By Marie LeBlanc, Catalogue Community Partnerships Coordinator
Today’s political and economic conversations tend to revolve around one problem and its many side-effects: the struggling economy, and thus high unemployment rates and student loan debt, especially among youth and recent graduates. However, for one segment of the population, even the burden of student debt is out of reach because they don’t have the opportunity to go to college. Today, drop-out rates in the US are startling. According to American Graduate, 1.3 million students drop out of high school each year. DC’s high school graduation rate is 76%, with significantly different rates depending on race. Students who don’t complete high school are ineligible for some low-skill jobs, never mind the high number of professions today that require at least a Bachelor’s degree.
The American Graduate Initiative tackles this issue head on, with the support of the Corporation for Public Broadcasting. WAMU published a series of articles addressing the dropout crisis in the area. Reporter Kavitha Cardoza explores the “causes and consequences of the dropout problem” in DC, and also look at innovative support for at-risk students provided by a variety of community organizations.
Catalogue nonprofit YouthBuild Public Charter School features prominently in one part of the series: YouthBuild PCS offers 16-24 year-olds who have dropped out, aged out, or been expelled from traditional high schools a unique second chance at getting an education. Their school day is divided between working construction and earning a GED, and students are paid for both “jobs.” This unconventional method caters to students who need extra incentives to stay in school, but the school still faces challenges in keeping retention rates high. Nevertheless, the programs offered at YouthBuild provide a last chance for many students for whom the traditional education system has failed.
Another Catalogue nonprofit, City Year, was profiled for its work in providing intensive support to at-risk students, with the goal of increasing their likelihood of graduating. City Year’s team works as mentors, role models and tutors for students who need individual attention to remain engaged and involved in the learning process:
Gaekle, the City Year volunteer, follows approximately 20 students from class to class every day. “We do homework check, attendance check,” she says. There are the phone calls home, tutoring, and lunch clubs. And then they start on after-school programs. These City Year volunteers work ten hours a day with students. It can be emotionally exhausting work.
Several other Catalogue nonprofits are featured throughout WAMU’s Community Minute Series. Check out sound bites from College and Career Connections and Jan’s Tutoring House to learn about their innovative methods for reaching students and providing the opportunity to not only graduate, but realize their dreams for the future.