Grenada School District has made dropout prevention a major focus in recent years by implementing several initiatives targeting at-risk students from the elementary school through the high school.  In November 2007, Grenada School District was awarded their first 21st Century Grant entitled The Learning Quilt to implement an after school program to address the dropout problem at Grenada High School. Grenada has awarded another five year grant award of over $1,500,000. This initiative will weave pieces of academics, workplace relevance, and technology skills together to create an environment to motivate students to stay in school. “We are very excited about the opportunity to provide after school classes and a 5-week program during the summer in Grenada School District,” says Lynne Russell, Project Coordinator. “We expect students to be motivated to stay in school and to be prepared for today’s workforce. These career classes and tutoring initiatives address those issues.”

The Learning Quilt activities will assist students in achieving success in passing the state mandated subject area tests required for graduation.  Activities will be centered upon the concept of a student run ‘company’ and will merge academic core objectives into real-life career classes.  This organization of skills will enhance the connections between school and work.  Building and metal trade classes will create and produce the products, sales and marketing classes will initiate strategies for selling the products, and the Pod Casting classes will advertise the products.  Instructor for the pottery class, Melissa Taylor states, “These classes are designed to make learning more relevant for our students.  Academic objectives will be infused into a workplace environment to enable students to connect the importance of education to applications on the job.  In our sales/marketing classes, students will not only learn math concepts, but they will apply these concepts to actually market a product.” 

In addition to offering these career oriented classes, student tutoring, teacher training, as well as parent workshops, are being implemented to enhance the connections between school and work.  Parenting classes/workshops will provide information and instruction for the participant’s family members in parenting and technology skills.  After school tutoring is being offered in small group settings to students requiring additional academic assistance.

Since this project will encompass a new five-year round of implementation, as a result of our experiences, GSD has identified several areas in our program that will receive improvements.  We have evaluated thoroughly the outcomes and results of our previous grant and have determined several alterations to our program that will more effectively address the evolving needs of our students.  Our ongoing feed-back loop between our staff, students, and administration will facilitate these changes and will effectively discern new issues that may need to be addressed in the future.  Specific changes to our program will include:

• Adding middle school students to expand the reach of our programs

• Creating more inter-relationships between programs.  For example, the agriculture program will provide fresh produce for the culinary class, or podcasting will create a “how-to” podcast outlining the steps to build an Adirondack chair from wood-working class.

• Program will emphasize more hands-on inter-disciplinary activities instead of a business model, specifically correlating academic disciplines with work-related activities and vice versa.

• Tutoring will address specific needs of students determined via standardized testing and classroom performance. Specifically, weaknesses in SATP testing will be foremost in the tutoring processes to facilitate the completion of students’ requirements for graduation.

High Hopes partners and community members will also be offered the opportunity to participate in the grant initiatives.  Community members will be recruited to visit the classes and share real-life experiences with the student participants.  Community partners will also be requested to provide incentives for the students for the completion of objectives and for class attendance. The partners of our adopt-a-school organization are enthusiastic about the receipt of the 21st Century Grant and welcome the opportunity to assist our students in connecting the educational environment with the workplace.

Superintendent Dr. David Daigneault states, “The Learning Quilt initiative will address four main goals designed to improve student achievement.  These include: 

•Decrease the drop-out rate

•Increase student motivation

•Expand participation in adult education services to enable parents to enhance and support their children’s education

ªEncourage infusion of learning objectives into real-life situations.

Our teachers and staff are excited about this new innovative program and are confident of the positive outcome of our program.”

The 21st Century Grant, administered by the Mississippi Department of Education, is planned to span a period of five years.  The 21st Century Community Learning Centers Program (CCLC) was established by Congress as Title IV, Part B of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, as amended by the No Child Left Behind Act of 2001.  The purpose of the 21st CCLC Program is to create community learning centers that provide academic enrichment opportunities for children and their families.