LAFAYETTE — The local Workforce Investment Board is sending out an SOS for one of its workforce programs that targets high school dropouts.
The board has started a fundraising effort for Second Opportunity Scholarships to fund a GED and job skills training program called Keeping Youth Trained and Educated.
The program, known as KYTE, is housed on the campus of South Louisiana Community College and offers out-of-school youth ages 16 through 21 a second chance at completing their high school education while receiving job skills training and exposure to careers available in the Acadiana area.
Federal funding cuts have impacted the program’s viability, said Cortney Boutte-Breaux, a Workforce Investment Board planner. The Workforce Investment Board previously received about $1.2 million in federal Workforce Investment Act funds for its operations, which include assistance and programs for out-of-work adults and youth; however, that funding has been cut in half to about $605,000, Boutte-Breaux said.
The youth programs’ share of the federal funding is about $176,000; however, the money isn’t only directed to KYTE but to other services offered to youth, such as GED tutoring and job training for students who are not in the KYTE program, she said.
The KYTE program takes 25 students per six-month session twice a year, and its annual operational costs are about $100,000, she said.
“We don’t have enough funds to continue the KYTE program without other sources of funding,” Boutte-Breaux said.
She said a committee formed last year to rally the Second Opportunity Scholarships effort and $6,700 was raised. The money was a good start but not enough.
“We’re trying to get employer buy-in for the program,” she said. “We’re also in need of businesses willing to mentor our students and let them know how successful they are and how they got started.”
The mentors are needed to share their stories with the at-risk youth who need examples of people who have also overcome obstacles and found success, Boutte-Breaux said.
Duntraven Gothe, 22, is one of the more than 300 people who have enrolled in the KYTE program in the past seven years.
Gothe dropped out of school when he was 16. At the time, he was in the seventh grade on an elementary school campus, a tough predicament for a teenager who had fallen behind academically, he said. He said he felt like he wasn’t going anywhere with school, so he dropped out and enrolled in the National Guard’s Youth Challenge Program, which helps teens complete high school. He completed the Youth Challenge Program but did not earn his GED and floated unsuccessfully through several programs.
Gothe, of Sunset, completed the KYTE program in December and earned his high school equivalency diploma. He said he thinks KYTE was a good fit for him because of the support he received from his teachers and his understanding that he’ll get what he gives.
“When you do go there, understand that it’s a two-way partnership,” he said. “They’ll help you, but you have to be serious about obtaining it. One person can’t do it alone. The teacher can give you the tools to help you, but it’s up to you to use them.”
Now, Gothe said, he feels like he has options that he didn’t have before completing his education. He’s considering studies in engineering, computer programming or history.
“I’ve always wanted to join the military, but when a person gets their education, there are so many more doors open,” he said.
Students don’t pay for the KYTE program and also receive daily stipends to cover their transportation costs, up to $5 a day if they live in Lafayette and $10 a day if they live outside the parish.
Boutte-Breaux said in addition to donations for the scholarships, the program also is in need of committee members and mentors. Anyone interested in learning more may contact Boutte-Breaux at (337) 262-1136 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.