The Ready for Life movements that NPEF has seeded in Clark, Churchill, Esmeralda, Lyon, Nye, Storey and Washoe counties have developed into coordinated movements for youth education, access to the workforce and changes to policies and systems. A description of efforts follows.
Clark County Highlights
In 2004, NPEF researched Ready for Life's priority population in Clark County and held focus groups with those youth to assess their challenges and reasons for disconnecting from school. When NPEF presented its findings to over 100 organizations in attendance at the first RFL community convening in 2005, participants formed a collaborative committee structure to develop and expand programs to meet the youth needs. These were subsequently prioritized in the 2006 strategic plan for RFL Southern Nevada and funded in part by NPEF through a competitive grant process in 2007.
The RFL strategic plan was adopted as the organizing framework for the Committee on Youth, created by the Southern Nevada Regional Planning Coalition in 2007. This merging of approaches has resulted in heightened visibility and increased ownership and support from elected officials. As a result of NPEF's investment and leadership, RFL Southern Nevada:
- Connected Project 5000 Kids with the Clark County School District (CCSD). Launched in spring 2010, Project 5000 Kids is a workforceCONNECTIONS initiative to increase the graduation rates in Southern Nevada by providing meaningful work experiences in a professional environment and motivate youth to stay in school. Additional partners included Nye County School District, private and charter schools. One year after the project launch, Project 5000 Kids held its first annual Job Shadow Day for 3,127 high school students. These students visited 90 businesses for a behind-the-scenes look at career opportunities available to them if they stay in school.
- Secured the assistance of a CCSD counselor to develop small group sessions to assist youth participating in summer programs funded by workforceCONNECTIONS in evaluating their transcripts and setting their own academic goals.
- Aligned education and workforce development goals, which resulted in a shared focus on creating summer employment and academic experiences for more than 1,500 youth.
- Worked with CCSD to help place credit deficient students in summer school, and ensured that students not only have educational experiences but also work experience. As part of this effort, a reduced rate of $50 for the work experience credit was negotiated with the school district, allowing 211 students to earn it in summer 2010. Additional partners included the Clark County Summer Business Institute, Nevada Partners Inc., Lied Discovery Children's Museum, Help of Southern Nevada, Latin Chamber of Commerce, Las Vegas, and the Police Athletic Association of Southern Nevada.
- Developed a new, strategic investment process in partnership with the Nevada Community Foundation. In addition, RFL Southern Nevada drafted the request for proposals for providers to request funds from this process that support youth job experience, mentoring and education, and began partnerships with grantees.
- Assisted Sunrise Children's Foundation and Desert Rose High School (DRHS) in developing a day care center on the campus of DRHS. To be opened in 2011, this day care center will serve students attending the Desert Rose/ Jeffrey Campuses and serves as a tool to keep students returning to school engaged in education.
- Recognized a need to connect corporations and foundations in Southern Nevada with governmental agencies. As a result of this need, RFL Southern Nevada has convened three Funders Forums between 2009 and 2010 to connect funders in the area. This forum addressed cross-systems funding, provided opportunities for brainstorming on fiscal strategies, and funding priorities in general. With this effort, the group developed four technical assistance workshops in partnership with Clark County and Nevada Gives to provide information, support and networking opportunities to corporations and private foundations giving philanthropic dollars in Southern Nevada.
- Partnered with UNLV to conduct a statewide and regional Investment Mapping Project to map the philanthropic and government investments in community development, health and human services.
Churchill County Highlights
In January 2007, NPEF awarded a $19,820 planning grant to Churchill Community Coalition to seed Ready for Life. As a result of this planning grant, Churchill County RFL has:
- Established a truancy court to impact graduation rates.
- Worked with the school district and juvenile probation to hire liaisons to work with Native American students, English as Second Language Students and offer creative support systems for middle school and high school youth and their families.
- Improved the online distance education program so that students not only earn credits, but experience enhancements – such as increasing the number of courses and the number of staff – to the existing program. Prior to this, many students were forced to choose between contributing to their family economically, and completing their high school diploma.
- Developed and implemented workable strategies to overcome barriers to high school graduation, enabling the school to cut truancy rates in half in one year.
New Collaboratives Seeded in Rural Nevada
In 2010, NPEF awarded two $25,000 planning grants. One went to Lyon and Storey counties to seed a joint-county Ready for Life grant. The other went to Nye and Esmeralda counties to seed the NyE (Nye and Esmeralda) Communities Coalition.
In order to support students who are struggling to overcome barriers to graduation, Lyon and Storey counties will work to create a system in which the community and schools work together to identify at-risk students prior to high school matriculation. The group will also develop a structure to ensure that each student has an annually updated graduation plan in place.
The NyE Communities Coalition is a membership organization, driven by the partnering organizations in the community. With educational attainment as the primary goal, the group recognizes two needs: one, a need to ensure that the growing population of homeless youth remains engaged as they obtain their high school diploma; and two, a need to remove barriers affecting credit deficient youth. To meet these needs, the Coalition will develop a strategic plan to address the identified priorities.
Washoe County Highlights
In late 2006, NPEF began working with the Education Collaborative of Washoe County (now the Education Alliance) and the Youth Services Development Group convened by the Washoe County Manager to determine the best approach for establishing a Ready for Life collaborative in Washoe County. In June 2007, NPEF awarded the Youth Services Development Group a $60,000 planning grant to establish a Ready for Life community collaborative, with Washoe County Juvenile Services serving as the fiscal agent. The Washoe County Commission, Washoe County School District Board, and the City Councils for Reno and Sparks voted to support the Washoe County Ready for Life (RFL) work, and each appointed a formally elected liaison. Since then, the Washoe County RFL:
- Positioned Reno to become one of 12 cities selected nationally to receive a technical assistance grant from the National League of Cities to build collaborative capacity to serve disconnected youth.
- Developed a partnership between Sierra Nevada Job Corps and Washoe County School District to allow Job Corps students to earn an adult diploma.
- Worked with Northern Nevada Hispanic Services to create a partnership between Washoe County RFL, Hispanic Services and Washoe County School District to help Hispanic parents understand the educational system.
- Partnered with Washoe County School District to address barriers that the school district had placed on itself to determine how to remove them and help students. Schools now work with students to strategically plan enrollment in school and simplify the intake process at entry into the school system.
- Collaborated with a group of community donors and Washoe County School District to successfully secure funding needed to bring Bill Strickland into the area to conduct a feasibility study for the development of the Sierra Tahoe Arts and Technology Center. This center will provide world class training and education that result in livable wage employment for young adults.
- Recognized the need for more information sharing about disconnected youth between agencies. As a result of this, Washoe County School District and Juvenile Services collaborated to track academically at-risk students in order to provide additional services and supports.