ISUS operates career-focused charter schools for youth, ages 16-22, in Dayton, Ohio. The student population had been characterized as “over-aged, under-achieving, non-attending, court-involved, disciplinary problem, dropout” youth. Several years ago, the students decided to call themselves “transcenders,” people who rise against all odds. The student population is about 60 percent African American; 40 percent Caucasian and 70 percent male. Three-quarters are considered low income, and 80 percent are court-involved. Of the student population 24 percent have disabilities. The types of disabilities include autism, cognitive, emotional disturbance, other health impairments, specific learning disability, and speech or language impairment.
ISUS schools integrate industry-certified skills training with academics, youth development, and community service. Academic and skills training is organized around three career tracks–construction, manufacturing/computer technology, and health care. An aggressive outreach and recruitment process attracts students and referrals through a number of community organizations and agencies, including other public schools, juvenile court, youth centers, and the local homeless shelter. ISUS provides an in-depth orientation for prospective students and their parents or guardians. The staff presents information relating to each career-training track and expectations and an overview of the challenges and opportunities afforded to students.
ISUS students alternate between academic and technical instruction and hands-on work experience. Students get hands-on practice and serve their community in areas related to their careers. For example, health care students volunteer at local hospitals, computer students refurbish computers that are donated to needy youth, construction and manufacturing students build homes for low-income families.