At a celebration at Great Falls High School on September 1, 2015, Governor Steve Bullock announced that Montana received a $1 million grant from USA Funds to support college and career readiness programs in high schools, colleges, and tribal colleges. Bullock was joined by Superintendent Denise Juneau, USA Funds President and CEO Bill Hansen, Jobs for America’s Graduates President Ken Smith, and Commissioner of Higher Education Clayton Christian.
“Our greatest responsibility as a state is ensuring that Montana students have access to the skills, knowledge, and experience that will help them succeed throughout their lives,” Bullock said. “Through this grant, we’ll expand opportunities for veterans, Native Americans, and adult students to gain valuable career skills, workforce experience and college credit. I’m pleased that we’ll be able to build on our state’s efforts to find innovative ways to support student success.”
The grant will support college and career readiness in three ways:
1. Expand the successful Jobs for Montana’s Graduates (JMG) program in tribal communities to support high school graduation and acquisition of employment skills. JMG is a branch of the national Jobs for America’s Graduates program, for which Bullock serves as vice‐chair;
2. Providing prior learning assessments for veterans at a Montana University System institution, ensuring they get academic credit for faculty‐validated knowledge, skills and experience gained during their service; and,
3. Creating the American Indian Success‐Tribal College Apprenticeship program to bolster career training opportunities at Montana tribal colleges.
“American Indian students attending a Jobs for Montana’s Graduates program are far more likely to graduate ‐‐ at a 90 percent rate!”
“In keeping with our focus on Completion with a Purpose, promoting student success in college and careers, USA Funds is delighted to provide $1 million to support these initiatives to enhance success in education and employment for Native American residents and military veterans in Montana,” Hansen said. “USA Funds partners with a select group of states, like Montana, that are pursuing new approaches to education and training, tied to the needs of the state’s economy. These three innovative programs will bolster student success, accelerate completion of postsecondary education, and deliver valuable work experience and training to two underserved communities.”
After initially meeting with USA Funds last summer to discuss their shared commitment to student success, Governor Bullock partnered with the Montana Department of Labor, the Montana University System, tribal colleges and the Office of Public Instruction to develop the three proposals to support college and career readiness and expand opportunities for veterans and Native American students.
“American Indian students attending a Jobs for Montana’s Graduates program are far more likely to graduate ‐‐at a 90 percent rate,” Juneau said. “Students who participate in JMG find relevancy in the program that connects them to real‐world experiences and prepares them for meaningful careers.”
The Jobs for Montana's Graduates program is a class in 39 of the state’s high schools and 14 middle schools that encourages students to plan projects aimed at preparing them for employment. The USA Funds grant is expanding the program into six new high schools with large American Indian populations and growing existing programs in three high schools.
For the last few years, Yenta Jaques has taught a JMG class at Paris Gibson Education Center. This year it expanded to Great Falls High with Indian education coach Michelle Mitchell teaching the class specifically designed for Native American students. The USA Funds grant will expand JMG programming to several schools on our near reservations.