School group sets example at conference
Putnam County School District’s Jobs for Florida Graduates program was recognized as a model to follow at a national conference this week.
Jobs for Florida Graduates is a program administered in high schools throughout the state, and Putnam County high schools have participated for the last two years. The program is available at Palatka, Interlachen and Crescent City high schools.
“We are not only making gains in our state, but the entire nation is looking at some of our practices,” Superintendent Rick Surrency said. “Putnam County is definitely on the map when it comes to education.”
Staff members and students from Crescent City, Interlachen and Palatka high schools gave testimonies and helped lead workshops at the Jobs for American Graduates 2019 National Training Seminar in Orlando. Surrency said Putnam educators and students were the only officials invited to speak in front of the crowd of 500 educators and administrators.
“It was because of our increased graduation rate and how we are helping our students become successful after high school,” he said. “We actually had students who gave their testimonials.”
Palatka High coordinator Rebecca Motes, Interlachen High coordinator Lindsey Misamore and Crescent City High coordinator Kelly Faircloth teach students how to develop professional portfolios, establish credit and ensure they meet requirements to graduate.
“The Jobs for Graduates program is a vessel for tools to use to learn, grow, connect and serve,” Motes said. “In a word, it’s empowering.”
Each participating program’s goal is to have 50 students integrated into the program. The program teaches students skills they will need when they leave high school, no matter which road they take after graduation.
Surrency said the success of the program has had a direct impact on the school district’s rising graduation rate, which has increased from 54.9% in 2015 to 84.8% in 2018. A large reason for this, Misamore said, is the unique opportunities the program provides students.
“The Jobs for Graduates program is so important for 21st-century students because it provides opportunities that they may not receive in a traditional classroom setting,” Misamore said. “The program also offers support after graduation during the pivotal transition time from high school to adult life.”
While administrators and teachers have received accolades and recognition for the success of the program, the women who lead it said it is important to remember the students they serve.
“I am honored to be able to teach this group of students,” Misamore said. “As a Jobs for Graduates specialist, I provide the opportunities and the kids do the amazing things. It never gets old watching my students succeed.”