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Op-Ed: Attacking the High School Dropout Crisis Outside the Classroom

As an affiliate of Boys & Girls Clubs of America, the Boys & Girls Clubs of the Suncoast was recently made aware by the national organization of the current high school dropout crisis. Thirty percent of all of America’s high school students fail to graduate on time. Almost one-half of African-American and Latino males do not graduate.

Nationally, in the class of 2010, more than 1.3 million members did not receive diplomas.

The Boys & Girls Clubs of the Suncoast serves members ages 6 through 18 in 11 Clubs.  All are in low-income or low- to moderate-income areas.

Much is written about the impact of teachers and parents in determining the academic success of students, but the influence of out-of-school time and summer youth programs is also important. According to a recent national Harris Interactive survey of Boys & Girls Clubs alumni, 90 percent graduate from high school or obtain a GED, and roughly two-thirds of them credit Club staff with having made a positive impact upon their success in high school.

Always mindful of its potential affect upon its young members, the Boys & Girls Clubs of the Suncoast is continuing to emphasize three major aspects of youth development: academic success, good character and leadership, and healthy lifestyles.

Recently, we received an e-mail message from Denzel Washington, an alumnus and for 18 years the spokesperson for Boys & Girls Clubs of America.

“Our goal is simple to state but hard to achieve,” Washington said. “We want to help every Boys & Girls Clubs member advance to the next grade level every year, and graduate from high school on time, prepared with the attitude, knowledge and confidence to achieve his or her full potential. It’s what we mean by ‘Great futures start here.’”

“Great futures start here” is the newly adopted slogan of Boys & Girls Clubs of America.

Shanoah Washington is a true example of an extraordinary young woman.  Shanoah just graduated from Osceola Fundamental High School where she was dual enrolled in high school and St. Petersburg College.  She received both a high school diploma and associates of arts degree and has been accepted at Florida A&M University.    As a poet/spoken word artist in the Boys & Girls Clubs of the Suncoast’s Royal Theater Senior Conservatory, she has demonstrated her talent, her poise, and her confidence.  Shanoah said, “The Royal Theater Boys & Girl’s Club Arts Academy, was the bridge I crossed as a scared and introverted teen, with behavioral problems and lack of social skills.  Held by the hand, I was led step by step…and I finally made it to the other side.”

Shanoah was selected as Boys & Girls Clubs of the Suncoast’s Youth of the Year, and was chosen in the top four for Youth of the Year for Florida.

Yes, Ms. Shanoah Washington is living proof that Boys & Girls Club programs really work. On behalf of the almost 5000 young people we serve, we hope you will join our effort in solving the high school dropout crisis a community-wide priority.  It’s the best investment we can make to ensure a great future.

Larry Crowley,
Board Chair

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