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MOUNT VERNON — Skagit Valley College is the recipient of a federal grant that will allow it to continue to serve students facing barriers to higher education.

The college was notified June 30 by the Department of Labor that it will receive about $1.2 million to help it serve Job Corps-eligible students.

Job Corps, a program of the Department of Labor, provides tuition-free education and job training at about 140 campuses nationwide to those ages 16-24 who face barriers to education and employment.

The Job Corps Scholars grants are to be used to provide at-risk youths with job skills instruction, educational opportunities and employment counseling, according to the department.

The Northwest Workforce Council will partner with the college on the three-year grant, said Alison Fernandez, the college’s associate dean of advising and retention.

The college’s Job Corps Scholars program will serve Job Corps-eligible students from Island, San Juan, Skagit, Snohomish and Whatcom counties, and will provide additional services to students, including access to emergency funds and advising, Fernandez said.

Students will also have internship opportunities and assistance with navigating their entry into the workforce, she said.

“I’m excited about the level of services that students are going to get,” Fernandez said. “It’s a really holistic approach to serving people.”

While the grant will allow the college to serve Job Corps-eligible students, it will not necessarily serve students currently enrolled at Cascades Job Corps College and Career Academy in Sedro-Woolley, Fernandez said.

Many of the services provided by the grant are already offered to Cascades students, thanks to a partnership between the two entities as a result of a pilot program launched at Cascades when it reopened in 2017.

The pilot program has focused on high-demand, family-wage careers such as information technology and health care. Students can co-enroll and earn credits and certifications through Skagit Valley College, while also learning new skills and working toward high school degrees if needed.

“More than anything, I think it opens up the possibility of being a college graduate for a student who previously didn’t even think they’d get their GED,” said Melina Zahalka, college and careers director for Cascades.

The creation of the Job Corps Scholars grant is evidence that the work that has gone on at Cascades since it reopened has been successful, Zahalka said.

On average, Job Corps students have higher GPAs than other Skagit Valley College students, Zahalka said. In June, many of them graduated from the college with degrees and some plan to attend four-year colleges and universities.

“Seeing the success of the pilot that was done here, it’s pretty clear that community college, and other two-year and four-year institutions are doable and beneficial for Job Corps students,” she said. “It’s nice to see the good work that was done being utilized across the United States.”

— Reporter Kera Wanielista: 360-416-2141, kwanielista@skagitpublishing.com, Twitter: @Kera_SVH, facebook.com/KeraReports