Indianapolis Public Schools is getting a $1 million grant to help develop connections between high schools and careers, the latest private investment in the district’s effort to overhaul its high schools.
The grant from JPMorgan Chase, announced Wednesday, will help pay for staff and software to bridge the divide between high school and the business community. The aim is to increase student exposure to the jobs they could pursue, beginning with experiences such as job tours and culminating in paid job placements.
A student studying health science, for example, could earn a nursing assistant certification and begin working part-time during the school day.
“Providing access to that high-quality, work-based learning experience is critical to ensuring our students are making informed career decisions and that they have the employability skills that are necessary for post-secondary success,” said Aleesia Johnson, interim superintendent of Indianapolis Public Schools.
The bulk of the money will help pay for staff at Indianapolis Public Schools and partner organizations. The funding will also pay for software that will help with logistical challenges such as matching students with employers and finding time in class schedules for work-based experiences. And it may be used for other costs, such as student transportation and stipends.
About $500,000 of the grant will go to EmployIndy, Marion County’s workforce development board, which is connecting the district with employers. Another $220,000 will pay for support from the national not-for-profit JFF. And $280,000 will go to Indianapolis Public Schools and its foundation.
“If we want to be a part of the economy of the future, we must find ways for students in our city — students in every zip code, every zip code — to access relevant education for the well paying jobs of the 21st Century economy,” said Indianapolis Mayor Joe Hogsett.
The program is the part of a broader statewide shift in education. Instead of emphasizing college as the only post-secondary option, Indiana is encouraging schools to give students more opportunities to explore careers in high school.
Faith Harrington, a junior at Crispus Attucks High School, said her experience in the certified nursing assistant program helped her realize that she was not interested in working with patients’ bodies in the long term. Instead, Harrington is now planning to become a psychiatrist.
“It has really taught me and opened up my eyes to things that I want to do and things that I don’t want to do,” said Harrington. “I know that I still want to be in the medical field. But this has provided me the opportunity to figure out something that I don’t want to do, for free.”
The grant is the latest award in support of Indianapolis Public Schools new careers academies. After closing three campuses due to low enrollment, the district began remaking its high schools this year to focus on student career interests. Instead of attending a school based on their neighborhood, high schoolers are supposed to choose a school based on the academy focus area, which range from the arts to information technology.
The effort has attracted donations from Salesforce ($500,000), Eli Lilly and Company Foundation ($300,000), and IU Health ($50,000).