Last week, the Alberta government announced school completion rates are on the rise province-wide. It’s great news – and now we have an opportunity to build on this success.
In Calgary, we’re ahead of the curve. School completion rates here are slightly higher than the province as a whole. As well, companies, school boards, governments and social agencies are all collaborating on a citywide initiative called All In for Youth to help kids graduate on time.
On the ground, students are receiving tutoring through YMCA and Renert Centre, mentorship through Big Brothers Big Sisters and success coaches through Boys and Girls Clubs so they can successfully complete school. Nine Calgary schools and multiple community organizations are running All In for Youth programs and what we’re learning here can guide practice in the rest of the province:
Based on our findings, here are five ways to help kids graduate:
- Ask students who have dropped out to come back. (They often will.) All In for Youth recruited callers to phone students who have left school and invite them back. Of 128 students called in 2013, 106 returned to school or were interested in returning. It’s worth it to ask.
- Help students see career possibilities. Students need a line of sight to transition successfully from high school to the world of work. When students have the opportunity to explore career options with industry professionals, they start seeing new ways of stepping into bright futures.
- Link students to positive adults. Connecting students to positive adults such as mentors is crucial. Mentors support students as they develop new skills, improve their academics and build their confidence. This adult support can be the difference between graduating and dropping out.
- Don’t be afraid to lead. We’ve found that schools are eager to partner with community organizations and companies to further support students – but they don’t always have time or resources to make these external connections. Collaborative initiatives like All In for Youth can make that happen.
- Make it a movement. To win on this issue, we need parents on board, we need students on board, we need everyone on board. It’s not about any single organization, but the entire community working together. We each have a part in the solution.
Dr. Lucy Miller is President and CEO of United Way of Calgary and Area. Her background is in education, where she has worked as a teacher, principal, curriculum consultant and superintendent. Lucy is very active in the broader community as well, serving on multiple boards across Calgary and Alberta.