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13th Grade Seeks To Help Disconnected Youth, Bridge Achievement Gap

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(credit: CBS) Reg Chapman
Reg Chapman joined WCCO-TV in May of 2009. He came to WCCO fr...
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MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) – A growing number of young adults in the Twin Cities need some help before they’re able to enter the workforce.

And without a job, most of these young people are left to rely on the government to pay for things like housing and health care.

But a state Senator is hoping to offer a different plan – one that would get those kids on the right path to the right job.

It all revolves around something he calls the 13th Grade.

More than 4,000 young people between the ages of 18 and 25 in Minneapolis and St. Paul are considered disconnected youth.

They deal with barriers that keep them from establishing a career or getting to the next level of education.
Now the Minneapolis Urban League hopes the 13th Grade will solve this issue.

The 13th grade proposal was created as a result of Minnesota’s achievement gap.

More than half of the African American students in high school do not graduate and those who do lack the skills to excel in today’s workforce.

“They are just kind of out there, really not being productive as young adults and leading to a path that might make them even more less productive if they happen to get in trouble,” said Scott Gray, the president of the Minneapolis Urban League.

Scott Gray came up with the 13th Grade concept, which seeks to provide college readiness and/or technical training to help prepare young people for jobs that pay a livable wage.

“So we think, especially in the vocational trades, there is going to be a lot of jobs out there, and we want to make sure that these young people are involved,” said Sen. Jeff Hayden, who sponsored a bill asking the state’s help in getting the pilot project off the ground.

He added that the program would “figure out what [the young people are] good at, figure out what are the skills that they need and send them to a post-secondary opportunity so that therefore they can get the skills they need to take care of themselves for the rest of their lives.”

Hayden says helping the 4,000 disconnected youth will save the state money in the long run.

“Looking at these young people, who are ending up in our social welfare system, they’re ending up in our corrections system, they’re ending up with nominal low-paying jobs for the rest of their lives where the government has to subsidize their health care, subsidize their nutritional care,” Hayden said.

Students like Jazmine Graninson hope lawmakers see fit to support this effort.

“During this time they started talking to me about the 13th Grade, I started looking at myself like: what else can I do to start preparing myself for college?” Graninson said.

She sees the 13th Grade as an opportunity to get kids off the streets and into classrooms where they can learn to be productive citizens.

The 13th Grade initiative has been heard in both committees, but there is no word yet on if it will be funded.

They’re looking for about half a million dollars to help fund the $1 million-a-year pilot program.

The Urban League hopes their community partners help to make the 13th Grade a reality.

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