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Pilot program through Volunteers of America works to prevent drop-outs in local schools

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(Photo source: Volunteers of America) (Photo source: Volunteers of America)
SHREVEPORT - BOSSIER CITY, La. (KTBS) -

Education and skills training beyond high school isn't even a consideration for a startling number of students.

The graduation rate for Caddo Parish is a little more than 60%, yet that diploma is a key to not only technical schools and college, but to many entry level jobs.

"When kids drop out of school it really affects the community at large. we don't have those kids that are part of the economic engine that drives our community. So we really need to increase the graduation rate and prevent drop out rate at the same time," says Chris Gabriel, Executive Vice President for VoA's Family & Children Services.

But one Caddo Parish organization is working to change that - a new drop-out prevention program called "Communities in Schools", through Volunteers of America, is working help local teens and their families on the verge of dropping out of school with several services.

"For 25 years the volunteers of america has operated the light house program. and our lighthouse program has provided mentoring, tutoring services, behavorial health services and cultural enrichment opportunities for children from some of the neediest areas in our community. We serve about 600 kids in that program and our goal was how do we reach the over 25,000 kids that are in poverty and can benefit from our services. So we developed this partnership which is communities in schools, the largest and most effective drop out prevention program in the nation," Gabriel says.

The new pilot program is targeting 3 local schools to help keep children in the classroom: Booker T. Washington High, Linwood Public Charter School, and J.S. Clark Middle School all in Shreveport.

"Those schools have over 90 percent of their children that are currently on reduced or free lunch. We feel that poverty or the ills that comes from poverty. If we can address that we can help create the educated populas that we need to not only become good consumers but to become parts of the economic engine that drives our community," says Gabriel.

Across the state, Louisiana's graduation rate is 47th in the nation. And studies show that under-educated young people translates into a bleak future for them, as well as for the state.

Site Coordinator Armanda Whitaker hopes to reach at risk-students and provide one on one support.

"I work with them to help them get past any hurrdles that may be going on in their lives in the community here at the school. We want to promote education and promote them graduating," she says.

The goal is to make parents aware of services that can help their students succeed.

"If that means helping them in the home helping them here at the school we want to do whatever we can to lower that drop-out rate here in Caddo and Bossier."

The past year, Booker T. Washington high school's graduating class has been less than 100 students.

If you'd like to take part in the organization's drop-out prevention program, you can contact the Volunteers of America office at (318) 221-2669.

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