Many high school students in Mexico have jobs, but they don’t always have reliable transportation to the workplace. Bright Futures and Mexico School District No. 59 are working on finding solutions for their most at-need students.
Observant teachers and administration at district buildings voiced the need for transportation assistance, especially for Mexico Education Center and Hart Career Center students. Directors Kerri Ferrari at MEC and Chris Denham at Hart make up the Bright Futures Site Council, so they are the frontline observers to student needs, said district Public Relations Officer Marci Minor.
“It’s all been based on what teachers see as a need for the students,” she said. “As educators, we see our students every day and we kind of figure out what they need.”
Students at the education center do not function as well in a traditional classroom environment, and they can attend the center in a morning or afternoon session, depending on his or her needs, Minor said.
“We just want people to know … our environment at MEC is better for them. They can work at their own pace. … It’s just a different learning environment,” she said.
Needs can include students who have to have a job to financially support their family, Minor said.
For those students, it becomes something of a cycle. They need a job to be able to pay for a vehicle, but then they also need a vehicle to even get to that job in the first place. Sometimes students are not able to get to work, Minor said.
Education center students can receive credit through the Missouri Option Program for being employed. The program was initiated in 2002 by the Missouri Department of Elementary and Secondary Education. Missouri Option is for students at least 17 years old who are at risk of dropping out or not graduating with their class.
This is why some students at the education center attend for half-days. Students with jobs in the Option program still have to complete certain required courses through district instruction. These include algebra, English II, biology, American government and half-unit courses in health and personal finance.
Students can be employed in any job to receive elective credit. Seniors in the district also are offered one class they can take through Moberly Area Community College for free. The district is working with those students to enroll them for the summer class, Minor said.
“We hope they’ll go. We always want them to go, but I don’t know for sure,” she said. “It kind of gives them an in. If they take the class and they like it, and they want to continue classes, then I’m sure Moberly offers it.”
On the flip side, employers are looking for skilled workers, Ferrari wrote in an email. Bright Futures is surveying employers and community members, especially those with the greatest transportation needs, to find out the best solution. Responses could eventually be used on grant applications to address the transportation needs. The district and Bright Futures are not ready start a grant application process, yet, Minor said.
“The survey was developed by the Bright Futures Site Council. … So they’re just looking to see what the need is before, because there might be something else that comes up in response to these surveys,” she said.
Solutions may present themselves that don’t involve seeking grant funds. That is what the surveys are trying to find out, Minor said. “We’re just kind of seeing what the need is right now,” she said.