Youths between the ages of 18 and 21 who were involved in the juvenile justice system at the age of 14 or older are eligible. They must live in Kanawha County or be returning to the area when they complete an out-of-home placement in the juvenile justice system.
People who have been convicted as an adult under federal or state law are not qualified.
Ahart said she and the program's staff are accepting applications now for participants and mentors.
The group hopes to have students attending classes and training while getting advice from mentors by January, she said.
Mentors can be business professionals, educators, people who are retired or anyone who is a good role model and willing to volunteer his or her time, Ahart said.
"We will be doing case management but the mentors create that solid connection with the student," Ahart said. "We want to match [mentor and student] personalities. Our goal would be for each individual to have a mentor."
Ahart said the program's goal is to enroll at least 100 students with as many mentors.
The 26-month-long program will train and educate half of the accepted students for the first six months. Once those students get a job, program staff will follow up on their success for the next three months. Then the other half of enrollees will go through the EPIC program.
"With the lack of education and work experience of these young adults, we don't want to give them a handout but a hand up to be productive citizens," said Loyd Casto, employment and job developer for the program. "We're trying to get them, instead of being a dropout and being in gangs, to get them some positive reinforcement and opportunities in continuing their education and employment."
Students will train in workshops at the program's office at 115 Spring St., which is still under construction. They will be able to learn electrical and plumbing work in the same building where they are attending classes, Ahart said.
"It's important to have that daily contact with them," Ahart said. "It's going to be structured but also individualized."
To learn more about the EPIC program or to get an application as a participant or mentor, call the Human Resource Development Foundation at 304-342-2078 or email Ahart at sah...@hrdfwv.org.
Reach Megan Workman at megan.work...@wvgazette.com or 304-348-5113.