Great things are happening in Marion City! #SMARTMarion

Topics: Early College High School, Education Policy, ESSA

In Marion, Ohio, there is a new mission shaping up to make sure that every student graduate leaves high school with a Diploma + Acceptance, work that is boosted by recent grant support.

Diploma + Acceptance is a promise to students that they will leave Harding High School with more than more than just a diploma, but also “acceptance” into some combination of:

  1. A traditional two or four year college or university
  2. A high-paying, in-demand job
  3. The United States Military
  4. An adult education program or apprenticeship

Reclaiming the promise of Marion community

The city of Marion has a strong tradition and rich history of proud working-class families. But, in recent years the city has experienced many of the same struggles as other industrial mid-west cities. Youngstown, Ohio, 149 miles from Marion, has lost many of the major steel mills, which once dotted the landscape. Charleston, West Virginia, 206 miles from Marion, has dealt with coal mines being closed. Detroit, Michigan, 155 miles from Marion, has needed assistance as the auto industry sought to improve through the early part of this century. In a similar manner, Marion has been forced to deal with companies such as Tecumsah Steel and Marion Power Shovel closing.

Community, business and school leaders have partnered together to pool their collective efforts towards renewed prosperity in Marion. During the summer of 2015, work on improving schools kicked into high gear when District Superintendent Gary Barber brought in KnowledgeWorks to help in this initiative. Others working with the schools include myself from the Office of College and Career Success, Amy Wood, the Director of State and Federal Grants, and a community liaison. This team, alongside KnowledgeWorks, led an exploration process that generated feedback from government and business leaders and led to an ongoing advisory team to drive work.

Working in tandem with the KnowledgeWorks Technical Assistance Coaches during intense design sessions, the Marion team, which included 20 middle and high school staff members and 20 business and community members, re-imagined the skills, knowledge and critical beliefs a young person would need to be successful in the workforce of today and tomorrow. This learning and research led to a new vision for a Marion City graduate from Harding High School.

New Options for Marion Students

Critical post-secondary education partners at Marion Technical College and The Ohio State University at Marion have also provided critical insights in identifying programming opportunities in the city through the educational footprint. These opportunities have been evaluated with the input from community collaborators have led to a SWOT analysis identifying areas for growth and success for Marion City graduates. We have now identified the gaps in educational programs as highlighted by workforce development and realization that there are three career clusters within the city, that can act as pathways for students to use to personalize their education.

Our recent grants will play an important factor in aligning the work identified by the district superintendent and design team. We will be able to create programming for students, add on jROTC and marketing curriculum, and do so much more to create robust, meaningful and impactful opportunities for students.

Redesigned educational options for students is being done in tandem with colleagues at the Ohio Department of Education. The office of CTE at ODE is working to identify industry-recognized credentials with each of these programs. In addition, KnowledgeWorks is assisting in the creation of a Graduation Pathway to Success (GPS) early college high school model. Students will be able to earn with an Associate Degree for 30-50 students in the class of 2020 with Marion Technical College.

Marion is undertaking critical work.

There is a sense of urgency to improving our city and its economic infrastructure. Marion is building along with partners at Whirlpool, Marion Industrial Center, Wilson Bohannan Lock Company, Silverline Windows and Doors, Nucor Steel and META Solutions along with many other proud businesses are engaged with the schools.

“The district leadership is on a mission to connect Marion students and teachers with the community and to help students understand how the knowledge and skills they learn today will translate to a better life and a rewarding job in the future,” says Deborah Howard. “That energy is contagious!”

Marion City Schools is living its mission by “inspiring a community of achievement” in an effort to bring all of its students to a Diploma + Acceptance! #WeRPrexies

Guest post by Stephen Fujii Director of College and Career Success for Marion City Schools.