DeSoto Parish was one of eight school systems recently announced by the Louisiana Department of Education that will receive $50,000 Fast Forward regional planning grants. The Fast Forward Initiative is designed to increase the number of high school graduates who earn an associate’s degree and participate in apprenticeship programs across the state.  

DeSoto, along with other districts in Northwest Louisiana, will join together with post-secondary schools, business partners and economic development organizations. Through this collaboration, students who are on TOPS University and TOPS Jump Start graduation pathways can earn associate degrees or participate in a state-recognized pre-apprenticeship/apprenticeship programs. “We are excited about the advantages this grant will provide for our students,” said Dale Morvan, Board President.

DeSoto has partnered with local electricians in implementing a pre-apprenticeship program that will be the model the team builds upon for our region. Students will complete the Electrical Training Alliance curriculum virtually, then go to work with local electricians to apply what they learned in the classroom to real life situations. Upon graduation, these students will be qualified to go test and interview with the local electricians union, IBEW 194, and, if hired, could start as a year 2 apprentice. 

Josh Dahlem, Coordinator of Student Services stated, “The Fast Forward Initiative will create opportunities for our students to leave high school with an associate’s degree or gain meaningful work experience in high wage, high demand industry sectors. We are excited for the opportunity this grant will provide.”

Fast Forward pathways will differ from traditional dual enrollment coursework in that students will be on track to earn a minimum of 60 college credit hours throughout their high school career. The team will work closely with post secondary institutes and schools to reimagine what the high school experience looks like and develop meaningful experiences for all students. Students who earn a transferable associate's degree will be able to enter any Louisiana college or university as a Junior. Our TOPS Jump Start students will not only earn an associate’s degree, but also industry-based credentials that will make them more marketable as they enter the workforce. 

“The Fast Forward pathways will provide a unique opportunity for our students,” said Superintendent Clay Corley. “These students will graduate high school on the fast track to success and even greater accomplishments.”