Albion, Michigan, July 14, 2023 – In its 110th year of local, national, and global service to children and families, Starr Commonwealth will expand its impact by empowering older youth through a new community-based program: F.O.C.U.S. Forward.
This leader in providing trauma-informed and resilience-focused services to children, families and communities is thrilled to announce the receipt of a generous $300,000 Fiscal Year 2024 appropriation from the State of Michigan. This funding will support an innovative program to help disenfranchised youth and emerging adults access education, career training, and wraparound support services. “We are deeply grateful for the support of Representative Jim Haadsma and the Michigan Department of Labor & Economic Opportunity for their belief in our mission and their investment in the future of youth in and around Calhoun County, Michigan,” says Starr Commonwealth President & CEO, Elizabeth Carey. “This funding will enable us to further expand our efforts in empowering Michigan’s young individuals who face significant barriers to success, providing them with life-changing opportunities and pathways to a brighter future.”
With this support, Starr Commonwealth will initiate the planning of F.O.C.U.S. Forward: Forging Opportunities for Career Upskilling and Success. This program will integrate career development services with wraparound mental health, housing assistance, food security and other health and human services, using Starr’s historic, 350-acre campus in Albion, Michigan. The program, once launched, aims to serve emancipated youth and emerging adults (“Opportunity Youth”) ages 16-24 that face challenging circumstances hindering their ability to engage in education, professional training, and ultimately living wage employment opportunities. These Opportunity Youth include those with no high school diploma/GED, and those who are currently un- or under-employed, experiencing housing insecurities, local youth aging out of foster care, and those suffering from social, emotional, and mental health issues.
“What makes this program unique from other career development programs is that it will go beyond education, training, and job placement opportunities,” says Dr. Randy Davis, who retired in 2021 as Superintendent of Marshall Public Schools and helped design the F.O.C.U.S. Forward program with Starr. “The program will leverage strategic, community-based partnerships to recruit vulnerable populations and provide them with education and wraparound services, while also giving them life coaching and leadership development that will develop the social and personal ‘soft skills’ that employers have said often make or break employee retention,” says Davis.
Coming together to support this program are community-based organizations that include Starr Commonwealth in formal partnership with Marshall Public Schools, Battle Creek Public Schools, Kellogg Community College, the National Guard’s Michigan Youth ChalleNGe Programs, Michigan Works! Southeast and Southwest American Job Centers, the MI Workforce Development Institute, the MI Building and Construction Trades Council, and the Manufacturers’ Associations of Marshall and Battle Creek (representing over 30 local construction and manufacturing employers). With the announcement of the new Ford Blue Oval Battery Park Michigan and the creation of 2,500 high-wage, high-skill jobs, Ford has also shared its support for Starr Commonwealth’s F.O.C.U.S. Forward program, which comes at a critical time in the regional job market.
The F.O.C.U.S. Forward program is seeking additional corporate partnerships, as well as additional funding, to launch the program in later 2023 or early 2024, and Starr welcomes support from individuals and organizations. Donations can be made at Starr.org/110, and any program or partnership questions can be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org.