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Marion Learning Lab Profile

Marion, OH (February 22, 2022) – GOAL Digital Academy expanded its reach to Marion County in 2005, and since then has seen massive growth. In 2006, GOAL partnered with Jobs for Ohio's Graduates (JOG) to offer services jointly. Jobs for Ohio Graduates is part of the National Jobs for America’s Graduates Program, a state-based national non-profit organization dedicated to supporting young people of great promise who face significant challenges, to help them reach economic and academic success.

The Jobs for Ohio Graduates Program in Marion County was supported through a Workforce Investment youth grant from Ohio Job and Family Services (JFS) for approximately a decade. Marion County JFS Director Roxane Somerlot provided leadership and funding for the JOG program in Marion County and helped secure a location with reduced rent for JOG at the former Marion Youth Recreation Center. The JOG program partnered with GOAL to provide space for students to continue to work, and GOAL students in Marion County could receive tutoring onsite through the JOG program. The first Marion GOAL lab consisted of three computers in the JOG office where teacher Keith Willis tutored the students, did credit recovery, and offered JOG/WIA services, originally located on the second floor of the center at 240 W. Church St. GOAL advisor Jennifer Woodrum served as the educational advocate and liaison between JOG and GOAL.

This continued until 2010, when Tish Jenkins, the former Executive Director for JOG, was hired as the principal of GOAL. She negotiated with the GOAL Digital Academy Board of Directors to roll the JOG program into GOAL Digital Academy because both entities focused on working with youth and reducing barriers to success. GOAL Digital Academy hired all of the JOG staff and started offering JOG grades 9 through 12 as part of the online curriculum options. When the Marion Youth Recreation Center closed its doors, the GOAL/JOG programs were forced to relocate. It was through the help of Lois Fisher of Lois J. Fisher and Associates that a new home was found at 194 W. Center St. in Marion.

During the summer of 2018, JOG numbers were decreasing after the retirement of Karlotta Collins, the manager of JOG, while simultaneously enrollment with GOAL increased greatly due to the closing of Marion City Digital Academy. GOAL had been educating about 15-20 students per year at the Marion lab, but within a 6 week period at the beginning of the 2018 school year, GOAL's numbers increased to about 60 students. During this period, GOAL also added its own JAG/JOG program internally and began offering it as a class using the JAG Alternative Education model instead of just a credit recovery opportunity.

These moves and growth in student population meant a need for more space, so an expansion and remodel was done at the 196 W. Center unit. in 2019. However, when the COVID-19 pandemic struck, schools were forced to go remote, and numbers again increased at the Marion lab, filling the new space. In late 2021, GOAL found the need to expand again. Finally, in January, 2022, GOAL’s Marion Learning Lab moved to its newest location at 333 E. Center St. The new facility has the capability to grow with GOAL as students and families receive face-to-face adult support to help them learn, set goals and prepare for their futures. GOAL Digital Academy is currently serving 120 Marion County youth and has welcomed Marion County speakers such as Mayor Scott Shertzer and 40th Treasurer of the United States Mary Ellen Withrow.

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