This is a continuing series of stories in which we are highlighting the winning Career Readiness Mini-Grant projects.

The Philipsburg Osceola School District is in a small, rural community where more than 50% of students are economically disadvantaged, yet there is a thriving business community in the immediate area. For their career readiness mini-grant project, the school district created a course to connect their 10th graders with some of these local businesses and showcase the abundant career opportunities available locally. The benefits of this program are two-fold: students will be introduced to various careers they can pursue while businesses get exposure to local talent.

In the past, all 10th graders met with their guidance counselors just once to engage in a single career planning session. With the career readiness mini-grant, counselors are expanding that experience to include a 9-week course for 10th graders to explore career opportunities. After the in-class experience, students will then visit the Moshannon Valley Regional Business Park, an economic development “tool” utilized by the Moshannon Valley Economic Development Partnership, a collaborator on Philipsburg Osceola School District’s career readiness mini-grant project.

The Moshannon Valley Regional Business Park is currently home to 11 different businesses, some headquartered globally and some locally, representing a wide variety of industries from manufacturing to logistics. After visiting these businesses and getting a sense of skills required to pursue a career in any one of these industries, the 10th grade students then reassess their four-year plans and the appropriate path to achieve their goals. They can eventually transfer to the local Career Technical Center (CTC) for specialized trade instruction or take a different set of courses at their high school.

According to high school principal Justin Hazelton, “This grant is an opportunity for us to spearhead some career readiness activities for the students in our building.” Hazelton hopes that this group of 10th graders will have a well-informed plan upon graduation thanks to this yearlong exploration program, with some of those students even leaving high school with the appropriate certification needed to immediately enter the workforce.

Eventually, Philipsburg Osceola School District would like this course to become a staple for all 10th grade students, especially with the entire district’s increased focus on career readiness activities at all grade levels. Not only will career readiness programming better prepare students for success, but also this program in particular gives students the opportunity to explore what makes their rural community a great place to live, work and thrive.