On July 1, 2019, Janssen Pharmaceutical with Clarke County School District, Family Connection - Communities In Schools of Athens, Communities In Schools, University of Georgia, Athens Technical College (ATC), Chamber of Commerce, Northeast Georgia Regional Commission, and Cedar Shoals High School launched a Bridge to Employment (BTE) program in Athens, Georgia, USA. The three-year program provided a variety of academic enrichment, career exploration, and higher education preparation opportunities to 53 Grade 10 students attending Cedar Shoals High School Year from 2019-2022, and in particular, helped to increase the number of young people completing higher education and pursuing STEM careers. Specific program activities and support implemented throughout each program year ensured students met the designed yearly short-term outcomes. Key activities included:
- Applied Learning Competition. Students participated in teams to create an applied learning “pitch” project designed to inspire entrepreneurs and ingenuity. Real investors, mentors, and community entrepreneurs served as judges and meet the BTE program participants.
- College & Career Readiness Workshops. Workshops were designed to set students up for a lifetime of success by exploring college and career-readiness skills.
- Career Exploration and Higher Education Exposure. Career exploration activities were implemented in a variety of formats from lunch-n-learns and tours to classes and internships. Students were exposed to the working world that they may one day enter. All opportunities were designed to improve the student’s knowledge of STEM career options, better understand the working world, and motivate students to improve academic performance.
- Post-secondary Preparation. Students were exposed to a variety of activities including campus tours, mentoring by college students, ACT/SAT preparation classes, application counseling and support.
- Student Leadership. BTE integrated a range of student leadership activities into the program model: Encouraging students to attend tutoring sessions (rewards), providing opportunities to participate in leadership positions, and utilizing Social Media for the program.
- Community Connections/Cultural Awareness. Students received cultural/community connection training to help raise awareness of the role diversity and culture can play in business.
- Parent Engagement. Parent tours were embedded into the BTE model to raise parent engagement and support, as well as answer questions for parents regarding the college process.
- Student Recognition. BTE included an annual kick off and closing event. The Year 3 closing event recognized students during a graduation ceremony.
- Outreach. The BTE Athens leadership team brought awareness of BTE through community engagement and outreach activities throughout all 3 years of program implementation.