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YES pilot program to tutor drop-outs

With the aid of a $325,000 grant, the Regional Alliance 4 Children is creating a program designed to help school drop-pouts become employable. Called the Youth Enrichment Services (YES) project, it will be coordinated by Andalusia's own Tom Steele, a retired educator from LBW and will serve four of the Alliance's eight member counties - Dale, Geneva, Coffee and Covington.

"Our purpose is to make drop-outs employable," said Steele. "In most cases, we will be doing a lot of tutoring top bring the students up employable levels."

The project serves eligible out-of-school youth ages 14 to 21. Youth who are disabled, lower income, are pregnant or have children, who have a record of minor offenses, are homeless , runaways or living in a foster home, in a dysfunctional or abusive home, deficient in literacy skills, or need help completing an educational program and holding a job are considered eligible.

"All of the judges have been very supportive" said Steele, mentioning Judge Trippy Maguire and Judge Steve Blair specifically. The judges will recommend youth from the court system, while other recommendations will come from rehabilitation services, social services and schools.

The program is not designed to compete with other job and education programs such as Alabama One-Stop Career Centers, but to complement and coordinate with them. While there will be some classes involved, much of the work will focus on tutoring and mentoring. Besides working on academic factors, preparing the youth to take the GED, YES will help them with job and social skills, including how to interview for a job, conflict resolution,

and occupational skills therapy.

Taking a holistic approach, YES will work with the student in all aspects of life that might affect his or her learning capacity - from drug and alcohol abuse to potential learning disabilities.

Working under Steele will be "Job Pilots" - instructors and mentors who will maintain a one-on-one relationship with each youngster. Because of the rural nature of the four counties involved, YES will travel to the students as much as possible instead of setting up one centralized training facility.

"We'll go to the kids," said Steele. "We'll use court, libraries, rehab offices, junior college adult learning centers…"

The program will use laptop computers with state-of-the-art tutoring programs to prepare the out-of-school student for the working world. Hours will be flexible. A permanent home base is needed for paperwork, and volunteers for tutoring and mentoring are essential.

"WE hope to help a 100 or more kids this year," said Steele, who hopes to have the program running by the end of the month. "In the whole county area, as much as 200."

According to statistics provided,

the numbers of dropouts in the eight counties that make up the Regional Alliance 4 Children is projected at 2300 - possible even more due tot he newly toughened Graduation Exam. The YES is a pilot program, the first of its kind, but is sponsored by the state's Workforce Investment Program and the Department of Labor.