PEP Board to Assist Local Alternative Education Project


PEP, Prowers Economic Prosperity board members, have been asked to consider assisting a three-year, grant-funded collaborative venture bringing businesses and students together for the benefit of each.  Anthony LaTour, Alternative Education Coordinator for the Lamar Re-2 school district, proposed the concept to the PEP board during its May 16th monthly meeting.

“We’re looking at three different kinds of partnerships involving work study, internships or job-shadowing which will be made available to sophomores, juniors and senior high students,” he explained, adding that at the moment, only the Lincoln School, Alternative Education Center is involved.  LaTour said the graduation percentage at the Alternative Center has improved from 76% to 95% since it began in 2016.  He said that in the Covid Pandemic aftermath, the district is facing the problem of once having introduced remote learning, there’s an increased difficulty in getting students to return to classroom instruction.

Because of that, he said the district applied for the Colorado Student Re-engagement Program which is one of multiple pathways to graduation and one of the means of re-integrating students back into steady classroom attendance.  He felt that mixing school education with different forms of on-the-job instruction, would be a way of holding on to students who would be prone to leave the rural area once they graduate.

“We face the problem, though, of having all of our students leave the area once they graduate from high school, and whether they move on to college or jobs elsewhere, it’s hard to get them to come back once they’ve left.”  He said this program helps students get a real-life look at what a job entails, and business owners have a chance to attract graduates who find they like the type of work on offer.  Lamar Light Plant Superintendent, Houssin Hourieh, PEP board member, said the light plant is always looking for linemen, but few remain for very long, “We become a training center for someone, somewhere else,” he stated.

LaTour said the program offers wages by the hiring company and school credits for work study, intern or job shadow programs for every set period of time, usually from ten to 30 hours a week during which, students would receive classroom credit for those hours at their chosen job place.  He acknowledged, when asked, that there are some liability issues involved, given the age of the students in the program and the type of work they can perform. Rick Robbins, GM of Colorado Mills, said some rules allow students as young as 15 to work in a Jiffy-Lube, but if you’re 17 or younger, you cannot be in the same room where a forklift is being used.  Employers who decide to join in this program may need to check for liabilities.

PEP board members agreed there should be an interview process detailing expectations and responsibilities between participants before being assigned a job role.  LaTour said this program is aimed more at students who appear to do better working on a job study program of this nature than they do in a formal classroom setting.  He asked PEP Executive Director, Cheryl Sanchez, to sound out local businesses for any interest in the program, right now available to about 15 students from the Alternative Education program and eventually, if there is more demand, to the local high schools.  LaTour said that regardless of any offered program, the goal still, is to make sure the students are encouraged to remain in school with the goal of graduating from their studies.  The PEP board agreed to help find interested businesses.

Several other topics were discussed including recent news the City of Lamar was awarded a $500,000 EPA grant for Brownsfield impact.  City Administrator, Rob Evans, said the city is looking at several areas in need of refurbishment, especially along Main Street.  These included the wind-damaged Lamar Inn, Burger King which has been shuttered for over a year as well as Thai Spicy Basil which ceased operation at the advent of the Covid pandemic.

Roof Damage at Lamar inn on Saturday morning, July 2021

“The City can’t do anything with the Lamar Inn right now as it’s still privately owned,” Evans explained, adding that the building is on offer, but no one is meeting the asking price and until the State completes an environmental assessment and makes a ruling, there won’t be any forward motion.  The Burger King building is owned by the corporation and the city has spoken with representatives, but chances for selling to a fast-food competitor are slim to none.

Dr. Linda Lujan, LCC President, noted the college is very close to hiring a workforce coordinator who will serve the southern Colorado region in its need for recruiting and training future employees for the general workforce population.

PEP Executive Director, Cheryl Sanchez, said a seminar – fact-gathering meeting is set for May 31st to create a community profile which will introduce the area to potential textile garment manufacturers who have expressed an interest in this portion of southern Colorado for expansion.  Sanchez said the information will be used for any other potential industrial interests in the county.

By Russ Baldwin

Filed Under: AgricultureChamber of CommerceCity of LamarConsumer IssuesEconomyEnvironmentFeaturedSchoolYouth


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