Gates Foundation gives grants to help local students get higher education degrees

Learn to Earn Dayton and the Montgomery County Educational Services Center are one of 12 organizations from across the country selected to participate in a grant program, Accelerate ED, which will focus on ways to create a “13th year” or year of additional classes preparing the student for the workforce.

Learn to Earn and the Montgomery County ESC have a $175,000, year-long grant for the project.

Dayton education and workforce leaders came together to find people for in-demand jobs in healthcare, IT and advanced manufacturing using dual enrollment, the Gates Foundation said. Students who earn a critical number of college credits by 12th grade will automatically be accepted into an additional year to complete an associate degree.

Bryan Stewart, workforce director at the Montgomery County ESC, said the grant will help connect existing opportunities for students to earn college credit in high school with local K-12 schools.

“In essence, though, it’s coming together looking at how to expand opportunities for students,” Stewart said.

Thomas J. Lasley, interim CEO of Learn to Earn Dayton and dean and professor emeritus at the University of Dayton, noted most people are not moving to Ohio for jobs, so to fill in-demand jobs, it makes sense to work from students already in Ohio.

“Building and creating our intellectual capital. is absolutely essential,” Lasley said. “And this will be one of the ways in which we’ll be able to build the intellectual capital that we need for our next generation jobs.”

The Gates Foundation said the grant will help leaders expand this approach beyond Dayton to all 16 districts in Montgomery County, to all the Ohio early colleges and to other cities in the state.

Sara Allan, director of early learning and pathways for the Gates Foundation, said many of the partnerships in the 12 organizations selected are ongoing. While the $175,000 grant is for a year, there are opportunities to renew and the partnerships should strengthen, Allan said.

“These are not new partnerships in many cases,” Allan said. “We think they are examples of the kinds of sustaining community-based partnerships that ultimately will lead to the redesign of our systems.”

The Gates Foundation pointed not just to a need to find workers to fill jobs in fields like health care, education and manufacturing, but also because close to a million fewer students are going to college now than before the pandemic.

The partnership is also about equity, as research shows efforts like these help Black, Latino and low-income students who have historically had less access to quality career education pathways.

“We have had advocated for career pathways that mitigate college costs for years and Accelerate ED is illustrative of a model that will allow students to begin building a trajectory of a career success and an understanding the real connection between what they are learning in school and how it can and will apply to their professional goals,” Lasley said.

The design team was led by Learn to Earn Dayton and Dayton Public Schools and Kettering City Schools are the district partners. Higher education partners included Sinclair Community College, Wright State University, Central State University, University of Dayton and Miami University.

The educational institutions worked with the Boys and Girls Club of Dayton, Dayton Area Chamber of Commerce, Montgomery County Educational Services Center, the U.S. Department of Education, the Ohio Department of Education and the Ohio Mayors Alliance.

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