Some local community and business leaders are making an impact on the education of Union High School students.

The UHS A+ community partnership committee, comprised of business owners, UHS students, East Central College staff members and other community leaders met last week to provide input into the A+ program.

This program provides scholarship funds to eligible graduates who attend a participating public community college or vocational/technical schools. 

Bette Ruether, the district’s A+ coordinator, said the community partnership committee is required to participate in the program, and provides guidance from those who would have direct contact with students after they graduate.

“These are very dedicated people who come to the meeting,” she said. “College (representatives) speak up a lot — they want to make sure students get the right preparation for college.”

The committee discusses graduation rates, program funding, goals and requirements of the program including tutoring. It meets once each year.

“We want to make sure that we’re preparing kids, doing our part, to prepare them for a job in the community,” Ruether said. 

This year there are 162 out of 251 seniors participating the program. That is 64.5 percent of the class.

The first group of graduates at the school in 2003 had only 24 percent qualify.

There are 109 of 238 juniors taking part in the program, or 45.7 percent; 59 of 203 sophomores, or 29 percent; and 142 of 265 freshmen, or 53.8 percent.Ruether attributed the number of freshmen participating in the program to Assistant Principal Nathan Bailey.

“Mr. Bailey is working very hard with the freshmen,” she said. “There are close to 55 percent who already agreed to participate. At the end of last year we only had 24 percent.”

To qualify, students must maintain a 2.5 or higher grade point average, complete 50 hours of tutoring to other students, have 95 percent high school attendance, be a U.S. citizen and have no disciplinary actions against them for drugs or alcohol.

The late Gov. Mel Carnahan developed Missouri’s A+ program, which was approved by the Legislature in 1993.By the end of the year, it is expected that there will be 460 school participating in the program. There are just 65 Missouri high school which are not taking part.Schools participating in the program must follow particular requirements governed by the state.

A+ students must attend primarily community colleges and technical schools to use the free tuition, but they can transfer to four-year programs if they want to pursue a bachelor’s degree later. Students have four years after graduation to take advantage of the community college option.

The program also requires a proficient or higher rating on Algebra I end-of-course exams in order for students to be eligible.