Sixth grade center receives grant

Fifth grade is a good time to get students thinking about their futures.

That was the thinking behind officials with the Seymour Middle School Sixth Grade Center applying for Employability Skills Innovation and Implementation Grant funding.

The purpose of the grant is to help students develop in-demand employability skills that will help them prepare for careers after high school.

Principal Loriann Wessel recently learned her school was among 58 across 40 counties in the state receiving funding. Its allotment is $20,256.84, while the state’s total is $10 million.

Once a construction project is complete at the school, it will house all fifth- and sixth-graders attending Seymour Community School Corp.

“Through this grant, we will be able to purchase and develop curriculum that will tie in the importance of communication, work ethic and collaboration,” Wessel said. “Our main goal is to make learning meaningful to all students as a result of them having a frame of reference of why what they do in fifth and sixth grade matters to their future.”

Wessel said she found out about this grant as a member of the Indiana Association of School Principals. Through that organization, she is connected with resources from the Indiana Department of Education and administrators across the state.

After speaking with her assistant principal, counselor and teachers, they decided to form a committee to work on the grant application.

“Since the grant focuses on introducing Indiana’s employability skills to students, we felt that this would provide us an opportunity to develop programming that would get students to think about their futures as early as fifth grade,” Wessel said.

Grant funding was allocated as part of the state’s federal Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief II plan. Originally slated for $7 million, an overwhelming number of high-scoring applicants expanded the total award amount to $10 million.

Wessel said she was very grateful to learn the school was awarded the full amount requested.

“I would venture to say there are not many sixth grade centers/intermediate schools in the state who are designing and implementing curriculum and programming to teach employability skills,” she said. “I am proud to be a part of building opportunities and connections for our students that will serve them well after they leave our building.”

As part of their grant proposals, schools detailed how they will leverage these funds to help students showcase proficiency in Indiana employability skills and how they will work with partners to help blur the lines between pre-K-12, higher education and the workforce through career exploration, engagement and experiences.

Successful proposals included a strategic plan to evaluate program implementation and report data on student outcomes.

“Next steps in the grant process are to begin acquiring the funds so that we can build curriculum based on the Soft Skills program and JA BizTown as well as to begin working with community partners to help with activities such as field days and business work partners,” Wessel said.