Obama give grants to three Prince George’s County high schools, 24 schools nationwide

Three Prince George’s County high schools were awarded $7 million in federal grants on Monday to bolster a career-oriented curriculum aimed at preparing students for the workforce.

The Youth CareerConnect grant competition doled out $107 million to 24 recipients across the country.

President Obama visited Bladensburg High School to announce awards to that school, Fairmont Heights High School in Capital Heights and Potomac High School in Oxon Hill. Bladensburg will use its portion of the money to expand its career academy program, which focuses on health and information technology.

The funding is intended to “create classes that focus on real-life applications for the fields of the future,” such as science, mathematics and technology, Obama said.

He cautioned students that they would not only be competing for jobs regionally, but around the world.

It was Obama’s second visit to a Prince George’s County school this year to showcase an educational initiative that aligns with his administration’s goals to redesign schools to produce labor-ready graduates.

Obama has stopped in Prince George’s five times since October, county officials said.

County Executive Rushern L. Baker III (D) said the grant awards, and the president’s frequent visits, are welcomed by the deeply Democratic county, which was hit hard by the economic downturn and has long struggled with low-performing schools.

“It says we are doing what we said at the very beginning, changing the perception of Prince George’s County around the region and around the nation,” Baker said. “It also means we are competing.”

Christian Rhodes, Baker’s education policy adviser, said the county has had career programs in place for students for more than a year. But the grant will provide an opportunity and reason for county businesses, nonprofit groups and local colleges to partner in new ways.

The money will help provide student support services and further engage employers in the area.

Bladensburg, Fairmont Heights and Potomac high schools all are located in communities targeted by Baker’s Transforming Neighborhoods Initiative, Rhodes said. The goal of the program is the improvement of the quality of life for residents. The neighborhoods are all located next to Metro stations and are a focus of Baker’s economic development goals.

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