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SASCO, Boys and Girls Clubs partner to keep kids in school

SASCO Chemicals CFO Marc Skalla, left, and brother Rusty, the company's COO, recenty partnered with the Boys and Girls Clubs of Albany in a new effort to keep kids in school. The Diplomas 2 Degrees program is intended to help improve Dougherty County's 67% high school graduation rate. (July 28, 2013)

SASCO Chemicals CFO Marc Skalla, left, and brother Rusty, the company's COO, recenty partnered with the Boys and Girls Clubs of Albany in a new effort to keep kids in school. The Diplomas 2 Degrees program is intended to help improve Dougherty County's 67% high school graduation rate. (July 28, 2013)

ALBANY, Ga. -- Marc and Rusty Skalla are not educators, but they are shrewd businessmen who know how to recognize a problem when they see it.

Marc, the President and CFO of SASCO Chemicals, and his brother, Rusty, the company's COO, see a problem in Dougherty County, and that is the school system's abysmal 67 percent graduation rate.

The Skalla family knows education is critical in any community and that's why the company has partnered with the Boys and Girls Clubs of Albany to keep kids in school.

The company recently donated $30,000 in seed money for a pilot "Diplomas to Degrees" program at the Boys and Girls Clubs to support academic preparedness for teens -- especially those most in need. The program intends to provide access to tools and resources to help encourage students to remain in school and guide them along the path to graduate from high school on time.

"It's unrealistic to think that every kid is going to graduate from high school. It's also unrealistic to think every graduate will then go on to get a four-year degree," Marc Skalla said. "The world needs welders too, but you can't prepare for an academic degree or a well-paying trade if you aren't in school to begin with.

"Right now there are more than 600,000 STEM (Science, Engineering, Technology and Math) jobs in the U.S. going unfilled each year. This is the gap we need to close."

The Skalla family has been heavily involved in the Boys and Girls Clubs of Albany for three generations. Rusty Skalla serves on the organization's Boards.

The brothers see this project as a worthy investment.

"If we can keep 100 in school and they graduate, that's great," Rusty Skalla said. "If we get 50, that's OK. Even if we can get one or two through school and onto college or trade school, that's fine. We would have made a difference in someone's life.

"And that's what it's really all about."

Diplomas to Degrees (d2D) is a part of a larger Boys & Girls Clubs of America's movement geared to encourage Club members toward academic success, high school graduation, goal-setting and college readiness. It is designed to guide and prepare teen members for post-secondary education so they can gain the knowledge and skills needed to develop and maintain successful careers.

"We have to start now trying to reach those 13 and 15 year olds around the ninth grade," Marc Skalla said. "If we wait until they are in the 11th grade, odds are it will be too late."

Tuesday at 2 p.m. the Boys and Girls Clubs of Albany and SASCO will kick off the d2D program at the club's Albany-Jane Willson Unit at 1012 Holloway Avenue.