Project Grad is a nonprofit K-16 school reform model that is currently underway across the country and started in Alaska on the Kenai Peninsula three years ago. The mission of the program is to ensure a quality public education for all children, increase high school graduation rates and prepare graduates to be successful in college.
As a result of Grad’s success in the lower 48, the Kenai Peninsula Borough School District invited Project Grad to work with its lower-performing schools on the Kenai Peninsula. Grad’s headquarters on the Peninsula are located in Homer where the program works with seven schools; Nanwalek, Ninilchik, Nikolaevesk, Port Graham, Razdolna, Tyonek and Voznesenka. Project Grad Kenai Peninsula works within the vast variety of cultures in all seven schools from the Ninilchik School, Native Villages, and Russian Old Believer Villages.
Three years running, the program is measuring its success and recently Heather Pancratz, Project Grad executive director, presented a progress report to the Kenai Chapter of the Alliance at their monthly luncheon meeting. “We’ve implemented our math program in all our seven schools as well as our reading program where we see our students making huge strides forward in their reading skills and meeting their grade level requirements. We also have one hundred students that have signed their scholarship agreements so when they graduate from high school they’ll receive $1,000 a year for up to four years,” said Pancratz. According to Pancratz the program is succeeding in interesting students in continuing their education beyond high school. “Some of these schools have had less than 30% of their students graduate and go on to further education or vocational training, but recently at a career fair, all the students were talking about going on beyond. These were students in the elementary grades, which is exciting for us to see that the thinking is changing at that early level and they are thinking that there is more for them then the status quo. This is exciting because this is the labor force of tomorrow that industry in Alaska will need in the future to fill the coming labor gap. Our success with students in these small communities is a success for all of us in Alaska,” said Pancratz. For more information on the Project Grad program in Alaska go to www.projectgradusa.org or call 235-2612
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