Wesley-Rankin Meeting A Need Through Innovation In West Dallas

Wesley-Ranking The Pitch

Tune in and vote to support Wesley-Rankin as they compete for United Way funding

When Wesley-Rankin Executive Director Shellie Ross takes the stage on April 6, she and her team will depend on United Methodist supporters to watch online and vote for them as they compete to win a $25,000 audience award from United Way. The Wesley-Rankin Aspiring Professionals (WRAP) program is one of five finalists for the United Way Social Innovation Accelerator award, with potential grants totaling $250,000.

WRAP is an educational training and work readiness program designed to train West Dallas high school students in skills needed for the professional world.

“We started WRAP three years ago because we realized we couldn’t let another graduating class go by without ensuring they could find a job,” Ross said.

The team at Wesley-Rankin noticed a trend of students dropping out of their programs as they entered high school due to the need to find after-school jobs. Wesley-Rankin recognized the challenges of underemployment and lack of opportunity in their West Dallas neighborhood, so they designed a workforce readiness and pre-apprenticeship program that would pay students as they participated.

The four components of WRAP are:

  • Technical skills in two possible tracks: auto repair and business technology
  • Mentoring from a professional in the corporate world who coaches students on soft skills like time management, organization and initiative
  • Compensation of $40 per week, used to teach financial literacy through a partnership with Texas Capital Bank
  • Parent education to ensure generational learning that can positively impact the culture

“Workforce programs aren’t new,” Ross said, “but we’re the only ones with these four specific components, and we’re an organization that has relationships with kids before they enter the program. Many of these students we’ve known since kindergarten.”

The program’s success stories keep Ross and her team motivated. One student shared with her friends some of the lessons she’s learning in WRAP and was surprised to realize that her classmates are not getting the same kind of training even in their top-tier college readiness program at their high school. Only 7% of their community has a college degree, so putting efforts towards employment training makes sense for Wesley-Rankin.

With the funds from United Way, Wesley-Rankin hopes to expand the program from 17 to 60 students over the next five years, hire additional staff and increase the wages for their pre-apprentices.

“This program is incredibly individualized. That’s the only way it works,” Ross said. “Our whole model is built on collaboration. This is the first program we’ve built that we knew nothing about before starting it."

Dallas College is teaching auto repair, while BT Foundry is helping with business technology training. Junior Achievement is teaching financial literacy, and WRAP has also partnered with Fidelity Investment.

Once the ninth- and 10th-grade students have completed a weekly prerequisite to demonstrate commitment, they are eligible to apply for the income-earning portion of WRAP. Pre-apprentices then commit to four hours a week as they move through the work readiness training.

United Way of Metropolitan Dallas is in its fifth year of the Social Innovation Accelerator program which culminates with The Pitch. Five social entrepreneurs will pitch their bold solutions to strengthen education, income and health in North Texas at 6 p.m. on April 6.

Sign up to watch online and vote for Wesley-Rankin

Published: Wednesday, March 23, 2022