RYA grants target students who are doing well in school, unlike the Steps of Success program, which targets "at-risk" youth.
According to the U.S. Department of Labor, the RYA grant was developed "because of a concern on the part of some policy-makers that youth programs sometimes set up extreme incentives in that a youth has to get into trouble in order to qualify for assistance."
"For so long we have not rewarded kids who have done well in school," said IVROP Superintendent Mary Camacho, who wrote the STAR grant. "There seems to be no little carrot for them."
Applications for grants are exclusive to the 36 youth opportunity grantees and the three out-of-school youth grantees. Grantees are competing for 20 to 25 grants.
The grant would benefit 450 students ages 14-18 enrolled in grades eight-11 at North County high schools, said Camacho.
Additional criteria for participation include one of the following: the student must have a "B" average or higher, have at least a 90 percent school attendance rate, marked improvement in grades or attendance, or achievement in areas such as community service, sports and music.
Participation in the program would include mentorships, career assessment, summer employment opportunities, community involvement projects, visits to colleges and universities and leadership development.
A $1 million budget has been submitted with the application to fund staff, mentorships, field trips to colleges and employment subsidization for youth participants.
Camacho said should the grant be awarded to Imperial County, it could be renewed for up to three years.
Winners of the RYA grant competition will be announced in March.
Staff Writer Anthony Longoriga can be reached at 337-3452.