By  |
PUBLISHED: August 24, 2023 at 6:35 p.m. | UPDATED: August 24, 2023 at 6:36 p.m.

Merino, Peetz and Fleming school districts will benefit from a state grant recently awarded to Northeast Northeast Colorado Board of Cooperative Educational Services (BOCES) to create career pathways for students.

Gov. Jared Polis announced the $27 million in awards to 46 grantees for the Opportunity Now Colorado grant program during an event June 22 at Community Health Center. Tamara Durbin, executive director of Northeast BOCES, was present to accept the grant, which will provide $1.5 million to help lead students at its member schools to high wage jobs.

“Across the state, employers are looking to hire the top talent that Colorado is known for. The Opportunity Now Colorado grant recipients announced today will help Coloradans develop the skills and experience our growing industry partners need and unlock access to good paying jobs,” Polis said.

The grant, an initiative of the Office of Economic Development and International Trade (OEDIT), seeks innovative solutions to meet Colorado’s workforce needs through industry and education collaboration. As explained by Durbin, the BOCES in partnership with its 12 member, rural northeast school districts, will provide youth in ninth through 12th grades, and youth out of high school, with Career Connected Learning (CCL) including career awareness and exploration, skill development, training, career pathways leading to industry certifications and/or postsecondary planning for 2- or 4-year degrees in the industry areas where there are critical workforce shortages: Education , K-12 and early childhood; Health Care; Infrastructure, including Construction and Other Trades, specifically plumbing and electrical; Transportation and Warehousing, and Computer and Information Technology.

Northeast BOCES is located in Haxtun and serves 12 member school districts: Akron R-1, Buffalo RE-4J, Frenchman RE-3, Haxtun RE-2J, Holyoke RE-1J, Julesburg RE-1, Lone Star #101, Otis R-3, Plateau R-5, Revere, Wray RD-2 and Yuma 1.

Northeast BOCES intends to partner with the regional community college system, specifically Morgan Community College and Northeastern Junior College, to offer concurrent enrollment opportunities leading to industry certificate and/or Associate Degree advancement, and with other Colorado trade, colleges, and universities for industry certificate, Bachelor and Master Degree advancement.

The $1.5 Million Opportunity Now grant is a 3-year grant, beginning Aug. 1, 2023, and complements a $2 Million Rural Coaction grant received in July 2022 by the Northeast BOCES and member school districts from the Colorado Department of Education. In the past year, under the direction of superintendents and local career connected learning coordinators, school districts developed a Profile of a Graduate and explored or implemented work-based learning opportunities, along with internship opportunities for high school youth with Colorado Education Initiative (CEI) and Colorado Succeeds as grant partners in this work.

Collaboration will be a key component to creating intentional pathways between education systems and employment. As the work begins, Durbin explained that she will be reaching out, along with Northeast BOCES leads, Alan Nall, Director of Secondary Support Services, and Michelle Lock, Regional Career Connected Learning Coordinator, to business and industry leaders, Chamber of Commerce directors, Economic Development directors, and others interested, to partner with the BOCES and member school districts in this work.

The goal is to close critical workforce shortages across the Golden Plains region, improve access for youth to jobs that provide a living and family-sustaining wage, create a high-quality workforce, and lead to long-term change in the practices of and alignment among employers, postsecondary education, workforce development, and K-12 education.

Additional information about the Opportunity Now Colorado Grant Program can be found on the program website at: or by calling the Northeast BOCES at 970-521-2771.

For the original article go to https://www.journal-advocate.c...