By Crystal Wylie
Register News Writer
A free program with cash incentives is being offered in Madison County by the Kentucky River Foothills Development Council to encourage high school drop-outs (ages 16-18) to obtain a GED and begin a path to a working career.
The TREK Academy (Teamwork, Readiness, Experience and Knowledge) helps participants who want to work on their GED at the Adult Education Office at Eastern Kentucky University or in Berea, said Tony Crachiolo, the program coordinator.
The program offers help with clothing, supplies and the cost of the GED exam fee. TREK Academy students can also earn up to $1,050 in cash for achieving personal goals as they progress toward graduation, Crachiolo said, with opportunities to win laptop computers, scholarships and other prizes.
“In these tough economic times young people face high unemployment rates and have few resources and experiences to call upon to improve this situation,” he said. “Yet many of them have the financial needs and obligations that every adult faces. By providing them the tools they need to find and keep gainful employment we hope to do our part to help make Kentucky a better place to live.”
This is the first year TREK has been offered in Madison County by Foothills, which also serves Clark, Estill and Powell counties.
Foothills has had in-school youth programs for over a decade, primarily n Estill and Powell counties, Crachiolo said, but in 2009, they saw a need for a similar program for students who have already dropped out of high school.
The TREK Academy pilot program was created in 2010, and because of its success, TREK was approved to increase enrollment by 30 percent this year.
“Expanding into Madison County was a natural choice for us since it is part of our service area,” Crachiolo said.
Last year in Estill County, more than 85 percent of TREK graduates found employment in their community, he said. “That’s the real thrust of the Academy — connecting young adults to their community by providing the skills, training and experience they need to get a first job and begin their working careers.”
TREK Academy coordinators are working to develop partnerships with local business leaders to make room for graduates in businesses within their communities, Crachiolo said. Local employers also provide job shadowing opportunities, mentors, guest speakers and paid work experience.
Examples of TREK workshops include: Filling out job applications, preparing resumes, developing interview skills, becoming a confident communicator and knowing how to dress for success.
Students also help design and participate in community service projects and leadership activities.
“The whole idea is to gain the skills you need to stand out from the crowd and get the job,” Crachiolo said. “Young people will gain exposure to opportunities that will optimize their potential for success in the workforce.”
The TREK staff also assists interested students in selecting a Kentucky university/college or training program to suits their needs. They go one step further by arranging campus/training center visits and connecting them with financial aid and admissions personnel at the program/school of their choice.
“We want to engage youth who are disengaged, taking them at whatever point they left off with their education,” Crachiolo said. “This unique program works with the whole family unit. We strive to help students address whatever barriers they face. We also assist youth with referrals to other supportive services including those provided by Foothills.”
The TREK Academy is funded through a grant provided by the U.S. Dept. of Labor’s Workforce Investment Act administered by the Bluegrass Workforce Investment Board.
For details about the TREK Academy contact Tony Crachiolo at 859-200-6050 or 606-723-6629 Monday-Friday, between 10 a.m. and 6 p.m.
Crystal Wylie can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 623-1669, Ext. 6696.