Though some are still in middle school, already they have been identified as being off the course to graduate from high school and receive a diploma. But an effort is being made to change the direction of a group of approximately 20 at-risk students through a new summer program at Wawasee High School.
A grant from the Kosciusko County Community Foundation and business donations enabled the formation of the Early Career Options Summer Challenge, simply referred to as the ECO Summer Challenge. It began June 7 and will end July 22.
Identifying students as at-risk is based on a number of factors, said Tracy May, coordinator of the program. Some have been identified by the Bowen Center or school counselors, while others have been expelled from school or are not even enrolled in school. “They are off the course to graduate on time,” she noted.
The grade range of students chosen is from middle school up through those entering their sophomore year in high school. They are being challenged to explore the different career and technical opportunities available to them in high school such as Geometry in Construction, building trades, robotics, photography, automotive, culinary arts and the various agriculture programs. A full physical education program is offered, too.
Students attend from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Monday through Friday voluntarily and are being rotated week to week through the various opportunities. If they have five unexcused absences, they can no longer participate in the program, May said.
Overall, the intent of the challenge is to hopefully spark an interest in a career field the students may not have considered before. And if an interest is sparked, it could motivate the students to not drop out of school and focus more on their academics.
For one example, during the building trades portion of the program nearly all of the students had never picked up or used a hammer before, but most came back each day and helped build a shed for Habitat for Humanity, May noted.
In addition to exploring career options, students can also earn a high school credit through the career and technical education department, as well as a PE credit. This will help free up scheduling to accommodate any graduation coaching or tutoring students may need during the school year.
Bowen Center is providing staff members to help and a mental health intern attending Grace College and doing a clinical study is also assisting.