Muhlenberg Achieves expanding options for younger students | News

A large focus of the Muhlenberg Achieves program has been focused on high school seniors and preparing them for post-secondary options.

That program, which was created through the Felix Martin Jr. Foundation, has had success since its inception. Local educators and community members have been working to expand its offerings into young adulthood, but also as early as middle school.

Now the Martin Foundation, along with the Young Foundation, the Muhlenberg County Board of Education and other community organizations, is unfolding the next step of the program: Ignite. Ignite is geared toward sixth grade students, and it will be focused on promoting post-secondary options and leadership opportunities for students as they are just entering middle school.

Rachel Evatts, an AmeriCorps member who works with Muhlenberg County Schools and Muhlenberg Achieves, said Ignite is the next step in focusing on post-secondary success for all county citizens.

The first cohort of the program will include 20-30 students and will officially kick off this fall. However, there will be some opportunities for group meet-ups this summer, so students involved can get to know one another and be introduced to the program.

“They will have mentors they meet up with monthly, and we will have a job shadowing program where students will get to go to local organizations and see how they do things,” Evitts said.

Lisa Green, Muhlenberg Achieves program manager, said the goal of the program is to connect younger students with community members and employers earlier, so they are more aware of local opportunities as they prepare for high school. She said program organizers realized that students waiting until their senior year of high school to start thinking about what their post-secondary options are was becoming an issue.

“If you do that, you have completely missed the mark,” she said. “We recognized that in our program, we needed to start further down the line with younger students.”

She and Evatts have asked fifth grade teachers to specifically think of students who “fall in the middle.”

They want to recruit students who tend to fall between the cracks because they aren’t disruptive, they have good attendance and make decent grades, “and need that extra push and support to really be successful,” she said.

There will also be a “payday” component of the program, in which students who participate in the job shadowing and mentoring program can earn rewards, Green said.

Because students can’t really get paid with a paycheck, the group will create an alternative. Organizers want to mimic the same experience individuals would have in a job, however, and reward students for their effort and participation.

The goal of the program, Evatts said, is to make a difference in kids’ lives.

“We hope this program can empower students to be successful,” she said.

To learn more about Muhlenberg Achieves, and the upcoming Ignite program, visit www.felixmartinfoundation.org.

Bobbie Hayse, [email protected], 270-691-7315

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