Focus on Jobs Keeps Kids in School

DETROIT — All across Michigan, families and students have celebrated high school graduation. Earning that high school diploma is a building block to higher education, apprenticeships, a job or military service. We have all seen the statistics in the difference in earnings and the social outcomes of completing high school.

Why then, do some students decide to drop out? As an educator with nearly 30 years experience I have found that the most common reason is that students don’t understand the “why” of school. Why do I have to learn this? When will I ever use this subject in real life? How does school connect to what I might want to do?

When these questions get answered, the magic happens. This year our district partnered with a program called Jobs for Michigan’s Graduates, administered in partnership by Southeast Michigan Community Alliance and Youth Solutions, Inc, a statewide non-profit focused on ensuring Michigan’s young people win in education, employment, and as citizens.

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JMG at River Rouge High School: Providing a Pathway to College and Career Readiness

What does it mean to be college and career ready? More importantly, what do students need to get there? Individual drive, parental support, and a quality school system all help, but some students still face significant challenges to completing high school. Providing every student with high-quality education to prepare for academic, career, and lifelong success is one of the goals of the SEMCOG/MAC economic development strategy.

National high school graduation rates for public schools in 2014-2015 were 83.2 percent — higher than Michigan rates at 79.8 percent. For low-income students however, the discrepancy was even greater: 76.1 percent for the U.S. and 67.5 percent for Michigan. Lack of a high school diploma is a critical barrier to academic and career opportunities.

Jobs for Michigan’s Graduates (JMG) is the state affiliate of a national dropout prevention and recovery program. It helps students transition to post-secondary education and careers by helping them overcome barriers such as low basic skills, transportation, and workplace readiness. There are now 38 programs serving 25 communities across the state with a 95 percent graduation rate.

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