Nonprofit Receives $210,000 Grant For High School Dropout Prevention In Hartford
By VANESSA DE LA TORRE
January 07, 2013
HARTFORD — — The Urban League of Greater Hartford has received a $210,000 corporate donation to fund a dropout prevention program at Hartford Public High School over the next two years.
The grant from AT&T, part of the company's Aspire education campaign, supports mentoring and tutoring for 35 ninth-graders enrolled in the Urban League's Youth Achievement Program, officials said Monday. Services began last fall and will continue for the students through 10th grade.
Teachers nominated at-risk students who received at least one F or two Ds in their classes through the first month of the school year, said Natasha Moore, program coordinator with the Urban League.
About 25 of the Aspire students are in Hartford Public's Academy of Engineering and Green Technology, Moore said, while others are in the Law and Government Academy. Six are repeating their freshman year; some also have behavioral issues, she said.
Sonia Dinnall, the city schools' director of college and career readiness, said Hartford's graduation rate was only 33.4 percent in 2007 but improved to 63.2 percent in 2011. The official figure for 2012 has not yet been released.
The Urban League program focuses on tutoring — at least three hours weekly, after school or on Saturdays — personalized intervention, teamwork among students, incentives and family involvement. Six out of 35 students have made the honor roll since starting the program, Moore said.
"We commit to getting to know the families," said Moore, who calls students' parents every week with updates.
Among the honor roll participants is Alizé Ayala, 15, the green technology academy's freshman class president. The program "actually allows me to increase my grades," Ayala said, although he admitted to a persistent struggle in Spanish class.
At a press conference Monday, Mayor Pedro Segarra revealed that he dropped out of school briefly when he was 14 and hungry, seeking a job to rise out of poverty. Many others never make it back to the classroom, he said.
"Our city will not be able to progress and grow ... without you," Segarra told about 20 ninth-graders.
Law and Government Academy senior Turquan Calhoun, who has been involved with several Urban League programs, said he believes the new initiative can help underclassmen gain the confidence to surpass the low expectations that people may have of inner-city teens.
"It lets the kids know that they have someone there to support them," said Calhoun, 17, who hopes to study business and psychology in college. "It lets them know they have a chance."
Reprinted with permission of the Hartford Courant.
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