The local school was one of 30 high schools that received a grant Monday from the Georgia Appalachian Center for Higher Education during an event held at the Forum Civic Center in Rome. Cartersville received $3,700 from the organization that has the mission of increasing graduation and post-secondary enrollment and completion rates in the state's 37 Appalachian counties. A total of $200,000 was given to the high schools who had their competitive grant applications approved; the funds originate from the Washington, D.C.-based Appalachian Regional Commission.
"The grants are given to the schools whose post-secondary enrollment rates have traditionally been low, not necessarily Cartersville High School, but they can be higher," said Shirley Davis, GACHE director. "The awards are given to the schools so they can implement strategies, we call them the 'model strategies,' to get kids to go onto post-secondary. Of course, we've got to get them to graduate first, so it does two things -- it increases the graduation rate and it increases their college-going rate ... to any post-secondary [institution]."
Monday marked GACHE's fifth check presentation to member schools but the first time Cartersville High has received a grant from the organization as it has been a GACHE member for only a year. Davis said the schools will use their funds to implement a variety of strategies. One example she cited was sending students on college visits in order to dispel the mystery and fear over the college experience.
Officials with Cartersville High and Cartersville City Schools said they had three projects that will be funded with the GACHE grant.
"The first thing we're doing is putting out a junior newsletter, it's going to be mailed out probably next week to all of the students in the junior class, and it explains every step necessary from now all the way through actually getting in the college door," said Lisa Bell, marketing coordinator for the school district and director of the Cartersville Schools Foundation. "Then, on Nov. 16, we're going to have an event called 'Reality Store,' and it's kind of similar to the poverty simulation that was done in town.
"The students will investigate careers, pick a career, look at what the income is for that career and whittle it down to a net monthly income, and then they're going to attend the 'reality store,' and it's where they're going to go to different booths -- it'll be like utilities, housing, auto and all of that -- and it shows them what the actual cost of living is, and they'll do an evaluation when they're finished with that," Bell added.
The final project to be funded with GACHE funds is scheduled for next semester. It will be a job interview fair for students that will feature business etiquette sessions, mock interviews with local business leaders and more.
Hundreds of Cartersville High students are set to benefit from the projects. In addition to the entire junior class with the newsletters, students in career tech classes will get to take part in the Reality Store and job interview fair.
"The bottom line with the whole thing is that you target our students that are at-risk of either not graduating or not passing the Georgia High School Graduation Tests," Cartersville High Principal Jay Floyd said. "Those areas are going to be areas we're going to target because it goes right along with our school improvement plan, and then the GACHE money is an extra bonus of a grant that's going to help us reach those goals.
"What we have to do as a staff, it's ultimately about building relationships with them so that we can know and understand what they're going through and what their greatest challenges are, and when we find out what those challenges are, then we can help target that area," Floyd added. "That's the whole key with everything we're doing."
Floyd said the GACHE grant will help the school enact programs that it likely could not establish without the financial assistance. He added that in addition to the awarded funds, membership with GACHE offers the school other benefits.
"I don't know that we'd be able to come up with the extra money to do the junior newsletter or the Reality Store, and hopefully eventually we can use some of the money for visiting colleges and that kind of thing, just like our GateKey [Scholarship] program is currently doing," he said. "Just being a part of the GACHE community now, it gives us another resource of schools that we can contact and say, 'What are you doing? What are you using your funds for?' That itself is going to give us a good resource -- maybe somebody else is doing something we can choose to do at another date."
Bell said the school is seeking volunteers to assist with Nov. 16's all-day Reality Store event. Those interested in helping can call Bell at 770-387-4710 or Cartersville High at 770-382-3200.