$100K grant will expand workforce program in New Lex Schools

Casey Coffey, New Lexington school board President John McGaughey and American Federation of Teachers President Randi Weingarten discuss what activities the Future Farmers of America club offers students at the FFA barn across from the Perry County Fairgrounds. New Lexington Schools was recently awarded a $100,000 grant from AFT for its Workforce Development program.

NEW LEXINGTON — A $100,000 grant will give a boost to a growing program at New Lexington Schools.

The American Federation of Teachers began a partnership with the district starting with the grant to its Workforce Development program. It will allow the district to turn an old school into a hub, where the district will continue to offer credentials to its students, with plans to start after-school programs and community services.

The Perry County school district's program has been ongoing for five years. It prepares students to enter the workforce right after high school, with activities offered to students as young as elementary age.

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But it's not just a one-time investment, Superintendent Casey Coffey said: "It's an immediate giveback to our community."

"A lot of time when folks graduate high school they have to go off to college for two or four years or seek employment other places, but this way, hopefully, we'll be able to provide a training service for when students graduate, and they can achieve a competitive wage right here in Perry County," he said.

AFT has awarded two other similar grants to rural districts in West Virginia and upstate New York. The long-term goal, according to American Federation of Teachers President Randi Warngarten, is to revive rural communities.

"If you believe the rural way of life is worth fighting for, you have to have some skin in the game and do some of this work, and not just the advocacy work, and actually have to try to do work yourself. That's what we're trying to do," Weingarten said.

'Solution-driven work' in Perry County

It's become very intentional in the school's curriculum from pre-K through 12th grade, Coffey said. In the long term, Coffey hopes the extra education will help provide relationships with local businesses and union-based corporations, keeping talent local post-graduation.

The grant will allow them to build infrastructure and add capacity to the Workforce Development program. Coffey said the partnership with AFT will solidify a concrete plan to provide long-term sustainability for the courses being offered.

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"When you think about our community and Appalachia, people stereotype us as a poor community or economic disadvantaged. There's a lot of things that are very unfair about that," he said. "I believe this is an opportunity for us to break through, tear down some of those walls and have some immediate return on investment in our community."

Coffey said it's not just about the money. The grant provides a partnership with the union and will help the community in the long run, with Weingarten calling it "solution-driven work" in rural America.

"People are dispirited, people feel betrayed, people feel forgotten," Weingarten said. "You have to start somewhere."

Here are the credentials New Lexington Schools currently offers to students:

  • Drug testing credential.

  • Ohio Means Jobs readiness seal.

  • Drivers education.

  • DSP: Direct support professional.

  • OSHA: 10 hour general.

  • ServSafe Ohio.

  • Microburst soft skills.

  • Forklift operations.

  • CPR.

  • Lifeguard.

  • D1.1 welding.



Twitter: @couchreporting

This article originally appeared on Zanesville Times Recorder: $100K grant will expand workforce program in New Lex Schools