SH and EH to get share of $57 million Explore, Engage and Experience grant

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HANCOCK COUNTY — Creating a variety of learning opportunities for students to help them be better prepared once they graduate high school is the game plan, school district officials say.

Thanks to a grant from the Indiana Department of Education, officials with the Southern Hancock and Eastern Hancock school districts say they can now expand their pathway programs for students.

Officials with IDOE awarded 97 schools and community partners with $57 million in Explore, Engage and Experience (3E) grant funding. The grant will aid Indiana’s schools and local partners as they work to expand students’ access to pathways leading to high-wage, high-demand careers, state officials said.

Southern Hancock officials will receive $486,300. While Eastern Hancock, as part of the East Central Educational Service Center, will get a portion of some $1.2 million.

Southern Hancock Superintendent Lisa Lantrip said since Indiana adopted the Graduation Pathways program, the district’s goal has been to offer a variety of real-world opportunities for students in subject matters of interest.

“This grant will allow our district to add valuable resources to grow community partnerships and introduce additional opportunities for students to learn about careers and post-secondary options throughout their academic careers,” Lantrip said.

The district’s communication and community relations director, Wes Anderson, said the money will allow them to hire a person dedicated to finding learning/working partnerships in the community for their work-based learning program.

“It’s all about helping students to be college- and career-ready,” Anderson said. “That includes finding partnerships in our community willing to take our kids on.”

The district has already developed three partnerships with Hancock Health, Salesforce and the Greenfield Chamber of Commerce, to give students exposure to work opportunities, but the grant district officials say will help them create more.

Exposing students to different jobs, internships and work opportunities can help in the decision-making process as juniors and seniors in high school start to map out plans for their future, Anderson said. District officials are also going to use some of the grant money for career-exposure opportunities for students in kindergarten through sixth grade.

“We want to give those younger kids an opportunity to explore careers,” Anderson said. “This is a pivot for us in our curriculum.”

Giving students an opportunity to explore the real work world before they are actually a part of it will be a real eye-opener for students and could help many determine just what career path they’d like to take once they leave high school.

Eastern Hancock Superintendent George Philhower said his district, as a member of the East Central Educational Service Center, will get a portion of the over $1.2 million earmarked for that partnership.

“We don’t know the exact dollar amount that will be given to us directly or indirectly just yet,” Philhower said. “For us, this is a collaborative effort as we move forward to figure out how we can get better in making sure our kids are as career- or college-ready as possible.”

Philhower noted there are several districts who are part of the the East Central Educational Service Center, and he believes much of the grant money will go towards professional development and collaborations between the workforce and East Central Indiana schools.

“We want to make sure we’re producing the kind of kids businesses want to employ either right out of high school or after training,” Philhower said. “That’s what this is all about.”

Funding for Indiana’s 3E grant is allocated as part of the state’s federal Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief III plan. Originally slated for $25 million, the total grant funding was expanded to more than $57 million due to an overwhelming response in strong applications from across the state.

The grant focuses on increasing the number of students experiencing work-based learning and earning high-value credentials while in high school, such as the Indiana College Core, an associate degree, or a career and technical education industry certificate. The grant also encourages schools to expand access to career exploration and engagement opportunities for students in elementary and middle school.

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