School officials say Webster Parish is leading the state in implementing its Jump Start Initiative, a program designed to give high school students vocational skill sets to go to work.

Superintendent of Schools Dr. Dan Rawls says he was at a recent meeting with the state department on the Jump Start Initiative, and Webster Parish was singled out as leading the way.

“In that initiative, they used us as the poster child I guess you might say,” he said. “They said, ‘You have districts that have embraced Jump Start and then you have those who just took off running.’ And they said the one they were most proud of in the north part of the state is Webster.”

He said he is proud of that distinction and proud of Webster Parish.

“I’m really proud of that,” he said. “I’m happy for our district. It just felt good to hear them say that.”

Dr. Beverly Smith, Webster Parish Jump Start coordinator, says the purpose of the initiative is to provide students with pathways, or skill sets to go to work upon graduation. These pathways include welding, business management, micro-enterprise, public service, agriculture tech, manufacturing, hospitality and more.

“Jump Start is about giving them entry level skills when they leave high school,” she said. “For instance, if they choose business management and they want to go into some type of business area, the credential they would earn would be something such as customer service, or micro-enterprise, where they learn how to be entrepreneurs.”

Smith says they should be able to implement the certified nursing assistant program at North Webster High School in January, a program Rawls has worked hard to get into Webster Parish.

Although this is the third year of the program, Smith says it will be fully implemented in the 2017-18 school year. The school system is about 85 percent complete in getting the groundwork laid for teachers to teachpathways.

Since she began as the coordinator in February, at least 15 teachers across the parish have been certified to teach the pathways. NWHS has 14 pathways, Minden High School, Lakeside Jr./Sr. High School and Doyline High School each have seven.

It is funded through the Career Development Fund, she said. In addition to the $25,000 they receive each year from CDF, some funding comes from federal vocational funds and the Supplemental Course Allocation.