Possibility of Payment for Graduation Announced at STHS

Offer Not Affiliated with School District – 

By Tiffani Ireland –

Recently, an announcement at Strom Thurmond High School has generated a lot of interest from parents and students alike as well as within the school district itself.  The announcement was geared toward juniors and seniors at the school and offered the possibility of $100 for certain individuals, primarily low-income students, if they stayed in school and graduated.

This announcement and the monetary award, however, are not affiliated with the school district.  According to Superintendent Greg Anderson, who spoke with The Advertiser on Tues., Apr. 2, regarding this matter, the announcement was made at the request of the local group, GLEAMS, who sent a flier to the school which provided the wording for the announcement.

In an email later sent by Superintendent Anderson, he said, “The Edgefield County School District has never offered a monetary award as an incentive to graduate.  To do so would be an improper use of tax payer funds.  In 32 years, I have never heard the school even discuss such a proposal.”  Superintendent Anderson continued, “Offering a monetary award of $100 would not be consistent with the approach of any board I have served with.”  Superintendent Anderson went on to say, “I want to make it absolutely clear that the Edgefield County School District has never offered any amount of money as an incentive for a student to graduate.”

Superintendent Anderson advised that those interested in finding out more about the announcement call GLEAMS, which is just what The Advertiser did.  We spoke the contact person provided on the flier from which the announcement was made, Latonya Oliver.  She, however, needed to refer us to Horace Brownly who is the Workforce Investment Act Program Director.

The Workforce Investment Act (WIA) is a federal program instituted under President Clinton’s second term in office and under which, according to Mr. Brownly,  this graduation incentive is offered.  According to the website www.workingforamerica.org, WIA establishes local youth councils to develop community wide, year round programs for low-income youth, ages 14-21, with other education or social disadvantages.  The Job Corps program, with which some in our county may be familiar, also falls under this act.  The Department of Labor’s website cites the funding for this program as coming from the 2009 Recovery Act which provides $3,950,000,000 for WIA programs of which $1,200,000,000 is allocated for WIA youth programs.

When speaking with The Advertiser about the offer of $100 to students who graduate, Mr. Brownly called this offer “just the draw.”  This “draw” he explained is to get students interested in programs offered by the WIA including summer work programs.  According to Mr. Brownly, the flier distributed to STHS, and from which the announcement was made, was for recruitment purposes into these programs.

Mr. Brownly did say that not all applicants will receive the money as there are certain benchmarks and criteria that must be met after an application for entry into the program in completed.  As to the funding for this offer of $100 to at-risk youth to graduate, Mr. Brownly said it comes from the same funding source that provides funds for the wages associated with the WIA’s summer work programs.  Mr. Brownly further stated that GLEAMS recruits and serves these at-risk youth but does not certify their eligibility for WIA programs.

As for defining these at-risk youth, Mr. Brownly said that is done by specific federal guidelines and income is one factor in determining if a young person is deemed at-risk.  The DOL website listed the “target population” for these programs as youth ages 14-21 who are deficient in basic literacy skills; are school drop-outs; are homeless, a runaway, or a foster child; are pregnant or parenting; are an offender; or require additional assistance to complete an educational program or to secure and hold employment (including a youth with a disability.)  The services provided to these at-risk youth were listed as tutoring, alternative secondary school offerings, summer employment opportunities linked to academic and occupational learning, paid and unpaid work experiences, occupational skill training, leadership development opportunities, supportive services, mentoring, follow-up services, and comprehensive guidance and counseling.

Anyone interested in finding out more about applying for this monetary award or for enrolling in any of the programs offered by the WIA or GLEAMS should contact the local GLEAMS office at 803-637-7159.