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After-School Program Reaches Out to Children With Parents in Equine, Agricultural Jobs

UPDATED

Children from families involved in the equine and agricultural industries often live in rural areas and frequently move, and that makes it difficult for some students to stay on track in school.

A Kentucky nonprofit has started an after-school program to address that need, and more than 100 students, some of whose parents work on horse farms, are receiving tutoring this year through the  Starting Gate program, according to an article in the Lexington Herald-Leader.

The program is offered by Race for Education, a Lexington-based scholarship organization that enables needy children from equine industry families to pursue equine-related or agricultural careers. Race for Education provides college tuition support, financial literacy training, mentoring services, and permanent jobs upon college completion, and it's funded mostly by folks who are related to or invested in the thoroughbred racing industry. The program has provided $3.5 million in scholarships and programs since 2002.

Its program is modeled after a similar after-school program in New York, and the Kentucky initiative has expanded to four middle schools since starting in 2011. Children receive help with literacy and homework, and it's free to schools and students, according to the story. Agriculture and horse industry students receive first priority, but it's open to all other middle school students, too. Mandy Otis, executive director of the Starting Gate program, said the need for this kind of offering goes far beyond students who have ties to the agriculture and horse industries, and most of the after-school participants come from the schools' general population.

Most agricultural and equine jobs are in rural areas, and parents often must move to find work. In the equine industry, employers generally aren't clustered in one area, with the exception of places such as Lexington, Ky., so "people who have a minimum of commitments that tie them down seem to be more successful overall. Children, financial obligations, or a spouse who works in a different line of work may make building a career in the horse industry more difficult or even impossible," according to an article on Horsejobs.ca, an equine employment source.

Children from migrant agricultural families often are behind their peers. Only 13 percent of farmworkers complete 12 years of school, and half have a 6th-grade education or lower, according to Migrant Health Promotion, a nonprofit that works with farmworkers and their rural communities to improve health and increase access to care. Their children may attend multiple schools each year, and only 55 percent of children in migrant homes will graduate from high school, according to the nonprofit.

CLARIFICATION: This post was updated to clarify that the program is open to all students in participating middle schools and that most participants are from the general student population.

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