Communities in Schools helps prevent high school drop-outs

99% of at-risk seniors in Jacksonville graduated through Communities in Schools Program

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. - 'Changing the picture of education in Jacksonville' is the name of this year's Communities in Schools annual fall report.

It illustrates the nonprofit drop-out prevention organizations success in Duval County, working with nearly 7,000 students.

About 33 percent of all students in the district do not graduate on time. Ninety-nine percent of the at-risk seniors involved with Communities in Schools of Jacksonville last year, graduated last year. It's because of dedicated site coordinators like Ingrid Thomas who works with students at A. Phillip Randolph High School.

"She helped me improve my attitude like it was terrible and she helped me you know get ready for the real world. She helped you get jobs, she helps you do anything you need if you just need anyone to talk to," said Angelia Powell, a Communities in Schools student.

Senior Angelia Powell is talking about Ingrid Thomas, the woman she credits for turning her entire life around.

"When my kids graduate from High School in the face of their adversity when people said that they couldn't or they shouldn't or wouldn't and when they do, that is a huge accomplishment," said Ingrid Thomas, site coordinator.

Thomas works with at-risk teens at A. Phillip Randolph High School. Graduation is the big picture goal, but there's a lot to get through with her students before that's a possibility.

"Many of the students that we work with on a daily basis come to school with all kinds of challenges in their lives. Some of them are hungry, some may be homeless, some of them may have experienced violence in their homes or in their communities," said CEO for Communities in Schools Leon Baxton.

Evidence these programs are working is outlined in a newly released report showing that 99-percent of seniors receiving targeted and sustained services graduated last year. Ninety-two percent of the students in grades K-11 who received services, were promoted to the next grade.

Thomas is working with 70 students this year, who's seniors are well on their way to graduating. Some of the students say if it wasn't for Thomas, they're not sure they'd even still be in school.

Thomas was homeless for several years as a child, so she says she knows a lot about the adversity many of her students are dealing with. In her room she has mug shots and articles printed out and hanging of young men and women in Jacksonville who have made bad choices and are in jail, in hopes of getting through to her students.

Communities in Schools is in 39 schools in Duval County this year, but community members hope it would soon be available in every school. The problem is always resources, everything is made possible by some huge partners like the Jacksonville Children's Commission, United Way and the school district.

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