Jefferson County Public Schools, community organizations and some of the county’s top employers are starting a program to try to get all JCPS seniors signed up for college or a job before graduation.
Gov. Andy Beshear says the new program, called Everybody Counts, will connect students with scholarship opportunities or a job at one of four major employers during their senior year.
“Everybody Counts is going to create these connections, making sure this next chapter in our students’ lives is set before they walk across the graduation stage,” Beshear said during a Monday press conference.
The program is meant to address two problems, according to Beshear: a workforce shortage and the large number of students who graduate without plans for college or a career.
“Far too often we see our young adults graduate, and … we expect them to figure out where to go or how to afford a post-secondary education. Or we expect an employer and these recent graduates to somehow find one another. More often than not, that connection doesn’t happen or doesn’t happen quickly enough,” the governor said.
Officials offered few details on the program, but said sometime before Feb. 1, 2022, seniors will be presented with materials with information on higher education options and “concrete job opportunities” at one of four major local employers: UPS, GE Appliances, Ford Motor Company and Kroger.
Students will also get materials on the scholarships available through Evolve502, which covers tuition costs for most graduating seniors to complete an associate’s degree.
In addition to Evolve502, the initiative has support from the Louisville Urban League, Simmons College of Kentucky, and United Auto Workers Union 862.
Louisville Urban League President Sadiqa Reynolds welcomed the employer partnership and pointed out that the four participating employers often provide their employees opportunities to pursue certifications and college degrees.
“We know what they’re doing around helping people to make sure that if they’re ready to go to college, they can do that. So we want people in those companies taking advantage of those opportunities,” she said.
Bruce Williams, the pastor at Bates Memorial Baptist Church, said he believed the initiative could even help address the epidemic of gun violence plaguing the city, especially in marginalized communities.
“I believe one of the reasons why the homicide rate is so high is because people don’t think about tomorrow. They don’t think they have a future,” Williams said. “This initiative provides options, and people have hope when they know they have options. People lose hope when they feel like they don’t have options.”
Nearly all JCPS graduating seniors are already eligible for scholarships to get an associate’s degree tuition-free through Evolve502. Low-income students may be eligible for additional stipends to cover living expenses. You can find out more information here.