When the school year starts in August, five DeKalb County high schools will receive extra help to reach students at risk of dropping out.
With the help of Jobs for America’s Graduates (JAG) and AT&T, the district will help 200 to 225 students at Clarkston, Lithonia, Ronald E. McNair, Towers and Cross Keys high schools through Georgia’s version of the national program, Jobs for Georgia’s Graduates ( JGG).
Jobs for Georgia’s Graduates is an affiliate of the Jobs for America’s Graduates. The Alexandria, Va.-based nonprofit network serves 45,000 students in 31 states. The national program recently received a $1 million grant from AT&T to expand nationally.
The DeKalb County Public School system has received $30,000 to expand classes and add counselors to work with at-risk students.
Beth Shiroishi, president of AT&T Georgia, says the groups are working together to enhance academic support for students at risk of dropping out of high school.
“JGG programs help underserved students overcome barriers to graduation through mentoring, tutoring, academic support and links to social services among other interventions,” said Shiroishi, who is also the former president of the AT&T foundation. “Our studies show that national graduation numbers are getting better, but we also know there is more work to be done. Bringing programs like JAG that are making a measurable impact on the students that need it most is one of the key ways we can stay on track to meet our graduation goal.”
The School District is hoping the partnership among schools, business and the Georgia Department of Labor, which provides mentoring, tutoring and academic help, will keep at-risk students in class until they graduate.
This year, 24 percent (1,456) of the county’s 4,498 students did not receive their diplomas. Only two of DeKalb’s 25 high schools – DeKalb Early College Academy with 37 seniors and DeKalb School of the Arts with 67 seniors – graduated their entire senior class. DeKalb County schools serve nearly 100,000 students.
Superintendent Michael Thurmond says he is looking forward to implementing JAG to help combat the dropout rate.
“I’ve seen the impact of Jobs for Georgia’s Graduates in other states and other Georgia counties, serving disadvantaged students to help them finish high school and move on to postsecondary education and a career,” said Thurmond.
Thomas Easton, a 2010 graduate of the JGG program at Newnan High School, in Coweta County, said JGG gives you that extra push for success.
“JGG counselors are there to give you all the tools to keep you on track. They will help you with anything, not just grades and getting better test scores, but issues at school, social problems. They help you out with it al,l” said Easton. “I look forward to graduating from the University of Georgia’s business school next year and JGG gave me some critical advice and skills that put me where I am today.”
The Jobs for Georgia’s Graduates program also provides training to help students develop “soft skills,” which school officials say will make them more employable. Those skills include dressing appropriately, interviewing well, embracing teamwork and communicating well. Program counselors offer follow-up consultations with the students for 12 months after they graduate.
Georgia Commissioner of Labor Mark Butler says those soft skills are critical in the workplace and JGG is a wonderful program for teaching these and many other skills.
“JGG is a program that has helped remove barriers for students and increased graduation rates across Georgia. I’m excited about our continued partnership providing students the tools they need for future success,” said Butler. “In 2012, JAG’s network of affiliates reported a 93 percent high school graduation rate, compared to the national graduation rate of 78.2 percent. JAG has had a 95 percent graduation rate over the last six years.”
Currently, the JAG model is offered in nearly 1,000 public high schools, community colleges, and alternative learning centers in 31 states.
The Jobs for Georgia’s Graduates program currently operates in 22 schools in the state. Last year, the program boasted a 96 percent graduation rate and had 87 percent successful outcomes, meaning students went on to post-secondary education, employment, or some combination of the two.