High schoolers get a "Jump Start" on careers

High schoolers get a "Jump Start" on careers
Jump Start centers around 23 proposed “pathways” that students can follow during their high school career.
Jump Start centers around 23 proposed “pathways” that students can follow during their high school career.

BATON ROUGE, LA (WAFB) - Baton Rouge is in the midst of an economic boom. We're the heart of Hollywood South and home to a growing tech industry. Many of those companies need employees, and where better to find them than our schools? An increasing number of public-private partnerships are helping to meet the demand.

“We have two lists on the user dashboard, one of approved visits and one of pending visits,” Leslie Morgan explained during a product presentation at

, a Baton Rouge-based IT company.

The team of developers had been working on a web-based application for a local non-profit for four weeks straight.

“I learned a lot, both using equipment and just learning how to talk to people,” said Noah Clifton.

What's unique about this team is that they're barely old enough to drive. Four attend Lee High School and two Baton Rouge High. For the past month they've worked 8 to 5 at Sparkhound. It's the first time the company partnered with public schools for a mentorship program they call “Spark It.”

“Our plan is to really take this model that we're building here and expand this out to other organizations in the community, so we want to get other organizations involved where they adopt another high school in town and perform a program like this,” said Dave Baxter, Sparkhound's Vice President of Sales.

It's the same concept as Louisiana's new

launched this year by the Department of Education. It's a renewed push to get high schoolers career-ready, regardless if they continue on to higher education.

Ascension Parish is among eleven school systems grouped together in the Capital Region.

“We know that there's going to be over 82,000 new jobs in this region, and we want to be able to get these kids out and prepared to enter that workforce, because these jobs are high-wage and high-demand jobs,” said Ronda Matthews, Supervisor of Career & Technical Education for Ascension Parish Schools.

Jump Start centers around 23 proposed “pathways” that students can follow during their high school career. Some are available statewide and some only in certain regions of Louisiana:


  • Automobile Service Excellence
  • Carpenter
  • Certified Mechanical Apprentice Drafter
  • Certified Nursing Assistant
  • Collision Repair
  • Emergency Medical Technician
  • Fashion Design for Costume & Film
  • Four Stroke Engine
  • Health Sciences
  • Industrial Maintenance Mechanic
  • Industrial Operations and Maintenance
  • Internet Wed Foundations
  • Manufacturing Specialist
  • Mobile Crane Operator
  • Oil & Gas T2
  • Prostart/Restaurant
  • Web Design Professional
  • Welder


  • Agriculture Technician
  • Digital Media & Entertainment Technology
  • Hospitality, Tourism, Culinary & Retail
  • Welder's Helper

These pathways consist of elective courses taught with the help of private industry. Students earn credentials that show up on their diplomas at graduation.

"We know that only 28% of high school graduates actually complete a college diploma or an associate's degree even, so we're trying through Jump Start to satisfy the other 72% of those kids," Matthews said. "I think Jump Start has made us all evaluate our career and technical programs, and I think it's kind of got us up to speed so that we can satisfy the industry in our area."

Many of these students in the Spark It program will continue on to college, but they'll go there with a solid connection to local industry. 

"This whole environment is like the real world," said Lee High senior Marvin Bryant. "You have to adapt quickly with any environment you come in contact with, so it has really advanced my mind."

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