In an effort to decrease dropout rates and help at-risk students, Longview ISD has entered a partnership with Jobs for America’s Graduates.

JAG is a nonprofit organization that works with schools to prevent at-risk students from dropping out. It uses programs provided to in-school specialists to help students gain skills to make them employable.

The district entered the partnership with board approval at its Aug. 28 meeting.

“It’s just another program that is in place to capture our at-risk high school students,” school board president Ginia Northcutt said. “Anything that we can do that can help capture those kids is only going to help their lives and help our community.”

At-risk students are those who are either failing out of school or dropping out, Northcutt said.

“We want to help them remain in school and obtain employable skills,” she said. “There are a lot of students who really respond well to work-based learning experiences, and this partnership with JAG will give us another opportunity to give this experience to our students.”

According to the memorandum of understanding between the district and JAG, the program starts this school year.

The program is funded through federal funds, corporate contributions, state funds, school funds and/or in-kind contributions, according to the memorandum. The program serves students in high school, and students can get follow-up help from the JAG specialist on campus up to 12 months after graduation.

Longview ISD will provide a full-time certified teacher to oversee between 35 and 45 students.

District spokeswoman Elizabeth Ross said in a written statement that details such as where the program will be housed, what administrator will run the program and how the day-to-day operations will work into curriculum still are being decided.

Mark Robinson, external affairs manager for AEP Southwestern Electric Power Co., presented the program to the school board.

“SWEPCO is interested in the successful graduation and employment of the young people in the communities we serve,” he said in a written statement. “The Jobs for America’s Graduates program focuses specifically on students who face the greatest challenges to success.”

AEP has seen the program make a positive impact on local communities, Robinson said.

“The American Electric Power Foundation would like to partner initially with the Longview ISD and the East Texas Advanced Manufacturing Academy to implement the first JAG Program in East Texas,” he said. “SWEPCO believes that training and retaining the proper talent in our community is the key to long-term success.”

Northcutt said the inclusion of East Texas Advanced Manufacturing Academy means the partnership will benefit the area, not just Longview ISD.

“Education and housing, to me, are the two pieces of the puzzle for people to get out of poverty,” Northcutt said. “It is my hope we are offering our students at least one of the pieces to the puzzle, and that is education. And we are doing our best to have opportunities for those students.”