Graduation Ceremony Celebrates First Graduates of Innovative Three Rivers Workforce Investment Board–Garfield Jubilee Association–YouthBuild Partnership

Pittsburgh, PA, July 19, 2016—Last September, YouthBuild’s first incoming students of Cengage Learning’s Career Online High School (COHS) program gathered in a Pittsburgh, PA, classroom to kick-off the start to their program. They wrote down their reasons for wanting to earn a high school diploma and affixed them to a graduation gown that hung at the front of the classroom:

“My kids,” wrote one.
“To beat the odds and prove that I will not be a stereotype,” stated another.
“To get a better job….”
“To further my education….”

These students knew it would be tough, but they also knew that the path to a better life started with a high school diploma—not just a diploma, but an AdvancED/SACS/NCA/NWAC accredited diploma earned concurrently with an entry-level workforce certification that teaches occupational skills, life skills, and financial literacy skills.

Fast forward to July 15, 2016, where a YouthBuild graduation ceremony celebrated the achievement of its students—among them a COHS graduate who finally got to wear that gown she had hung her hopes on.

WIOA-Aligned Program Helps Workforce Boards Serve Job Seekers

The YouthBuild program was brought to Bajia and the others through an innovative partnership between the nonprofit Garfield Jubilee Association and the Three Rivers Workforce Investment Board (3RWIB). The 3RWIB used Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA) funding to offer COHS scholarships to disadvantaged 18-to-24-year-old Pittsburgh residents served by YouthBuild.

“We designed a program that is aligned to the new federal and state WIOA legislation to meet the needs of out-of-school youth and adult job seekers—specifically those who require a basic high school diploma and entry-level workforce credential,” said Dr. Howard Liebman, Superintendent of Schools for the COHS district.

The program’s initial success is a welcome sign for workforce development boards striving to fulfill WIOA guidelines for helping out-of-school youth and adult job seekers access to education, training, and support services that lead to industry trained credentials.

“As the leader of the area’s public workforce system, 3RWIB always seeks to bring new and innovative ways to connect people to opportunity. COHS works systemically with key partners to offer more young people the opportunity to earn a high school diploma,” said Stefani Pashman, CEO of 3RWIB. “By combining studies with the occupational skills training offered by YouthBuild, we are giving youth the solid foundation they need to build brighter careers and futures.”


Graduates Use Diploma As Pathway to Additional Industry-Trained Credentials

The program’s first graduates are already building on that foundation. Breanna Goins, who completed the COHS program in January, immediately enrolled in the Community College of Allegheny County to pursue her nursing career. “I finished the COHS program in order to go to college. I am now completing my Certified Nursing Assistant (CNA) credential; I then plan to gain employment as a CNA in order to finance further education.”

Bajia plans to start her degree for physical therapy in the fall. She agreed that it was the first step to getting a job and earning additional credentials.

“It’s inspiring to see tangible proof of the program’s success, as embodied in these two graduates who are already matriculating into industry training credential and post-secondary programs,” Dr. Liebman continued.


Partnership Helps Bring Stabilization to Disadvantaged Communities

“COHS represents exactly the kind of opportunity we want to offer as part of both our YouthBuild program and our overall mission at Garfield Jubilee to develop programs and activities that benefit and stabilize the welfare of low-to-moderate income families,” stated Joann Monroe, Executive Director of Garfield Jubilee Association.

The YouthBuild graduates were recognized in front of cheering friends, families, and support staff from the various organizations that had come together to make this opportunity possible for them.

“Getting my high school diploma means a lot to me,” said Bajia, whose young son DJ got to watch his mother receive her diploma. “I accomplished what I thought I couldn’t. Now I can move forward with my life.”

Read more about the Pittsburgh partnership here.

Top: Bajia Pritchard with her son DJ.
Body: YouthBuild graduation event for graduates of COHS and other YouthBuild programs.


About Career Online High School
Career Online High School was developed in 2012 through a partnership by Cengage Learning and Smart Horizons Career Online Education, in an effort to provide affordable, career-based online education opportunities for the millions of adults in the United States without high school diplomas. Since its launch, Career Online High School has been recognized as part of a Commitment to Action by the Clinton Global Initiative and acknowledged at the White House College Opportunity Summit. Visit to learn more.

About Cengage Learning
Cengage Learning is a leading educational content, technology, and services company for the higher education and K-12, professional, library and workforce training markets worldwide. The company provides superior content, personalized services and course-driven digital solutions that accelerate student engagement and transform the learning experience. Cengage Learning is headquartered in Boston, MA with an office hub located in San Francisco, CA. Cengage Learning employees reside in nearly 40 different countries with company sales in more than 125 countries around the world.

About Smart Horizons Career Online Education
Smart Horizons Career Online Education (SHCOE), founded in 2009 and based in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, is a private, AdvancED/SACS/NCA/NWAC accredited online school district. District accreditation signifies that SHCOE and all of its schools are fully accredited and that SHCOE is recognized across the nation as a quality school system. SHCOE offers 18-credit, career-based high school diploma programs that are designed to prepare students for entrance into the workplace. Career certificate offerings include Child Care, Office Management, Protection Services, Homeland Security, Commercial Driving, Retail Customer Service, Food and Hospitality, and General Career Preparation. For more information, visit