Program to Prep 'Tomorrow's Urban Leaders'

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(Image Courtesy: Arsenal Technical High School Alumni Association) (Image Courtesy: Arsenal Technical High School Alumni Association)

A new nonprofit formed and led by business and community leaders is partnering with Indianapolis Public Schools on an initiative aimed at transforming the lives of urban youth. ELEVATE Indianapolis is modeled after Colorado Uplift in Denver and ELEVATE programs in Orlando, Phoenix and New York, where organizers boast collective graduation rates in excess of 95 percent. ELEVATE Indianapolis is privately-funded by the central Indiana business community, foundations and individuals and focuses on providing youth with a "plan for the future."

Colorado Uplift has been in Denver Public Schools for 30 years.

The model provides full-time, ethnically-diverse teachers and mentors, employed by ELEVATE, to teach high school students a comprehensive curriculum of 13 character qualities and life skills as an elective class for credit. Students can be involved in the classes all day or during just a portion of the day.

"ELEVATE Indianapolis invests in and helps transform the lives of urban youth holistically to provide them hope and a plan for their future," said Chief Executive Officer Jim Shaffer in a news release issued by the organization. "We look forward to developing the ELEVATE model in IPS, while enhancing opportunities for urban youth through collaboration with myriad organizations, including projects to 'give back' and serve in the community."

IPS Superintendent Lewis Ferebee visited ELEVATE Orlando earlier this year. "I heard feedback from a wide variety of program stakeholders, the superintendent, school administrators, teacher/mentors, board members, staff and - most importantly - students.  Make no mistake - this program will require significant and sustained investment of community resources to achieve its potential, but I am certain that the right partners will make it possible," said Ferebee in a statement.

The program, which works specifically with public high schools in urban areas, will begin with two classes at Arsenal Tech High School and Shaffer says it could eventually grow to have an impact on up to 2,300 students district-wide and be in two or three high schools. Classes are slated to begin in January. Shaffer tells Inside INdiana Business the lessons learned and successes gained through the program will spread throughout the school and positively effect those not taking the classes. He says the ELEVATE model is being considered by district officials in Boston, Los Angeles and Ferguson, Missouri.

Steve Cosler, a partner with Water Street Healthcare Partners, LLC, was a cofounder of ELEVATE Orlando and after relocating to his hometown of Indianapolis, co-founded the local affiliate with Shaffer, Sagamore Institute President Jay Hein, Honey Creek Capital Managing Partner Don Palmer and Cornerstone Companies Chief Executive Officer Bob Whitacre.

In an interview with Inside INdiana Business, Chief Executive Officer Jim Shaffer says the business community is “absolutely key” in driving the program.
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