My Soapbox: Barbara Seibel, Jobs for Cincinnati Graduates
Since 2001, Barbara Seibel has been president of Jobs for Cincinnati Graduates
(JCG), one of the social programs praised by America’s Promise Alliance in its recent recognition of Cincinnati as one of 100 Best Places for Young People.
What is Jobs for Cincinnati Graduates?
We work with youth who have barriers to success. Our first program works with high school youth to keep them in high school and help them develop a career plan after graduation. We say that the goal of the plan after high school can be either Enrollment (in post-secondary education), Enlistment or Employment.
A second program – Connect2Success - has the same goal as the first, but instead of working with high school students, we’re looking for youth who have disengaged from high school and now realize that was a mistake. We assign them an education coach to see if either a GED or a diploma is the best path to take. A life coach will identify any barriers that would keep someone from staying engaged, like child care, stable housing, transportation issues and helps the youth get job and career ready.
In both programs, once a youth has graduated from high school, we stay with them for the whole next year, in case there are any bumps in the road.
How long has JCG been serving the youth of Cincinnati?
Since 1982. Back then, the city’s major corporations — P&G, Kroger’s, Macy’s, among others — were concerned that the youth they saw coming straight into employment from high school weren’t being adequately prepared for work.
So, as good executives will do so as not to reinvent the wheel, they looked across the nation to find a program to help Cincinnati’s youth. They found Jobs for America’s Graduates, which had already created a method of service delivery with outcome measurements, something only a few social services agencies were using then. They founded JCG using that model.
Since then, we’ve probably served an excess of 25,000 youth in Cincinnati.
Where does the funding come from?
We get half of our funding for the high school to career program from the Southwest Ohio Region Workforce Investment Board, which is a federal funding stream from the Workforce Investment Act. The rest comes from United Way, the City of Cincinnati, and our own fundraising. The Southwest Ohio Region Workforce Investment Board fully funds Connect2Success.
How do you locate high school youth at risk?
Administrators will invite us into their schools to work with students they have identified as needing extra support to get to graduation and then to the next step. Right now, we don’t have enough funding to serve all of the schools’ needs.
For Connect2Success, the drop-out recovery program, our referrals are mostly by word of mouth. A drop-out gets engaged with his life and education coach and then tells his friends and family.
Genine Gray, one of the youth you serve, just received the only national scholarship offered this year by America’s Promise Alliance. Why, out of all the at-risk teens in the country, was her story singled out?
Genine’s story shows how a young person who is motivated to succeed can get around very significant barriers, including homelessness. The fact that she is a first-generation high-school graduate and a first-generation college attendee is amazing, given that she didn’t have the skills she needed early on. In her scholarship application, she talked about her “Team Cincinnati,” and I think that theme resonates. She succeeded because she got support from all these different organizations, because not one organization could help her by itself.
Since working at JCG, have you seen changes in the way Cincinnati is addressing high school drop-out rates?
I am very impressed with what the Cincinnati Public Schools (CPS) has been doing in the last two to three years to bring coordinated support services into their schools, services like JCG, the Cincinnati Youth Collaborative, the YMCA, Gear-Up, Project GRAD, and Bridging the Gap. That way, we can deal with some of the non-educational barriers while the teachers can focus on education.
The Strive Partnership, with its push from cradle to career, has been able to get the leadership from lots of organizations together to talk about things that need to change. Then that trickles down through the organizations to the people working on the ground level.
That’s what we’re doing right.
What do you think needs improving?
We need to increase the rigor of the coursework in our schools. Our youth need to be prepared to compete in a global market, particularly in math and science, and in general, our schools are nowhere near where they need to be.