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MDE Awards $1.5M to USM for CTE Apprenticeship Program at Hattiesburg High

Tue, 01/23/2024 - 08:36am | By: Karelia Pitts

The Mississippi Department of Education has awarded The University of Southern Mississippi (USM) $1,544,968 through the Nita M. Lowey 21st Century Community Learning Centers (21st CCLC) Program.

The grant, allocated at $386,242 annually over four years, will be used to launch a new Going Beyond Apprenticeship Program for Career and Technical Education (CTE) students in Hattiesburg Public Schools (HPS). Participants at Hattiesburg High School will gain academic and technical skills in addition to work experience as they undergo 150 hours of professional development training, 40 hours of service-learning, and 450 hours as apprentices with approved community partners during their junior and senior years.

USM Appreticeship

“HPS has been a wonderful, longstanding educational partner to USM, so we are eager to use this 21st CCLC funding to enhance their impactful CTE programing,” said Dr. Jo Hawkins-Jones, principal investigator for the grant and assistant teaching professor in the USM School of Education. “I’m hopeful that the work we are about to embark on will lead to increased enrollment and success for student participants in higher education, especially in major areas of study like teacher preparation, engineering and construction management, where there is currently underrepresentation of students from diverse racial and ethnic backgrounds.”

Dr. Hawkins-Jones’ expertise in service-learning and teacher education will enable her to assist members of Hattiesburg’s Career and Technical Education Program in providing expanded offerings to their students. The partnership will deliver a service-learning integrated apprenticeship for up to 30 students, including immersive educational opportunities in areas such as STEM/robotics, construction careers and early childhood education.

The students will design and implement service-learning projects under the mentorship of career coaches in addition to gaining access to workshops and applications to assist with ACT preparation and leadership qualities.

“I look forward to watching our CTE and Work Based Learning students thrive in the workplace because they were given this opportunity for academic and social growth,” said Jennie Noonkester, student services coordinator for the HPS CTE program. “We hope students will gain more confidence in their abilities, develop industry networks for future job placement, and build advanced career skills. Connecting with USM at this phase in their education will also be beneficial in helping reduce any fears they may have about pursuing higher education.”

The program has strategic goals to increase students’ ACT scores to meet the college readiness benchmark, increase student preparedness and passing rates on industry certification assessments, and empower students to become agents of change in their community.

“As education pillars in Hattiesburg, the mission and vision of HPS and USM are similar in that both are committed to ensuring those we serve have opportunities that lead to productive lives and a brighter community,” said Jermaine Brown, director of college and career readiness for HPS. “We are excited about this opportunity and sincerely appreciate the ongoing partnership with Southern Miss, which will afford our students the chance to apply skills obtained in the classroom to assisting our community in a variety of areas.”

To learn more about career and technical education offerings in HPS, click here. Learn more about the USM School of Education.