As recently as 2009, just 55.8 percent of Duval County students graduated high school. Today, the graduation rate is 72.1 percent, according to the Florida Department of Education. This substantial improvement is largely a result of the work of Communities In Schools of Jacksonville, a nonprofit organization that places educators and other professionals directly in schools to work with students who are deemed at risk of falling behind or dropping out of school entirely.
Communities in Schools achieves this success with a three pronged approach, the first of which is the Student Enrichment Program, introduced in Jacksonville more than 25 years ago and funded by Duval County Public Schools, The Jim Moran Foundation and the DuBow Family Foundation. Each Duval County public school campus is staffed with a fulltime site coordinator who works with up to 100 students on a onetoone
basis. Through a combination of individual counseling, group sessions, home visits, and parental involvement, at risk
students are empowered to realize their goals and given the skills needed to graduate and achieve success in life. Site coordinators also connect students with external community resources as needed.
The impact of the Student Enrichment Program extends beyond the designated at risk group.Communities in Schools also provides the schools’ entire student bodies with career fairs, seminars, and literacy programs.
The second program in this model is Bridge to Success, in which site coordinators, funded by Duval County Public Schools, work with students who are behind at least one grade level for their ages. With support from the coordinators, students are able to overcome barriers to graduating on time and begin to plan for life after high school with college and career counseling.
The third aspect of the Communities in School approach is Achievers For Life (AFL), with a focus on sixth graders who have low GPAs, low FCAT scores, and excessive absences as well as other risk factors for dropping out of high school. Communities In Schools achievement advocates provide the students with the personal and family support needed to persevere through high school and beyond. This dropout prevention initiative was developed and funded by United Way of Northeast Florida in partnership with Communities In Schools of Jacksonville, Jewish Family and Community Services, and Big Brothers Big Sisters of Northeast Florida.
With this three program model and other wraparound services, Communities in Schools assists almost 6,000 students in 34 Jacksonville area
schools. Its success is notable: 99 percent of the students served stay in school through the next grade level, and 93 percent go on to graduate from high school.
Learn more about Communities in Schools of Jacksonville.
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