In its first year, JCPS students earned nearly twice what students in traditional program had earned
September 10, 2020 – A new, innovative option to the longtime UPS School-to-Work program that allows students to dual-enroll in Jefferson County High School (JCHS), take their classes online at the UPS facility and work more hours, is already paying huge dividends. In its first year, JCPS students earned $4.6 million in wages – nearly twice what students in the traditional program had earned the year prior – while still completing their schoolwork and earning college credit.
Under the traditional UPS School-to-Work program, students complete their JCPS course work at their high school in the morning, work at the shipping company in the afternoon, and take college courses two evenings a week. Students in the UPS Online program take their classes online, on site at UPS with guidance from JCHS teachers, then go directly to their work station, making it easier to transition to work mode and saving travel time. And because the lessons are completed online, at the students’ pace, many of them are able to complete their credit requirements early, freeing them to work more hours.
“They love it,” said Jennifer Romine, JCPS UPS liaison. “A lot of them help pay their bills at home, and it’s so much more for them to be able to contribute and take part in something that’s meaningful.”
The program is open to JCPS seniors, who must have at least a 2.0 GPA, good attendance, and a recommendation from their counselor.
Marcus Blakey, who graduated from Male High School in 2020, was in the traditional UPS School-to-Work program during the first semester of his senior year, switching to the online program in January. He only needed an English course credit, which he was able to complete within the first month, allowing him to work fulltime after that.
“I really preferred it,” he said. “The facility (where classes are taught) is at UPS so it’s literally a minute drive from the airport hub. I would recommend this option to anybody. If you’re determined to finish the class, you can do that ASAP.”
“If I had still been taking classes at Male,” he added, “I would have had to do NTI until May.”
Marcus is now attending the University of Louisville while working evenings at UPS through the Metropolitan College.
Likewise, Serena Ugbogbo, who graduated from Butler Traditional High School in the spring, called the program “a great opportunity.”
“When I switched to the online program, I was able to complete my classes in two weeks, so I was able to work more,” she said. “I would definitely encourage people to do it. It brings in way more money, way more benefits. It’s just good overall.”
Serena said she doesn’t feel that she missed anything by not being in a classroom setting. “If I was in the classroom, I would be going at someone else’s pace,” she said. “Online, it was at our pace, and we had our own teacher. It was way better.”
Recruitment for the program starts in the spring of students’ junior year, and students begin working as soon as school lets out for the summer. Once school resumes in the fall their schedules are adjusted to reflect available hours.
Of the 243 total students in last year’s UPS program, 72 completed the program online. This year, almost 300 seniors, representing nearly every JCPS high school, signed up for the program, with 207 students currently taking part in either the online or traditional version. JCPS expects an additional 100 students will be hired for the second semester.
"The Virtual Online Learning Program is an excellent opportunity for students who are seeking an alternative to your typical classroom setting,” said Matt Dawson, UPS HR supervisor. “It is fascinating to see students work at their own pace and, in some instances, graduate early. It is also a great way for students to earn extra money during their co-op. With the flexible online schedule, it allows students to work more hours. It is a win-win for the student and UPS."
In addition to being able to earn more money, Romine said students told her they felt a real sense of pride working through the pandemic. “They know they’re front liners,” she said. “They were being told, ‘You’re essential workers. You’re important.’ ”
When cases of COVID-19 began showing up in Kentucky, “they gave us an option if we didn’t want to come in,” she said. “I just still came. I felt like it was important for us to be there.”