Another year of high school graduations has come and gone. But, in spite of the celebrations, there is a real problem with the high school completion rate in San Antonio and other Texas cities. Depending on which study you read, somewhere around 30% our city's students who enter the ninth grade, do not go on to graduate. The stats are usually higher for Hispanic and African-American youth. Schools like Texans Can! give students a second chance by giving them what they need to earn a high school diploma. Texans Can! have 10 campuses in five Texas cities, including San Antonio.
Texans Can! might sound like a recycling place. In a way it is. Young people from ages 14-21 come to Texans Can! when they have dropped out or otherwise not attending school. At Texans Can! it means students can work through their issues, can have positive teacher-student relationships and can do the work necessary to graduate. San Antonio Can! High School has been helping students attain a high school diploma since 2001. The enrollment averages 400 students, many from troubled backgrounds.
Tiffani is one of the young ladies who recently earned her high school diploma from San Antonio Can!. We met the day after graduation and you could tell from her conversation it had been a long, but successful road of which she was proud.
As a student at South San High School, Tiffani had been one of about 35-40 students in any of her classes. She told me she had been really interested in learning and was successful in getting her work done and making good grades. The problem was the disruptive atmosphere and the lack of time and effort of the teachers to help individual students, especially those who want to do well. Tiffani admits getting into conflicts with teachers and other students beginning her sophomore year. "I really hated being in school and felt I was suffocating there, so I finally quite going in my Junior year." This, of course, got her and her mother into trouble with the truant officers. After several unsuccessful tries to change schools or get into a GED program, on advise from a friend, Tiffani enrolled in San Antonio Can!.
Tiffani gives credit to the "Plato" computer program which allowed her to work at her own pace, gathering credits as she tested out each subject and level of study. But, it is clear the teachers made all the difference. "I never had so many favorite teachers at a school," Tiffani said. "All the teachers made building relationships a part of the curriculum. They matured me and whenever I encountered problems, never let me give up." According to Tiffani they also have "awesome" speakers and career oriented information and assistance.
Big Brothers Big Sisters has a branch on the campus of San Antonio Can! They concentrate in matching 'Bigs' with previously incarcerated students, which comprises about 15% of the student body. They also make other matches like Tiffani and her Big Sister Jennifer Leighton, who is also the Development Coordinator for the school.
So what about funding? Leighton told me, "Seventy-five percent comes from federal and state funds. We write grants and take donations." She also assured me Texans Can! schools operate in a frugal, fiscally responsible manner. Texans Can! has earned the Best in America Seal of Excellence from Independent Charities of America.
So, while budget cuts to public schools will most likely exacerbate the drop-out situation, Texans Can! will be around to help. Learn more from their website
or contact any of their Texans Can! schools if you know someone who would benefit from being a student.
Read "San Antonio teachers, administrators watch the budget ax fall"
For more from Laura Carter @LauraCarter or visit A Small Blog