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$8 Million Available Through Ohio Community Connectors
Ohio Ag Connection - 02/12/2018

For the fourth year, community organizations, faith- or values-based groups and businesses are being asked to partner to encourage one-on-one mentorship in Ohio's schools and help give more students access to role models who can motivate and inspire them.

Gov. John Kasich created the Community Connectors program as a key initiative to foster increased student mentorship. Since its inception in 2014, Community Connectors projects have provided mentoring opportunities to more than 100,000 students across Ohio. In 2016-2017 alone, volunteer mentors provided more than 500,000 mentoring contact hours. In total, 51 of 88 counties are, or have been, home to one or more Community Connectors grants.

"Thanks to the Community Connectors program, Ohio's students are learning important life skills and getting excited about their futures," said Paolo DeMaria, superintendent of public instruction. "We encourage more community partners to get involved and help students understand the importance of the choices they make and guide them in planning for what will come after high school."

Community Connectors has funded mentoring projects such as:

- The Aspiring Doctors Precollege Program at Ohio University's Heritage College of Osteopathic Medicine (HCOM) Cleveland, which provides an inclusive STEM, college prep and mentoring program fostering an interest in medical/health careers for minority high school and middle school students;

- The Map Your Future program in Ross County, where mentors help to increase parent and student knowledge of college and career options so that students can develop six-year plans to graduate from high school prepared for successful futures; and

- Building Bright Futures, a program in Hamilton County that helps youth become more confident and productive, stay in school and set goals for a "bright future."

The Ohio Department of Education will accept online applications for the program through March 16.

Nonprofit entities, faith- or values-based organizations, houses of worship, community nonprofits and nonprofit entities associated with for-profit businesses are eligible lead applicants.

Programs can partner with eligible school districts, joint vocational school districts, STEM schools and community schools in which at least 40 percent of the student population is economically disadvantaged or has a graduation rate below 92 percent.

Grantee initiatives should focus on the following principles:

- Setting goals to be prepared for 21st century careers;

- Building character;

- Developing pathways to achievement;

- Building resiliency; and

- Believing in a positive future.

For Fiscal Year 2019, priority will be given to grant applicants that deliver volunteer-based mentorship programs in grades K-12 that foster financial literacy, career readiness and entrepreneurship skills through experiential learning opportunities in classroom settings as part of their overall project plans. A grant may serve students in one or more grade levels.

Those organizations and schools that partner in mentoring efforts can receive a maximum award of $150,000 with the state matching $3 for every $1 spent.

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