For Christine Wilkins, now 16, freshman year of high school was an ordeal. The same students who bullied her in middle school were at her new high school. Just approaching the school entry filled her with angst. One day, instead of going in, she turned around and went home.
“The idea of walking through those gates gave me so much anxiety,” she says.
Christine hated school. Unable to focus or dedicate herself to her schoolwork, she made C's, D's and F's.
Eventually, Christine stopped going to school and dropped out.
Tackling the dropout issue
There are many reasons students drop out of high school. Poverty, pregnancy, homelessness, bullying or just losing interest are some of the many issues that cause students to skip a day of class, a week and eventually drop out altogether.
According to the U.S. Department of Education, missing just three weeks of school is enough to threaten a student’s chance to graduate.
What can be done to help these students?
As each person is a complex individual, there is no single solution that can reach the multitude of different students.
This is why Learn4Life, a nonprofit dropout recovery program, takes a dynamic approach to reengage students.
The average student who enrolls in Learn4Life has been out of school for 11.4 weeks. Through different methods, such as personalized learning, mentoring and job skills training, the program has been highly successful in reengaging dropouts and keeping them in school.
These are the five effective ways they reach out to these students.
1. Dealing with issues outside of the classroom. Whether it's counseling to help students come to terms with issues they’re facing or a mentoring program that builds confidence, helping students deal with non-academic issues is a way to give them the stability they need to succeed.
2. Meeting students where they are. Not every student is at the same emotional, academic or mental level as their peers. Through one-on-one attention, personalized learning and academic planning, students can get help where they most need it. This personalized approach is designed to find a solution that’s best for the individual.
3. Removing obstacles to learning. Sometimes it’s something as simple as not having proper transportation or childcare that prevents a student from returning to complete their education. Giving students flexible schedules, help with transportation and access to teachers or mentors at different hours of the day can make a big difference in their ability to learn.
4. Making them feel safe. It’s an unfortunate fact that schools are not always the safe environment they ought to be. Creating a respectful and safe place to learn is essential for removing social anxieties and fears that can hinder learning.
5. Helping them see a future. Through job skills training programs, students can prepare for a future beyond a diploma. As a Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA) partner, Learn4Life offers courses in work-readiness skills, career exploration, writing cover letters and resumes, completing applications and interviewing.
The effectiveness of Learn4Life’s approach can be seen in the fact that when students enroll, only 15 percent of them come to school regularly, but as the year goes on, that number jumps to 86 percent.
Concluding Christine's story
After six months out of school, counselors at Christine’s old high school pointed her to a Learn4Life program at Desert Sands Charter School.
She enrolled and by participating in an internship with Pacific Gateway, part of the YouthBuild WIOA program at Desert Sands, Christine gained experience in customer service and Microsoft applications.
Currently, Christine attends school and is getting all A's and B's in her school work, and has a full-time internship. At the end of the internship, she will receive certificates in customer service and Microsoft Office.
“I’m dedicated because I’m getting knowledge and experience for a life outside of school,” Christine says.