About 500 students participating in the “Jobs for America’s Graduates” program in Iowa are at the statehouse today, along with managers of the program, to ask legislators to continue state funding for the effort. The program helps students who’re in danger of dropping out of school, but Laurie Phelan, president of Iowa Jobs for America’s Graduates, says the budget draft legislators have developed doesn’t provide any state support for the program.

“Our goal in working with the governor and our legislators — and all the students are here for that reason — is to help get that restored in the budget,” Phelan says. Former Des Moines County Recorder Marilyn Monroe serves on the board of directors for the Iowa Jobs for America’s Graduates program. She says 93 percent of students who participate in the program graduate, which is higher than the statewide average graduation rate of 88 percent.

“We are very proud of what we do for Iowa and the education system,” Monroe says. Over a thousand students from 27 Iowa high schools are currently participating in the program, being linked with Iowa businesses where they learn job skills. Jeremy Schoen (SHAYN, like Shane), a senior at Des Moines East High School, has been in the program for two years, getting help from Cargill along the way with plant tours and advice about how to write a resume.

“Because of Cargill, I now know the importance of how one soybean farmer can change the fate of many businesses,” he said during a statehouse news conference. “I would take pride in my work if I were an employee of Cargill.” The Iowa Jobs for America’s Graduate program has raised about $340,000 from private businesses to go along with state and federal funding for the current year. Governor Culver has recommended that the program get $540,000 in state resources for the next budgeting year.