workforce and possibly more schooling. Other than our students, the biggest beneficiaries will be our local businesses and industry as they begin to see more and more young employees who are prepared to work and have the essential skills to be successful,” Jennings County School Corp. Superintendent Terry Sargent said in the news release.

Ivy Tech offers 31 dual-credit courses at Jennings County High School, including 12 STEM-related courses. The career and college readiness coaches will work closely with Ivy Tech to identify additional STEM-related one-year certificates and two-year degree opportunities to offer within the high school, or in addition to the Ivy Tech courses currently offered at the Jennings County Education and Training Center.

Ivy Tech will continue to partner with the Mayor’s Education Council to develop a plan to sustain and build the iGrad program in Jennings County, Combs said in the news release.