WAR was comprised of almost 30 members at its inception and was broken down into subcommittees to study various aspects of the dropout problem and return with possible solutions.
We met once a month and then our subcommittees met at other times. As with any committee, some factions were effective and some were not. Still others proposed solutions that were implemented with varying degrees of success. Some people came with individual agendas, as is the case with a lot of committees, but most were merely concerned that so many students were dropping out of school before they earned a diploma.
Members of the committee came from every conceivable corner of our community. Although there were a few educators, the vast majority of the committee was from business or juvenile legal services and had very little if any experience with any at-risk students in a classroom setting.
Vocational classes were highly recommended and were in fact thought to be vital in making these potential dropouts successful in the end. There was some concern that these students would be stigmatized by being sent to vocational classes, but the fact that this form of education was at least one form of success for these types of students, it was a model that was high on everyone’s list of possible solutions. It was also felt that school districts need to realize that not every student either will or needs to attend college to be successful. With the current economic situation, even well-educated citizens are finding it hard to get a job, but the education they have acquired might be the factor that gives them that job over another person.
One aspect that wasn’t pursued as deeply as it probably should have is the crucial component called parenting, or lack thereof. Parents can do a lot to discourage students from finishing high school. Either the parents were not successful themselves and harbor a degree of envy and resentment at the prospect that their student just might be successful, thus eclipsing their own failure, or parents sometimes just don’t feel school is important and they don’t care to promote the importance of an education to their offspring. In any event, the acorn often doesn’t fall far from the tree when it comes to education.
There are other factors involved in the dropout rate. Teenagers get involved with drugs, alcohol or both. These of course pose their own set of problems even for the true adults in our society, let alone the teenagers.
Divorce can offer another source of disruption in a teenager’s life that will later lead to dropping out of school. Single-parent families struggle in so many ways that pressures on these students cause them to fail to graduate from high school.
Legal problems that run the gamut also cause a student to drop out of high school and become another statistic. A lot of parents and factions of the community don’t realize the societal pressures teenagers undergo in their maturation process — pressures that can prompt a student to drop out of school.
In the final analysis, the old saying that it takes a village is very true when it comes to raising our country’s future: our teenagers.
Larry Wilson is a 50-year resident of Sparks and a retired elementary school teacher. You can contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.