By Jennifer Conn, Akron reporter, cleveland.com
AKRON, Ohio — This week, Jobs for Ohio's Graduates
marked 30 years of helping area young people prepare for the workforce. The organization, which operates in Summit, Medina and Stark counties, has plenty to celebrate.
The non-profit group has been awarded a $75,000 United Way of Summit County Bold Goals grant to support and expand its work in the public schools. It is also launching a new out-of-school program for young immigrants who have not achieved high-school equivalency since coming to the United States.
JOG has a proven track record for helping young people graduate and get jobs. For 23 years, the group has met or exceeded national stands set by Job's for America's Graduates.
Those standards include a 90 percent graduation rate, with 80 percent of those young people working, studying in post-secondary schools or enlisted in the military. Of the young people who are working, 60 percent were employed full-time a year after graduation.
The organization, located in the North Hill neighborhood, offers a "coffee-shop feel" for the youth it serves. They range from about 16-24 years old, said Executive Director Chris Canova.
They're mostly juniors and seniors in the Akron Public Schools who need additional support achieving high school equivalency because of lower GPAs or high absenteeism. Most of the work is done during the school day, but some services have been provided for out-of-school youth.
JOG's employees, most with either education or social work degrees, are "career specialists" who identify the specific challenges of their clients.
"We identify barriers to graduation, so if it's reading we help them learn to read," Canova said. "Our career specialist is often a broker of services. If we can't help them we identify who can."
The support JOG provides runs the gamut, but much of it centers on helping young people learn skills like how to fill out a resume, use public transportation and set up a bank account. Supportive services are also available, such as transportation and childcare, with the goal always toward success in the workforce.
"We can be the person they turn to, if they have nobody," he said.
The $75,000 United Way Bold Goal grant
will allow the group to reach more students. United Way has four Bold Goals. Bold Goal 2 — to help 90 percent of Akron Public Schools students graduate in four years, with 60 percent college or career ready — aligns with JOG's work.
"We'll be ramping up in-school services," said JOG Operations Manager Rob Whitmer. "This allows us to serve more kids with the services we've been offering for 30 years."
The organization also will launch a program to address one of its biggest challenges — reaching youth in Akron's immigrant populations, which rarely seek assistance from community services, Canova said.
By mid-February a new program will be launched for young immigrants who didn't continue their education after they came to the U.S. Details of the program are being worked out, but the goal will be to help them earn their high school equivalency and get the training they need to enter the workforce.
JOG has already hired a Nepali career specialist to assist with the youth and families of one of Akron's largest immigrant populations, but the program will serve immigrants, and their families, of any origin.
"All populations come to our doors, and our doors are always open," Canova said.
Jobs for Ohio's Graduates is located at 55 E. Cuyahoga Falls Ave. in Akron. For information about its programs, call 3390-374-9445 or visit the website