After high school there are many roads a student can take. School is no longer a legal requirement and a young adult could choose to stay at home or enter the work force. On the other hand, a student could choose to continue his or her education, obtain technical training or enlist in the military. No matter what path is chosen, new freedom is found and no longer is there a parent, teacher or counselor standing over a shoulder to dictate rules or the next steps in life.
For many students this new-found freedom is not a benefit, but a barrier. After high school graduation, life’s obstacles are still a heavy burden for many students who live in poverty. Financial, physical and family barriers don’t magically disappear. If anything, young adults have the real world to navigate alone and new barriers arise, including the high cost of college.
A 2015 American Council on Education report showed a 10% decrease in the number of low income students enrolling in college. Low income students have little money available to pay college costs and have to support themselves and their families.
This decline is concerning as statistics prove that high school graduates earn substantially less than college graduates. People with advanced degrees earn even more than people with only an undergraduate degree. This proves that having more than a high school diploma is a step to living a better life.
“We need to ensure that our kids have the same chances that you and I have. We can do this by making sure our kids graduate. Our goal by 2021 is that 95% of kids we serve will graduate from high school. Then after that we need to work on work force development. Workforce development will bring better opportunities to obtain companies like Amazon 2.0 or any other leader in an industry to Atlanta. What could our community look like if we placed a site coordinator on college campuses to make sure students like ours have what they need to graduate college and fill local jobs?” says Frank Brown, CEO of Communities In Schools of Atlanta.
Kids who have serious barriers should be able to walk across the stage not only at the end of their 12th grade year, but at the end of their senior year in college. CIS of Atlanta’s mission is to extend lifelong services and teach lifelong lessons. The loving adults (site coordinators), who are placed in sixty-five K-12 schools around Atlanta, specifically help with college and career preparation. CIS of Atlanta students receive career counseling, college application assistance, career interest assessments, college entrance exam prep, FAFSA assistance, job placement, job training, assistance with dual enrollment, resume writing assistance and scholarships.
Once students are accepted into college, site coordinators and staff even drive hundreds of miles to get students checked into their dorm rooms. Just last week CIS of Atlanta staff dropped students off at Albany State University, Denmark Technical College and Tennessee State University.
It is evident that high school graduation is not the finish line. There is more to be done to help our students. Kids in poverty can turn to adults in poverty when not handled with care. Going that extra step to make sure young adults have everything they need to succeed is what really makes a difference.