Project RISE seeks to elevate local students after high school

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The inside of Athens Mold and Machine is pictured in this Messenger file photo. A new program known as Project RISE is providing opportunities for local students such as apprenticeships and career mentoring. Athens Mold and Machine is among 80 area business partners.

Note: This story appears in the Friday, Jan. 25 newspaper on Page A1.


Local businesses need a skilled work force in order to thrive. Likewise, many local students need guidance in learning the skills necessary to have a successful career after high school.

Putting these needs together is the goal of a new program in the area called Project RISE — “Reinforcing Infrastructure Supporting Employment.”

Project RISE is organized by the Athens-Meigs Educational Service Center, which partners with school districts in Athens County to provide curriculum and instructional support, according to its website. The program is meant to help students find opportunities outside of the classroom to prepare them for life after graduation.

“Whatever steps we can do to help the student do that, we’re going to do that,” said Brian Howard, a career pathways specialist with Athens-Meigs ESC.

This includes job shadowing, apprenticeships and internships with businesses throughout the county, Howard said. Project RISE also works with local chambers of commerce and economic development centers to provide opportunities for area students.

“We have probably 80 businesses that are on our list,” said Hannah Kilbride, another career pathways specialist for ESC.

Kilbride said the program has a “big support system” with help from businesses such as Quidel, AEP, Athens Mold and Machine, Rocky Boots, Stuart’s Opera House, Rural Action and many others.

The program also features a business advisory council, aimed at helping businesses and educators work together to solve gaps in education and training.

Kilbride offered one example discussed at a recent business advisory council meeting. A local business manager described having new workers come in for training who did not know how to read a ruler.

“That’s a big problem,” Kilbride said. “Instead of learning new things about how to use a machine, (the manager) has to teach them how to use a ruler first and it takes time out of their training schedule.”

A total of 131 students in nine different school districts throughout the region have participated in business tours and hands-on mentoring sessions. Students are taught “soft skills” such as building resumes and how to interview for a job.

“We’re just trying to help the individual school districts with whatever they need help with, and the industries, to identify gaps in services,” Howard said. “What’s not being offered? And then being the ones to fill that gap. Whether we can bring other people to the table, bring partners together to the schools, to the industry, whatever it might be, and we’re just looking to fill those gaps.”

Project RISE received a $240,000 grant from the Ohio Development Services Agency to fund the program through April 2020. Howard said organizers are searching for ways to sustain the program beyond that date.

Project RISE is still accepting and searching for more businesses that would like to be involved.

“We’ve not heard no (from businesses),” said Howard. “Everybody is on board, and everybody wants to help with what they can. They know its a need for themselves; they want to be able to hire people now and in the future, and they want to help in the schools.”