Rapides Foundation awards $1.8M in reconnecting grants

Published 4:35 pm Thursday, April 27, 2023

Special to the News Leader

ALEXANDRIA — The Rapides Foundation has awarded $1.8 million in grants to six organizations under a new program that addresses the high number of Central Louisiana young adults ages 16 to 24 who are neither in school nor working. The Reconnecting Cenla Program Grant seeks to reconnect these young people to meaningful education and employment opportunities in the region.

Grants were awarded to Ben D. Johnson Educational Center, Central Louisiana Technical Community College, Eckerd Youth Alternatives, LaSalle Community Action Association, LaSalle Economic Development District and Rapides Parish Police Jury.

These six entities will serve as anchor organizations that will lead community-based systems of partner organizations to identify, recruit and navigate disconnected youth to education and employment opportunities. Disconnected youth are often called “opportunity youth” because of their potential to succeed and contribute to their communities.

Reconnecting Cenla complements the Foundation’s Beyond Graduation Project, a retention strategy launched in 2021 to ensure students stay within the education pipeline by assigning coaches to counsel students who enter postsecondary institutions after high school. Both programs are funded under the Workforce Skills and Talent Development component of the Foundation’s Economic Development Initiative.

Each Reconnecting Cenla Program grantee was awarded $300,000 over a three-year period that began April 1. The grant also will fund technical assistance from national experts in the field of opportunity youth who will work closely with the organizations as they develop their projects.

Eckerd Connects will work with existing and new community partners to build a system of care for opportunity youth in Rapides and Vernon parishes. The Eckerd Connects Opportunity Youth Program will engage, empower and energize opportunity youth to address the barriers to successful education and employment. The project also will focus on building an infrastructure to connect referral sources to community partners who provide educational services and employment opportunities. Eckerd will provide direct services and strengthen local connections in communities to connect more youth to opportunities so that they can live in a sustainable manner.