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Catalogue Blog

Second Chances

If you have not yet checked out the American Graduate series on WAMU 88.5, certainly do so. Education reporter Kavitha Cardoza examines the “causes and consequences” of the drop-out crisis in our region and the country.

This week, WAMU highlights several dropout recovery schools (specialized programs that provide a second chance to students who have not succeeded in traditional schools), including Catalogue nonprofit YouthBuild Public Charter School. Through YouthBuild, students ages 16-24 move among the classroom (focusing on reading, science, math), a construction site (building affordable housing units), and service learning opportunities (creating community gardens and cleaning up local rivers).

Here’s a glimpse into the life of a YouthBuild student:

Students in overalls and hard hats saw and sand boards for new trim at the construction site where they’re currently working. They attend a dropout recovery school in the District, and they use the construction skills they’ve learned at school to renovate low-income housing. One of the students, 22-year-old Omar Mobley, measures a plank of wood.

“You gotta know math if you wanna do construction. You gotta read a measuring tape,” he says. “It ain’t as easy as it looks … Basically you gotta know your division.”

Mobley dropped out of school a few years ago after his twin brother was shot and killed. His is just one of dozens of rough stories of students at YouthBuild Public Charter School in Northwest DC. [...] He felt his life was spiraling out of control. Going to school just made it worse; he couldn’t concentrate because classes were so chaotic, he says. He missed a lot of days, and eventually stopped going back.

Now at YouthBuild, Mobley has perfect attendance. He likes the small classes and feels the teachers there are different.

As Executive Director Arthur Dade explains, “We ask them when did they drop out of school, but it’s really when did they check out of school.” So the challenge is re-engagement as much as re-enrollment.