Southern had 322 seniors in the 2016-17 school year. Thirty-two of the seniors were identified as African American or Hispanic. In reviewing the school data, for the past three years, we have seen a trend that each year more minority students are not graduating on time. In 2014, 6 minority students out of 65 did not graduate on time. In 2015, 8 minority students out of 48 did not graduate on time. In 2016, 19 minority students out of 79 did not graduate with their class. Because of this trend we decided to identify “minority tweeners” and give them additional support. In the Junior class, 33 students were off cohort for graduation. Of those 33, 8 were minority Tweeners. All 8 accepted the invitation to participate in a small group.
The group topics for were selected intentionally to help minority tweeners graduate which ties into program goal number one. If all 8 students graduated it would boost our graduation rate by 2.5%. The first lesson consisted of graduation requirements because the majority of minority tweeners did not know the number of credits needed for graduation and did not know which classes they lacked. Lesson one addressed this topic and helped students understand what academic goals they needed to set in order to graduate on time. At the end of the lesson all students could identify how many credits they needed, how many credits they had, and what classes they had to pass to graduate. The second lesson addressed the roadblocks in life that have gotten in the way of each student being successful. From observations and conversations with students, counselors often saw minority tweeners not attending school. For some it was a lack of motivation, some felt defeated, some were working to support their family and some had other roadblocks. The mindset that we wanted to see was that the tweener had a belief in the development of their whole-self and being able to demonstrate the ability to overcome barriers. All students at the end of the lesson could identify the roadblocks they had experienced. Students were given resources to help alleviate or eliminate roadblocks.
The minority population at Southern is small among students and staff. Statistics show those who identify with a role model show a higher level of self-esteem and stronger academics. Minority students often spoke about not having role models to help them navigate their future. We wanted to give them mentors to talk about life after high school. We targeted the mindset of “sense of belonging” and “creating relationships with adults”. Lesson three addressed motivating students. We involved guest speakers such as the Career Development Coordinator to talk about the importance of an interview, job skills, job fairs, and employment information. The military recruiter talked about his experiences, the advantages of joining the military, along with qualifications. The Drop-Out Prevention Coordinator spoke to students about what life would look like if they dropped out and gave words of encouragement. After the guest speakers, three students asked for assistance in filling out college applications, three students wanted help with finding a job, and two students wanted to enlist.
Minority tweeners in the past also spoke about not having motivation or encouragement. Lesson four gave minority tweeners a boost of motivation and hope that if they believed in themselves and their ability to achieve they might see high quality results. Those students who were promoted received a new homeroom slip and an index card with the instructions to write one word about how they felt at that moment. All students also received a motivational poem. The one student who was not promoted was upset and received additional support from counselors.
On graduation day, one minority tweener did not graduate with his class. SAHS counselors discussed how the group could be more effective at the end of the school year. In the future, we will try and have groups for students in the 9th grade instead of when they are characterized as a Tweener. If we can catch students and help them get on track earlier, students will not feel as unsuccessful and unmotivated. We also spoke about having the minority tweener group extend past January until closer to graduation. We felt that these students would benefit from ongoing support. We also felt that these students would benefit from an outside community mentor. In the future we want to collect better perception data for quality insight into how these students feel about their progression to graduation.