Success of Collaborative High School Graduation Program

The Institute for Workforce Innovation’s Project YouthBuild and Penn Foster Celebrate Overwhelming Success of Collaborative High School Graduation Program

May 31, 2016

First Two Years Culminate in 93% Completion Rate for 2016 Class; Record Number of Students Planning for Post-secondary Education.

GAINESVILLE, FL, (May 31, 2016) — The Institute for Workforce Innovation (IWI), a nonprofit organization dedicated to improving the communities of north central Florida, and Penn Foster High School, a leader in career-focused online and blended learning solutions for today’s workforce, today marked a milestone in the two organizations’ collaboration on an innovative high school completion program launched in 2014. A record 93% of the students of the 2016 class have received their high school diplomas, with nearly 75% of this year’s graduates planning to pursue a post-secondary education towards further skills development and career training in a variety of degree programs including automotive, allied health, technology, and business.

Penn Foster and IWI’s Project YouthBuild began partnering in 2009 to provide a pathway for at-risk students to enroll in college.  After the two organizations joined to launch the Project YouthBuild/Penn Foster High School Completion Program in fall 2014, 18 former high school dropouts earned their regionally and nationally accredited high school diploma through the program. In 2015-2016, 19 of 22 students graduated from the program, and 14 of those 19 students have enrolled, or are planning to enroll in college to undertake a variety of degree programs.  Many graduates from this cohort have chosen Gainesville’s Santa Fe College, ranked as the #1 community college in the nation by the Aspen Institute.

“The 2016 Project YouthBuild graduating class was comprised of a tremendously dedicated group of young people,” said Jonathan Leslie, executive director and chief executive officer of IWI. “They encourage each other to reach not only their academic goals, but also their career goals. We couldn’t be more pleased with the success of this partnership with Penn Foster, or more proud to say that 46 students in total have now earned their high school diploma through this collaboration.”

IWI, located in Gainesville, is home to Project YouthBuild, which is funded through grants from the U.S. Department of Labor and several other nonprofit, government, and industry partners committed to youth development and community engagement.

The Penn Foster High School Completion Program is supplemented by two Project YouthBuild elective components: Construction, for hands-on career skills training; and Leadership Development, where students dive into career exploration, life and career skills coaching, volunteerism, and community impact. The Penn Foster program counts towards AmeriCorps training hours, where students can become eligible for the Segal AmeriCorps Education Award, which provides scholarships for postsecondary education.

“Our collaboration with IWI and Project YouthBuild stands as a testament to the power of providing our partners with a solid high school program infrastructure that can serve as a springboard to that next critical step in education--and ultimately in career success--college,” said Dara Warn, Chief Outcomes Officer at Penn Foster.  “This blended learning model provides one-on-one instruction from local, dedicated teachers, while also allowing students to learn at the pace that best fits them. It has proven to be a win-win for these students.”

In addition to its collaboration with IWI, Penn Foster is also a partner of YouthBuild USA. YouthBuild currently operates 260 sites in 46 states, and has worked to empower youth for 35 years.

About Project YouthBuild at the Institute for Workforce Innovation
Launched by IWI in 2009 through a grant directly from the US Department of Labor, Project YouthBuild is an intensive 7-month academic, occupational, and leadership skills program that serves young people ages 16 – 24 with low incomes who have dropped out of school.  While in Project YouthBuild students have the opportunity to earn their High School diploma, multiple nationally recognized construction certifications, participate in a rigorous leadership development program, volunteer in their community and rehabilitate affordable housing. For more information, visit

About Penn Foster
Students, employers and partner organizations rely on Penn Foster to build the skills and knowledge to power the 21st century workforce. For over 125 years, Penn Foster has been dedicated to helping people lead more meaningful and productive lives and to improving social outcomes through education. Penn Foster provides career pathways for opportunity youth and adult learners through diverse and affordable online diploma, certificate and degree programs, offered via its high school, career school and college. With more than 30,000 graduates each year, Penn Foster’s online and blended learning programs are delivered in a self-paced, competency-based model wrapped by comprehensive academic, professional and personal support and coaching. For more information, visit


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