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Educational Options are Plentiful in Jackson, TN

Multiple programs prepare students for future careers

By Val Hunt Beerbower on August 8, 2018

Jackson, TN
Jackson / Courtesy of Union University

In Jackson, new, innovative programs position high school-aged students to seamlessly transition from their classrooms into the workforce or post-secondary education.

The Jackson Central-Merry Early College High (ECH) offers college credits and/or certifications from local higher-ed institutions.

“This allows students to have several options upon completing high school – go on to complete their degree at a college or university, or enter the workforce fully trained and certified,†says Jennifer Barham, Jackson-Madison County School System career and technical education supervisor.

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ECH students are not charged tuition for college-level classes, thereby reducing their financial burden if they choose to go on to a university after graduating. Some may earn an associate degree by the end of their senior year.

At ECH, students may choose from four college pathways: computer information systems, health sciences, advanced manufacturing, and teaching.

“These four pathways are the four areas of high need in Jackson and West Tennessee,†says Nathan Lewis, principal of JCM-ECH.

ECH uses a program called YouScience to help match students with one of the pathways. Established in JMCSS with the support of the community and the Jackson Chamber , YouScience is an interest and aptitude screening program that identifies students’ existing skills and interests, and detects potential career matches.

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“This screener has served as a useful tool when talking with students about future aspiration and life goals,†Barham said. “Through the results of this screener, students are given key terms and characteristics to use in interviews and resumes.”

Another program links students with careers in industrial and advanced manufacturing fields. The Local Options and Opportunity Partnership (LOOP) Project, unveiled earlier this year, pairs students with local manufacturers where they will take instructional work classes and earn certification – while getting a paycheck – during their senior year.

“JMCSS is excited to partner with local industries to provide a unique work-based learning opportunity where students attend a modified school day for academic credit through an online learning lab model with teacher support, opportunities to earn industry certifications, and work in the manufacturing facility the remainder of the day,†Barham said.

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Private School Options

In addition to a thriving public school system, Jackson has several options for private school, as well.

Union EDGE Program

When it comes to providing career options for its citizens, Jackson leaves no person behind. When Union University alumnae and Jackson resident Ann Walker wanted a place where her special needs grandson, Seth, would find his place in the world, she turned to her alma mater and helped create the Union EDGE program

EDGE is an acronym for “employment training, daily living skills, godly focus and educational enrichment,” and the program gives young adults with intellectual and/or developmental disabilities their own college experience. The two-year certificate program nurtures students’ natural abilities to hone professional skills, with the goal of job placement following their graduation.

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“We are blessed that the Jackson community has welcomed this program and supported us and is willing to hire our students,†said Jennifer Graves, director of the EDGE program. “Every student who comes through our program will have a job in a field they desire. We do person-centered planning to find out what they like and enjoy, and our employment coordinator asks members of the community to give consideration to our students, and treat them and pay them as an equal.”

In the EDGE Program’s inaugural year, the graduating class garnered an impressive 71 percent employment rate, and this year’s class is on track to increase that stat to almost 100 percent.

“When students like ours get jobs, it benefits the whole community.†Graves said. “They’re receiving less aid and being more productive. They’re engaged, active members of the community.”

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