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Grant aimed at readyingstudents for workforce

By Lucas Lord

The Harrisonville School District is receiving $75,000 in grant money from the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation to help future graduates develop employable skills.

“There were already two previous phases of the grant with other Kansas City-area schools who chose to participate so that means our schools will be part of cohort three,” said Harrisonville Superintendent Paul Mensching. “Basically, the goal of the Real-World Learning Grant is that every student that graduates before 2030 will have a market-value asset, so it’s about employability. Schools choose what path to take to get to those market value assets.”

He said schools can look for avenues they think can best prepare their students for the job forces of the future.

“There are many different ways to accomplish the same goal. In essence we have to identify which market-value assets we are trying to really grow in what school. We are in the middle of that process now,” Mensching said. “At the career center we already provide a lot of those assets through industry recognized credentials. We want to promote more entrepreneurship, internships and courses that offer college credit.”

With an internal team working on design, and an action team working out of the high school, Mensching plans to present the district’s revised curriculum to the Kauffman Foundation in March.

“It’s a regional process to make sure our kids are employable, not just with the schools, but by making partnerships with local businesses,” he said. “There is a growing need to make sure our students are ready for the business world. We have already started making those steps by bringing back CEO, which is like a work-release for high school kids.”

Currently two real-world application sites are operating, one at the career center and another at the high school.

“We have small businesses like the student-run store at the career center and the coffee shop for students at the high school,” Mensching said. “There are different things already taking place so it’s a matter of tying them together and making sure those assets are available for all students. It’s not supposed to be additional work, but something ingrained in the learning process and curriculum.”

While other schools have implemented the grant programs successfully, Mensching said it has been hard to change the mindset around credits and students simply getting the units they need to graduate at the expense of branching out.

“People are really married to the idea of their units, and it has been difficult to change that mindset,” he said. “Ultimately though this is the end product, to make sure they are employable or have the skillset to go on to college. We need to help them see the path before them and how they can get to it. Graduating can’t be just a checklist.”

Unlike an internal change to curriculum, the grant aims to develop partnerships between local businesses and students for both immediate skill-building and long-term projects.

“These grants are always beneficial to our students,” said Mensching. “This should help us to produce higher quality students that are not only employable but can meet the needs of modern business leaders. We want to fulfill the students’ hopes and dreams as well.

“It’s been a really great process. Two springs ago I saw the schools in cohort one present their learning plans and I knew we had to get on board.”

Other districts in the area who are already involved in the program include Belton and Ray-Pec.

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