Wednesday, June 20, 2012 at 4:13 PM
Increasing the graduation rate is an ongoing challenge for many urban schools. But one program at Cleveland’s Collinwood High School has found that giving at-risk girls intensive counseling can help them earn a diploma. The program held its first graduation ceremony on Wednesday. The girls tell Ideastream’s Michelle Kanu the program made a big difference in their success.
Blaine: “I’m Imane Blaine from Collinwood High School. Just recently graduated, just recently got accepted to Cleveland State University, so I ‘m feeling good right now.”
Imane Blaine is one of 71 students who participated in Project Love, a leadership development program aimed helping at-risk girls earn a high school diploma. Like most of the girls, Blaine was tapped to participate as a ninth grader because of her bad attitude toward teachers and students. Looking back, Blaine says the program gave her a support system of caring mentors and peers dealing with similar challenges.
Blaine: “It’s amazing, that’s what got me through high school because, it was so strong. That support system was so strong, it really didn’t matter what was going on around me no more. Because I had that support system backing me up.”
Project Love is a non-profit based in Lyndhurst. Four years ago, Collinwood’s principal pulled the program in as an experiment of sorts to compliment some of the intensive services the Cleveland Schools already offered for boys. This week, the program saw its first class walk across the stage with an 80 percent graduation rate, well above Collinwood’s overall graduation rate of 52 percent.
Julie Wynne Martin facilitates Project Love at Collinwood. She says one thing that makes it successful is teaching the girls how to set their own goals.
Martin: “They mentor other students and tutor other students who are having difficulty doing the same thing, so that keeps them focused toward a goal and the goal was graduation.”
Martin says the program also works because it offers intensive counseling and character building exercises, and teaches girls how to be kind to others.
That was one of the biggest problems for eighteen year old Simone Webb. She says she was prone to fights, frequently suspended, and had a problem with authority figures. But after two years in Project Love, her outlook started to change.
Webb: “It started by helping me take down some of my mental barriers. I had to treat people better, not everybody was out there to get me. There are people out there that actually care about you. You just have to take a step out and talk to them.”
Lisa Mays says the program helped her make amends with her father after enduring years of physical and verbal abuse from him as a child.
Mays: “I actually learned to forgive. To me, forgiveness is a kind thing to do and if you don’t forgive others then it’ll haunt you for the rest of your life, so I started forgiving everybody.”
Program facilitator Julie Martin admits working with this group hasn’t always been easy; she lost track of seven students who left the district and is still trying to help a handful of others pass Ohio’s graduation test. But Martin says all those who have already graduated plan to pursue some amount of postsecondary education.
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