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Grants, Partners to Help KCS Students Succeed

Two grants obtained this spring by Kenton City Schools will help the district meet new state requirements for career advising and creating student success plans.

Two grants obtained this spring by Kenton City Schools will help the district meet new state requirements for career advising and creating student success plans. Superintendent Jennifer Penczarski said the goal of the policies “is to ensure that all students graduate from high school with the knowledge, skills, work habits and aspirations to succeed in the future workforce.”

A total of $128,000 for one year was awarded through the Community Connector Grant, which will serve students in grades 5-12. She said the Hardin County Chamber and Business Alliance, Quest Federal Credit Union, Ohio Hi-Point Career Center, Hardin County Ministerial Association, Ensign Associates and the Kenton City Schools co-created the Kenton Professional Mentoring and Leadership Initiative. This partnership connects student interests and learning with 21st century careers, Penczarski said. “Research shows that when youth are connected to caring adults who help them building character, resiliency and goal setting/problem solving skills, they have a much greater likelihood to reach their fullest potential,” she said.

Kenton Elementary (grades 5-6) will embed career awareness and informal mentoring during and after school for all students as well as create a new after-school program for at-risk students which brings a child’s student success plan to life through formal mentoring, academic supports and social emotional skill building.

Kenton Middle School (grades 7-8) will expand job shadowing and career exploration curriculum so every eighth grader leaves with a five-year academic/career plan. Penczarski noted the district has added a course at KMS that every student will take focused on careers and STEM (science, technology, engineering and manufacturing). She noted that in “STEM” the “M” typically refers to math, but KCS changed it to manufacturing since math is embedded in all areas.

A new peer mediation (grades 5-8) program will build the program solving, character, communication and resiliency skills.

For Kenton High School students in grades 9-12, the district has renovated the former Northwood building to house three new STEM career tech satellite programs — Advanced Manufacturing, Allied Health and Nursing, and IT Help Desk. In addition, KHS is offering IT programming. Penczarski said these programs will help meet local workforce needs. Plus, high school students will have an opportunity to participate in hands-on internships/capstone projects.

“Partners will design new leadership training, service learning opportunities, commissions and boards so high school youth develop character, leadership and 21st century skills for workplace success,” she said.

The ministerial association and other partners will recruit informal mentors to act as role models for youth in grades 5-12. They also will create after-school programs for at-risk students.

Penczarski said the 21st Century Grant ($600,000 over three years) will support all the work of the Community Connectors Grant but focus on students in grades K-6. Club Roar will be established for students and they will be encouraged to participate in programming at least three times per week. Students can be involved in the program before or after school. Transportation will be provided for students who live in Kenton.

Penczarski said 232 KCS students in grades K-6 have been identified as below proficient and not supported enough at home. “They are not on the same playing field,” she said. Every week these identified students will receive 30-45 minutes of personalized instruction/support in reading and/or math. They will also receive homework help, small group interventions and tutoring, interactive literacy and STEM building projects, and a volunteer mentor to support them.

Programs in Club Roar will be designed to build character and leadership skills, physical, mental, behavioral and social emotional resiliency, health and wellness, career awareness through STEM clubs and projects, and core values/volunteering. “Accomplishing the goals of both grants will require a strong collaborative partnership across all community sectors,” Penczarski said.

Information on how to support the work of the Kenton Professional Mentoring and Leadership Initiative will be released in the few weeks.