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The Prosperity Initiative is helping students at the Career Learning Center of the Black Hills achieve amazing educational outcomes, according to the South Dakota Association for Lifelong Learning.

In recognition of that successful partnership, the CSS-led Prosperity Initiative was named the 2018 SDALL Community Partner of the Year in July.  As the regional award winner, the Prosperity Initiative is eligible to compete for the national award from the Coalition on Adult Basic Education later this year.  The national award comes with a $10,000 grant.

Tracy Palecek, Prosperity Initiative Program director, accepted the SDALL award on behalf of Catholic Social Services and its Prosperity Initiative partners. It was nominated by the instructional staff at CLCBH, where staffer Stephanie Rittberger said adult students who are pursuing an education goal have been highly successful if they have a Prosperity Initiative mentor.  “Not a single mentored student has quit or left the program and 80 percent of those participants have completed their high school equivalency,” she said.

Of those completers, 50 percent have gone on to pursue a post-secondary education and 85 percent of them are gainfully employed.  Those are outstanding outcomes, and Palecek said her team is humbled to play a role in achieving them. Some of those student success stories include people like Jeremy, who earned his GED in 2017 and is enrolled at Western Dakota Tech. With assistance from his Prosperity Initiative mentor, he overcame numerous financial, educational and personal obstacles during his second semester, including the death of his father, to successfully complete his first year of the Transportation Technology program.  “Without people in my corner I would not have known how to navigate this spring semester and failure would have been staring me in the face. Instead, I got good advice and figured out how to negotiate some time and ways to get caught up. I kept my scholarship and I will be a great mechanic when I finish!”

“We are proud to nominate the Prosperity Initiative as Partners of the Year,” said Rittberger. “Tremendous work has been accomplished by collaborative efforts with the Prosperity Initiative and their contributions to elimination of poverty should be commended.”

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