Darryl Hogue had just begun to think about the connection between education, career readiness and economic development during his first year as a school district superintendent.
“Our students weren’t developing skill sets,” said Hogue, Superintendent of River Bend School District in northwest Illinois. “I reached out to the Morrison Technical Institute and three high schools and talked about dual-credit programs in engineering.”
In February 2015, Hogue attended the Illinois 60 by 25 Network annual meeting. He came away with a new perspective on how to help students attain degrees and bolster the local economy.
“I went to the 60 by 25 meeting and learned about all these communities doing what we did on a larger scale,” said Hogue. “It turned a switch on in my head.”
Hogue’s next step two months later was to convene a group of 30 stakeholders, including representatives of a local technical center, community college, businesses and the regional office of education. By that fall, the initiative had blossomed into MORE (Making Opportunities Real for Everyone in the Mississippi and Rock River Valleys), now including 18 high schools, and officially became a part of the 60 by 25 Network. MORE has received support for Career Cruising software to provide opportunities for students to hear directly from employers about job fairs, open houses and internships. Further, MORE has promoted an internship program affiliated with Sauk Valley Community College that has grown from 17 students in 2015 to 50 in 2017.
“You have to de-mystify things for students,” said Hogue. “That’s where schools can step up and be a force for developing college and career goals. Rural communities experience brain drain, so we want to help keep kids local and grow our own.”