The other day I ran into a young person who’s a terrific example of how dual-credit courses in high school can give a leg up on school, career and life.

When she graduated from Blue Springs High School a year ago, Lauren Phariss already had about a semester’s worth of college credit. Lauren, 19, is set to graduate this fall with an associate’s degree from Metropolitan Community Colleges-Blue River. Then she plans to move on to a four-year school and study film, with a minor in marketing.

She’s a self-taught photographer, and already has her own business, LP Photography.

“I was that friend all through high school who always had a camera,” she said.

Her photography work is mostly for graduating seniors, weddings and families, as well as fashion.

“My mission is to bring out the love and beauty in people,” she said.

She also got a taste of business in high school by being the president of DECA, and she said the dual-credit courses helped, too.

“I definitely encourage kids to use that …” she said.

Quick hits

The Bloomberg news service reports that the owner of the Joe’s Crab Shack chain, Ignite Restaurant Group Inc., is preparing to file for bankruptcy court protection. The company has more than 100 Joe’s Crab Shack locations, including one at 20001 E. Jackson Drive in Independence. … The state of Missouri says sales tax revenues, a rough measure of retail activity, are up 1.9 percent through the first 10 months of the current fiscal year. Income taxes, which account for about three times as much revenue as sales taxes, are up 2.7 percent. Overall, general revenues are up 3.1 percent.

Better jobs

Few stories I’ve written in recent years have gotten quite the community response as the ones in 2016 about a Community Services League program to train certified nursing aides, helping people move from low-paid jobs with limited benefits to higher-paying jobs with good benefits.

CNAs do direct patient-contact work such as bathing and helping patients with walking. It can be a first job in the field and a step toward higher certifications and better pay.

The Community Services League and other groups put together a program last spring, giving 15 Independence women 10 weeks of financial help and other support while they hit the books. The women all passed and had jobs waiting for them. Several talked about how this – better pay, health insurance, a surer career ladder – would profoundly benefit their children.

One mother of two young children told me, “Health insurance is big thing. We’ve never been able to afford health insurance.” She was leaving a $9-an-hour job for one that, counting benefits, was worth about $16 an hour.

Doug Cowan, president and CEO of the Community Services League, said the CNA program puts “a lifetime of opportunity in front of them.”

Those involved have said the program could not only be repeated – the demand for CNAs is high – but expanded.

Now that’s in the works. The proposed 2018 budget for the city of Independence, released this week, includes $96,000 to help the Community Services League do three programs. That would be another 15 CNAs, as well as 15 people each in light industrial work and in call-center work.

It’s easy to see why this story resonates in the community. It’s about giving people a clear path and a solid opportunity, with both immediate and long-term benefits to families and the community. The idea seems simple, but it could be transformative.

Jeff Fox is The Examiner’s business editor and reporter. Reach him at 816-350-6313 or He posts business items and other things on Twitter @FoxEJC.