The Rennie Center has published a case study about Massachusetts’ efforts to reconnect out-of-school youth. Called Forgotten Youth: Re-Engaging Students Through Dropout Recovery, the case study focuses on the Boston Re-engagement Center, which co-director Greg Emmel and I visited almost a year ago as part of our involvement with the National League of Cities Dropout Re-engagement Network. This network brings together staff from re-engagement centers across the U.S. to share experience and best practices.
The case study runs through the importance of a high school education for the individual and society as a whole and includes common reasons for dropping out that are both academic and non-academic, from chronic absenteeism to life events such as health issues, pregnancy and parenting, and the need to earn money.
The report points out that students who are re-engaging may have different needs from those who have stayed in school. They may have had a negative experience with school in the past, may need more flexible options, and may require additional supports to address their non-academic needs.
Based on our experience, the Rennie Center case study reflects many similarities we see with our students here at the D2 Center, and their recommendations align with our program goals as well:
— Maintain a focus on students’ future after high school. Our Careers & Community Engagement Program allows for career exploration and hands-on career learning in the community and highlights the relationship and relevance between education and future success.
— Allow individualized and flexible academic programs. We offer elective credit classes on a flexible schedule here at the D2 Center and partner with school districts to help enroll returning students in flexible alternative programs.
— Take a needs-based and supportive approach. Our YAN program includes one-on-one intensive support for students to address issues as they arise and ensure the student stays on the path towards their high school diploma.
— Integrate or link to community organizations. In our case, we are a community organization, and we partner closely with other agencies, including Boys & Girls Clubs of the Midlands, Eastern Nebraska Community Action Partnership (ENCAP), Building Bright Futures Early Childhood Services Teen & Young Parent Program (which includes agency partnerships with the VNA, Child Saving Institute, Nebraska Children’s Home Society, and Lutheran Family Services), and school districts in Douglas and Sarpy counties.
That said, there is a lot of work to do to expand efforts here in Omaha and nationwide to address the issue of out-of-school youth, whether that’s increasing alternative program capacity, expanding multiple pathways to graduation, supporting the unique needs of students who are re-engaging, and systematic changes such as emphasizing the priority of dropout recovery. The case study includes recommendations for re-engagement centers, for school district leaders, for community partners, and for state policymakers. Please take a look (p. 10 in the PDF) and see what you can do to help improve opportunities for students who are ready to take charge of their future and complete their high school education.
Read the case study to learn more about the Boston Re-engagement Center as well as specifics about their intake process and options for students. And don’t forget to check out the interactive map of programs nationwide, including the D2 Center!
Thanks for reading!