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AMERICAN GRADUATE: Overage Students Find Help At Weldon Academy

Cyd Hoskinson

89.9 WJCT is participating in the American Graduate project supported by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting.  The goal of American Graduate is to reverse the national drop out crisis by identifying and then addressing the factors that cause students to leave school early.

"I’m Vivica Brown.  I’m the principal over our youth development programs as well as Weldon Academy which is at the old James Weldon Johnson Building.

For our middle school program, we currently have ninety-five and when we first looked at opening our doors, there were seventeen-hundred overage middle school students alone. 

And the options for middle school are just very sparse.

You know, if you’re in high school you can look at industry certification, you can look at GED.  But when you’re a sixteen-year old, seventeen-year old with no high school credits, there was just nowhere to go.  Their backs were against the wall.  So we were very pleased to be able to open up seats and aid students that might not otherwise have a different pathway.

So I find that students are behind for a number of reasons.  It may be the family’s moved around a lot.  One parent has lost their job.  They’re staying with a grandparent.  They’re staying with an aunt.  So they’re bouncing in and out of schools.

Others, parent may be going to jail; parent may have a substance abuse problem.  They’re staying with a friend or staying with a cousin or maybe the oversight isn’t there to see if they actually are attending school.  Or maybe it’s a bit much to attend school when your job may be making sure you eat every day.

So trying to go beyond to see what are those symptoms, to aid that as best we can.

We have the breakfast-in-the-classroom, free-lunch programs.  If it’s sleeping, sometimes we have to make accommodation of—you get a two-minute time out, you can put your head down but we need you to come back and engage.

So it’s meeting the child half-way, not furthering the obstacles.”