Last week, co-director Greg Emmel and I flew to Boston for a site visit of their re-engagement center. The Boston Re-Engagement Center, or REC as it’s known, is a joint initiative of Boston Public Schools and the Boston Private Industry Council (PIC), and is housed on the campus of Madison Park Technical Vocational High School.
This public-private partnership is one difference between the REC and the D2 Center here in Omaha (we’re a private organization). Another is that they opened in fall 2009, so they’ve had the opportunity to see more students than we have since opening this past fall. There were still plenty of similarities between the Boston and Omaha re-engagement centers, however. Like the D2 Center, the Boston REC is staffed by a caring group of people who wants to see their students succeed – in fact, their motto is “We care too much to let you go.” In Boston, students report reasons for dropping out of school similar to what we see here in Omaha: missing too many days and falling too far behind, needing to find a job to support family, and teen parenting are a few examples. Likewise, the team in Boston is finding that more options are needed for overage / under-credited students – something we’re working on here in Omaha, starting with last month’s Multiple Pathways to Graduation Summit.
Our trip was facilitated by Andrew Moore from the National League of Cities’ Institute for Youth, Education and Families. We joined staff from re-engagement centers in Portland, Newark, Philadelphia, Denver, Dubuque, Dayton, and Washington DC. Different phases of re-engagement centers were represented, from those not yet begun to those in existence for several years. This “Learning Exchange” gave Greg and me the chance to learn from our colleagues in other cities and share stories and ideas. Now that we’re all back home, we’ll be able to continue this exchange of ideas and best practices virtually via email and conference call. I left with the positive feeling that while there’s work to be done (as there probably always will be), we’re on the right track here at the D2 Center, and we’re fortunate to be part of a nationwide network of cities working toward the same goal: re-engaging students in a pathway to a high school diploma.
One of the most inspiring things I saw at the REC were photos of their smiling graduates on the walls. I can’t wait until we have photos of D2 Center graduates up on the walls of the D2 Center!