OUR VIEW: Superintendent won't give up on dropouts (poll)

ed Updated: February 5, 2013 at 12:00 am • Published: February 5, 2013

Finishing high school can seem like an insurmountable goal for children in challenging circumstances. Some are ridiculed in the hallways and distracted by jobs they work to help support their families. Often, dropouts have grown up in conditions that simply aren’t conducive to success for a variety of reasons.

Educators in Harrison School District 2 want those who have recently given up on school to know that someone cares.

This month, district officials plan to go door to door trying to persuade dropouts to return to school. Titled “Come Back to HSD2,” the recruitment walk will offer up to 100 former students a chance to catch up on credits toward graduation. It will also offer dropouts the opportunity to help build houses from the ground up to put them on track for possible jobs in the construction industry.

The Harrison district received a $250,000 grant for the Come Back program, which will collaborate with the Youth Transformation Center, E-Cademy Learning Center and the Career Building Academy.

“If no one reaches out to them, they will fall further through the cracks,” said Andre Spencer, D-2’s new superintendent, as quoted in a story by Gazette reporter Carol McGraw.

A district with nearly 11,000 students, Harrison has a graduation rate below 75 percent. That means more than one quarter of children in the district have a statistically high probability of living in poverty, going to jail and becoming financial liabilities to society — for decades into the future.

While high dropout rates harm society, the dropouts themselves typically suffer the most from a poor decision made in youth.

We ask readers to put themselves in the shoes of a teenager who has given up on school. Imagine this young person lacks the benefit of two loving, caring parents who ask about homework and offer guidance. Visualize a life of despair without much hope for work that pays the bills.

Now imagine a teacher, a school board member, a principal or even the superintendent showing up at the door one day. This person cares, offers hope, and suggests a detailed plan for getting back on track. It’s the offer of a future that looks considerably brighter than one of poverty.

Dropouts of Harrison school district are fortunate to live at a time of educational enlightenment, when people such as Spencer break the bureaucratic mold and put individuals first.

No child of any ethnic or socioeconomic background, or from any familial circumstance, deserves to fail without a second chance. We cannot afford to write off any child. It is the community, after all, that either pays for a young person’s future life of dependence or benefits from a life lived constructively for the benefit of others.

Thank you, Harrison school district, for taking the advice of Superintendent Spencer. We ask that other districts, rich and poor, consider setting aside time and money to go after dropouts.

Reach out to them, one at a time, to present the prospect of a second chance.

Doing so will create success stories that may benefit us all. At the very least, a “Come Back” program leaves people in desperate circumstances with a priceless knowledge that someone cares.

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