Rockford Public Schools received a $400,000 grant from the Chicago-based Joyce Foundation.
The funds are part of a greater effort by the organization to improve student educational opportunities, particularly as they relate to college and the job market. In choosing Rockford, the foundation zeroed in on the district's Academy program, which, in addition to standard instruction, provides career-based learning through company visits, job shadowing programs, and more elaborate capstone projects.
For Joyce Program Officer Jason Quiera, providing additional funding to this program is a way to create a set of experiences.
“...college course-taking opportunities, workplace learning opportunities, so that students can come out of high school with a myriad of options that they can pursue in terms of college degree attainment to set them up for a number of different career opportunities," he said.
For Alignment Rockford, a support organization that will administer the money, the grant provides a way for their group (which, among other things, sets up connections between the school district and private companies) to carry out their work on a larger scale.
Rockford wasn't the only beneficiary of Joyce grants. The Foundation also awarded money to school districts in Madison Wis; Columbus, Ohio; and two Chicago suburbs (Township High School District 211, and District 214, which feed into Harper College). The districts are linked in the Great Lakes College and Career Pathway Partnership, where they will be able to provide mutual support and feedback.
Alignment Rockford Executive Director Bridget French says members of Rockford Public Schools will host officials from the other districts.
"We’ll be the first of the four communities to host the others, and we will visit the rest of the communities in 2017," she says.
Split among the districts and several support organizations, the Joyce Foundation grants total $3 million.