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Succeed 2020 helps North Dakota students, program manager says

A North Dakota education initiative has significantly expanded college and career preparation for middle and high school students over just a few years.

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A North Dakota education initiative has significantly expanded college and career preparation for middle and high school students over just a few years.

A program manager for Succeed 2020, an education initiative funded by oil company Hess Corporation, told the Herald editorial board Wednesday thousands of students and teachers have gotten access to support and programming they wouldn't have otherwise.

In 2011, the Hess Corp. awarded the state the $25 million Succeed 2020 grant to improve its education system. The corporation quickly realized it wanted to hire state workers because of their work ethic, community investment and other qualities that make them good employees, said Louise Dardis, a program manager based in West Fargo.

For students, this has meant participation in more ongoing career counseling and planning, hands-on programming and other services administered by one of eight Regional Education Associations across the state. These REA's serve 97 percent of all public school districts statewide.

Education associations assist students in a variety of ways. In 2013, REA's helped reduce teacher turnover in New Town by 75 percent, provided engineering classes for nearly 300 students in Devils Lake and helped prepare students for job shadowing and internships in the Minot region, according to Succeed 2020.

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That same year, the Red River Valley Education Cooperative based in Grand Forks held a career expo that was attended by 900 sophomores. Nearly 75 percent of students said the expo helped them determine which high school courses to take, according to the program.

Grand Forks is the largest of 22 districts served by the RRVEC.

Succeed 2020's success is based on students taking fewer remediation classes, achieving higher college and workplace entrance exam scores, and recording better graduation rates and higher GPAs.

The grant has also given education associations a chance to bring better levels of expertise and more specialized programming in the classroom, said Jan O'Hara, director of the RRVEC.

As Succeed 2020 funding ends June 2017, education associations have to look at sustainability without the same level of funding, she said. They plan to continue practices that have worked best since the grant funding began in 2011, she said.

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