In the classroom, outside the classroom, and as an enduring career, when children can see more clearly how education relates to the real world — their real world — they are far more likely to succeed in school and beyond. This can be accomplished by offering them the opportunity to experience a career firsthand, then giving them the tools and support they need to pursue it.
Dedicated Rockford educational leaders sought to give this invaluable opportunity to all our students — ensuring equitable access and allowing students to gain the knowledge and skills necessary for economic stability. With a 66% graduation rate, there would be a need for interventive efforts to help more students thrive. The ultimate goal is the development of an expanded learning model to better prepare our youth to be college, career, and life ready.
Once implemented, such a program would be transformative for the students, and in turn, our entire community. As graduates shape brighter futures, the benefits of enhanced prosperity and quality of life among all residents grow exponentially each year. This ambitious endeavor would require student access to area organizations for work-based learning, development of new school processes, highly engaged community partnerships — and funding.
The vision for Rockford students reflected precisely the mission of the Great Lakes College & Career Pathways Partnership (GLCCPP). Funded by The Joyce Foundation, a national nonprofit, the GLCCPP designated four applicant communities to design and implement systems to equitably empower students for advancement into the workforce. In 2016, Rockford, Illinois; Madison, Wisconsin; Central Ohio/Greater Columbus, Ohio; and the Northwest Suburbs of Chicago, Illinois; were announced as grant recipients.
Rockford Public Schools, Alignment Rockford, and Rock Valley College, together, were awarded $500,000 over five years to scale and sustain the capacity to achieve optimal student readiness for employment—principally through their secondary and post-secondary education.
Building on a concept already embraced by Rockford Public Schools, grant funding would, in part, support “Academies,” or schools within high schools, which offer training in a general career direction. Within each Academy, several more narrowly focused career “Pathways” offer students greater specialization.
The results speak volumes. Through the Great Lakes College & Career Pathways Partnership Grant, students gained access to industry expertise, career inspiration, and workforce preparation and businesses teamed up with enthused, well-equipped students.
The GLCCPP journey has helped our community build a foundation to support meaningful and lasting improvement in advancing equity and economic mobility for generations to come.
sharing insight, successes, and challenges. The ongoing exchange of ideas is a new educational resource for each community.
The GLCCPP Grant makes it possible for regional employers to team up with motivated Rockford students. Students gain career insight, industry knowledge, mentoring, and work-based experiences. Employers gain the ability to help shape curriculum, develop a better-prepared workforce, and connect early with students whose career goals align with an organization’s hiring needs.
The Public Safety Pathway is an ideal example of the unique access and insight students are afforded with work-based learning. Aspiring public servants can explore the responsibilities, beneficial qualities, and daily activities of various criminal justice roles.
Detective Jeff Barabasz is a 24-year veteran of the Rockford Police Department and a hands-on instructor in the Criminal Justice Pathway. Teaching the dual-credit course, Criminal Justice and Introduction to Crime Scene Investigation at Guilford High School, his curriculum incorporates fingerprinting, forensics, police reports, field trips, and visiting speakers, like crime victims, psychologists, and investigators. Students who complete this class receive both high school and college credit, at no cost, and without leaving their high school campus.