Moving America Forward

This City Gives Dropouts a Realistic Way to Earn Their Diplomas

August 26, 2014
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This City Gives Dropouts a Realistic Way to Earn Their Diplomas
More than eight thousand high school students drop out each day. Johannes Simon/Getty Images
Engage Santa Fe is a unique educational program that enables those with families or full-time jobs to work towards their high school degrees.

Over three million students drop out of high school each year, according to Statistic Brain. And although there have been many successful efforts to prevent future dropouts, such as Chicago’s After School Matters, few programs exist that give opportunities to students who have already quit school.

So that’s where Engage Santa Fe comes in. The idea behind it is to entice students to resume course work by enrolling in a program that’s more attractive to them and realistic for their lifestyle.

“[Dropouts] work 8 to 5. They have families. Who’s going to take care of the baby? Some of them are taking care of their brothers and sisters,” explains local resident Korina Nevarez to the Santa Fe New Mexican.

Given these challenges, creating just the right program has taken creativity, and getting it approved has taken a lot of perseverance. Luckily, Santa Fe’s educators never gave up, despite working on it for a while.

First approved by the school board this spring, Engage Santa Fe was originally going to be funded by the state and run by a private educational company from Florida — though after criticism from Santa Fe teachers, that company withdrew its bid to run the program. That didn’t stop it from moving forward, though; with a combination of funding from the Department of Labor, the school district, and the Santa Fe Community Foundation, the program is currently kicking off enrollment.

To help bring dropouts into the program, the school district has enlisted none better than the dropout’s own peers to canvass neighborhoods. Valerie Alvarado, 18, a recent graduate of Santa Fe High School, and Udell Calzadillas, 19, a student at University of New Mexico, are both peer recruiters. Their goal is to get at least 75 16- to 21-year-old dropouts to resume their education through Engage Santa Fe.

“I want to graduate,” one candidate for the program told them, according to the Santa Fe New Mexican.

Hopefully, with the continued work of volunteers in Santa Fe, completing their education can be a reality not only the dropouts in the southwest city, but the millions of dropouts across America.

MORE: A Simple Solution For America’s Achievement Gap

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