Monday, June 07, 2010

This Week's News: Youth in Transition


Virtual high school catching on locally
The Holland Sentinel, Holland, MI – June 2, 2010
As Van Raalte Tech’s first graduation approaches, Principal Deb Feenstra has learned not to underestimate students’ drive to succeed.  The online learning-based school, started by Holland Public Schools last fall for high school dropouts and students behind in their studies, plans to graduate at least 18 students at the end of this week.  “The majority of the students we have want to be successful and they’re just looking for an opportunity to do it differently,” Feenstra said.  Many students who were unable to complete courses due to family emergencies, medical problems or frustration in a traditional classroom find Van Raalte’s system more flexible.

Models for success in US education reform
Daily Breeze, Kalamazoo, MI – June 6, 2010
Today, President Barack Obama flies to Michigan to congratulate graduating seniors at Kalamazoo Central High School for reaching one goal. After congratulating them, he will push them to go further and succeed in college. He will make it clear to them that their country is counting on them to help meet his goal of having the highest proportion of college graduates in the world by the end of the decade.  It's a message that the president could give at any high school graduation, but Kalamazoo Central's graduates will hear the message in person because their school was the winner of the first annual Race to the Top High School Commencement Challenge.  Environmental Charter High School in Lawndale was one of the finalists in the competition. Like Kalamazoo Central, it represents what high schools should become - a place where all students are challenged with a college preparatory program and are offered help choosing a college and finding financial aid.

'Achieve Q-C' targets dropout rate
Quad-City Times, Davenport, IA – June 3, 2010
There’s a young writer in the making at J.B. Young Intermediate School, Davenport, and she has her seventh-grade language arts teacher to thank.  MacKenzie Gibson was handed a classroom assignment to write a poem. One assignment was all it took.  “I liked the assignment a lot,” an enthusiastic Gibson said Thursday following the launch of Achieve Quad-Cities, a community-wide collaboration to curb high school dropout rates in the region.  Gibson wants to transform her newfound enthusiasm for writing into a career and plans to write a story about a personal experience.  For Gibson, getting a high school diploma is a “safety net” to help advance her career.

Juvenile Justice

Paterson Proposes Juvenile Justice Overhaul
The New York Times, New York, NY – June 2, 2010
Gov. David A. Paterson introduced legislation on Wednesday to begin overhauling New York’s troubled juvenile prison system, in what aides described at a first step toward broader changes long sought by critics of the system.  The legislation would prohibit judges from placing youths in state juvenile prisons unless they had been found guilty of a violent felony or a sex crime or a judge had determined that a youth posed a significant risk to themselves or others. Such a move would set the stage to significantly shrink the number of youths in state custody.

States closing youth prisons as arrests plunge
Associated Press, Wales, WI – June 6, 2010
After struggling for years to treat young criminals in razor wire-ringed institutions, states across the country are quietly shuttering dozens of reformatories amid plunging juvenile arrests, softer treatment policies and bleak budgets.  In Ohio, the number of juvenile offenders has plummeted by nearly half over the last two years, pushing the state to close three facilities. California's closures include a youth institution near Los Angeles that operated for nearly 115 years. And one in Texas will finally go quiet after getting its start as a World War II-era training base.  The closures have juvenile advocates cheering.  "I can tell you it's the best thing they can do," said Aaron Kupchik, a University of Delaware criminologist. "Incarceration does nobody any good. You're taking away most of their chance for normal development."

Foster Care

Reforms help states cut foster-care populations
The Washington Post, New York, NY – June 5, 2010
No single youngster can be the poster child for America's foster care system, with its mix of happy endings and heartache. Yet Tatiana Fowler's smile, as she embraces the woman who adopted her, gives a hint at the groundswell of change that is altering that mix for the better.  Tatiana, 16, and her 15-year-old sister Brittany were adopted earlier this year by a cousin of their mother after four years in foster care. They became part of a dramatic trend in New York City, which has reduced its foster care population from nearly 28,000 in 2002 to under 16,000 this spring.

Foster children begin transition
Florida Today, Suntree, FL – June 5, 2010
Courtney Gagne spent seven years shifting in and out of the foster care system, before problems at home prompted her to place herself there permanently two years ago. Now 18, the Melbourne resident has reached the age where she is no longer protected by the system, and must venture out on her own. First on her to-do list: education and work. On Friday, she attended "Get Connected," a daylong series of workshops aimed at teaching young adults who have grown too old for foster care and other at-risk youth about personal relationship and workplace skills they may not have learned growing up but will need to become productive members of society.

Monday Profile: Educational liaison keeps foster youths on the right track
Contra Costa Times, Walnut Creek, CA – June 7, 2010
Tara Watkins is fighting to get her high school diploma.  As a former foster youth whose teenage years were rocked by an unstable home life, Watkins dropped out of high school and then an adult degree program.  "I have no parents, so it's like I'm out here by myself. It makes things a lot harder because I'm carrying the weight of being myself and I'm carrying the weight of being an adult," Watkins said.  Now 19 and emancipated from the foster system, Watkins is committed to returning to school in the fall and eventually getting a business degree. She says if it hadn't been for Carol Regalado, she wouldn't have gotten this far.  "There's a lot of stuff I just wouldn't have known about if I hadn't talked to her," Watkins said.  Regalado is one of three educational liaisons for about 1,100 foster youths in Contra Costa County. Working out of the Antioch office of the county's Children and Family Services department but employed by the county Office of Education, Regalado is a resource, advocate and mentor for East Contra Costa's foster youths.

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