With the award money, Oakmont Education, a charter school network serving students in 12 cities, will expand throughout Ohio and into Kentucky, and deliver their secret sauce to students nationwide.
The mission of Oakmont Education is to find and support students who have dropped out to recover their education with individualized hands-on learning, and skills-based job training. On average, their students arrive at 18 years of age, have 6 of the 20 academic credits they need for graduation, have literacy/numeracy scores equivalent to 5th grade, have been unsuccessful at 2 previous public high schools, and are disproportionately represented for special needs, involvement with juvenile court and Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs) compared to traditional district high schools in Ohio. Oakmont provides options in skilled trades such as construction and manufacturing, community wellness like in health care and special education, and business and entrepreneurship like in information technology, retail, and hospitality. Students earn nationally recognized industry credentials while also engaging in hands-on workforce opportunities out in the communities. All of this is made possible by the Ohio Charter School and other state programs which makes the work sustainable through per pupil funding streams, as well as giving them the flexibility to be transformational and flexible in their approach.
A diploma is supposed to certify what a student learned and can put to use. But too often students are passed along, grade to grade, until they no longer are on a government school’s balance sheet. It’s no wonder why so many drop out. Oakmont looks beyond a diploma to help students understand the value in earning one.
I was a former dropout, which is why I’m in this work. For kids like me, a lot of time society takes us and tries to make us a certain way. Winning this award gives us this opportunity to have more students that have been benched and welcome them as starters, bringing them back to be contributing members of society.
Why they stand out
It’s not every day a high school dropout ends up advocating for more education. But in this case, Cristina Gulacy-Worrel, the network’s Vice President of Advocacy and Development, knows first hand why it’s important. “We forget about dropouts because it’s easy and convenient,” she said. “Oakmont’s mission is to give students who had been benched opportunities to become starters.” Oakmont recognizes that dropouts don’t lose their potential to contribute simply because they dropped out of school. Oakmont offers dropouts a second chance at education—at lifelong learning. Ultimately, Oakmont’s number one goal is to restore a student’s capacity to hope, to provide a pathway to the middle class, and to address the current worker shortage problem impacting too many communities. Ten out of eleven Oakmont schools meet or exceed its high standards in closing learning gaps for all students.
How they STOP for education
Even during the pandemic, Oakmont didn’t let its students down. They earned 6,000 industry recognized certifications.
Flexible, individualized, self-paced learning with a unique blend of classroom instruction and hands-on work experience which prepares students for in-demand careers is transformational. The diploma is not the finish line in an Oakmont school but rather it is the beginning of adulthood: the workforce, a sustainable living wage, and breaking the cycle of generational poverty.
Partners with local entrepreneurs and business people with real-world expertise to lead its workforce development initiative. Oakmont brings together education, economic development, workforce systems, and community organizations to identify and collaboratively meet the workforce needs of any given industry within the local labor market.
Winning their award
Oakmont leaders will deploy their STOP Award toward the expansion of additional pathways with an emphasis on recruiting non-traditional learners, such as women in the skill trades and men in healthcare, to help students to realize their unique dreams and desires. Winning a STOP Award will help increase their efforts to support youth to develop the skills and confidence
needed to navigate the adult world and in turn, expand their opportunities to engage in hands-on workforce experience opportunities out in the community.