GREENVILLE — U.S. Representative Warren Davidson (R-Ohio) spent part of the day in Darke County, September 22, with the Darke County Chamber of Commerce President Sharon Deschambeau.
One of their visits was to the Council on Rural Services (CORS) and Achievement Center for Educational Success (ACES) in Greenville. They met with CORS CEO/Interim CFO Dan Schwanitz, ACES Program Coordinator Jeff Vaughn, CORS Information Technology Director George Lunger Jr., Gateway Youth Programs Support Specialist Ruth Barga and ACES student Chasta Driskell. The purpose of the visit was to receive feedback on the Gateway Youth Programs.
The Gateway Youth Programs objectives are to: specialize in positive youth development; work with youth in conflict, at risk or in need of support; build positive attributes needed for success; provide new experiences and opportunities; assist with transitional stages of development; goal setting and attainment; assist with further education and explore careers and job skills. These objectives are fulfilled through the following programs: Community Connectors, Connection Recreation Center, Prevention, Tutoring and Achievement Center for Educational Success (ACES).
ACES is an alternative education program in Darke and Miami counties for students in grades 9-12, with an individualized curriculum. The philosophy of ACES, is that all students can learn and succeed when conditions are conducive to their personal needs. Students are referred by their home school districts, and have an opportunity to earn their high school diploma. According to ACES data, since 2000: a total of 621 students attended, 210 graduated through ACES (does not include students that transitioned back to home school or other programs that graduated), 336 advanced a grade level, 45 transitioned to home school; 21 transitioned to a vocational program, 15 dropped out of school, 2 withdrew to pursue a General Education Development (GED) and 38 withdrew. In addition, Darke County’s enrollment from August 28 – January 6, 2018 shows 21 males and 15 females; five in ninth grade, five in 10th grade, 10 in 11th grade and 16 in 12th grade; six students from Ansonia, 10 from Arcanum-Butler, 13 from Mississinawa Valley, six from Tri-Village and 1 from Versailles.
ACES student Chasta Driskell, 16, has attended more than 15 schools. She just received her driver’s license, will graduate this year and is seeking continuing education opportunities. She shared her experience with the visitors.
“We moved to Wayne Lakes and my mom signed me in with Tri-Village schools,” she said. “The guidance counselor said we have Gateway. Mom asked what it was and we met with Jeff. He said it was only 2-1/2 hours a day, and I had a chance to graduate early. I came last year, and earned 14-1/2 credits last year. This year I will graduate. I am only 16, and should finish in January. I don’t like being in front of a whole lot of people at school, and I didn’t want to go to Tri-Village without knowing anyone. I got this offer, and I love it.”
“She has really flourished since she has been here,” Vaughn said. “She has had some issues with a anxiety before, and this smaller setting has helped her deal with that. We get a lot of students in that same situation. All of these kids are here for a reason, and they can share similarities.”
“If you attend one of the graduations, you will understand the impact and the difference that this school and the people that work here make in the lives of these children,” Deschambeau said. “This is not just a school.”
Gateway Youth Program Support Specialist and licensed social worker Ruth Barga spends time with relationship-building. Many of the students are without good role models.
“Our main objective is offering basic support for the students,” she said. “We do what we need to do. They may want a job, but their parents have never worked and the students have no idea of how to go about it.”
“Another thing with ACES we really push is employment and working on job skills, because these students are the people that will stay in this community.” Vaughn said. “In Darke County we have 10 students out of the 36, employed, and last year about 19 had full-time employment when they graduated.”
“Workforce is one of the things that is encouraging,” Davidson said. “When I talk to members of Congress; all over the country most people are hiring and workforce is the challenge. That is a great situation from the overall economy, and all the way up to Janet Yellen (chair of the U.S. Federal Reserve System). I talked to her and several of the Federal Reserve Board governors. At the macroeconomic level they speak about it differently. Labor participation, labor productivity is the big thing. That comes from getting people engaged in the workforce. This is the early stage of the pipeline. It changes peoples’ lives ultimately, because you move them along.”
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