Many speakers at Destination Graduation, Thursday's drop-out prevention forum in Upshur County, said the key to student success is within the community.
Through community activity, support and encouragement, many believe that more students at risk of dropping out could stay in school and secure their future. It's all about involvement. Many officials said that students who are involved in school, extra-curricular activities or the community are more likely to graduate.
"This is the bottom line, it takes a village," Shelly Deberry, coordinator for the Office of Optional Educational Pathways and representative from the West Virginia State Department of Education said.
The Inter-Mountain photo by Melissa Toothman
Guests of Destination Graduation were welcomed by the opening acts of the Buckhannon-Upshur Middle School and High School choir and a young bluegrass group. Josh Lanham, Robert Russell and Caleb McNemar were well received Thursday for their performance.
Deberry was the forum's guest speaker. She brought with her, statistics about drop-out and graduation rates on the county, state and national level.
The statistics showed that Upshur County's drop-out rate had significantly fallen since the previous year so far. In the 2011-2012 fiscal year, Upshur County Schools experienced a drop-out rate of 3.1 percent, with 61 drop-outs . The rate for this year has fallen to less than one percent with 17 drop-outs. She said the West Virginia drop-out rate was also declining.
Deberry said that the drop-out rate has an economic impact. Drop-outs from the class of 2008 in West Virginia, will cost the state nearly $1.7 billion in lost wages over their lifetime. Jobs that are available to high school drop-outs range between 9 percent and 12 percent in West Virginia. Statistics Deberry presented also showed that one in every four students in ninth grade, do not graduate from high school.
One class of drop-outs per year can cost the nation up to $200 billion in lost earnings and unrealized tax revenue. As many as 12 million drop-outs over the next decade could cost the nation $3 trillion.
Deberry also reviewed how West Virginia would have benefited if all drop-outs from the fiscal year 2010 had received a diploma instead. Earnings for those students would have increased by $21 million. They would have increased spending by $16 million. There would have been a $34 million increase in home sales and a $3 million increase in auto sales.
According to those statistics, there would be as many as 150 new jobs. There would have been a $24 million increase in gross state product and a $1.7 million increase in state tax revenue.
Deberry said 74 percent of those who drop-out say that they would have stayed in school if they could do it again. Deberry also said that many students who drop-out across the nation cite the school environment and lack of challenges as their reasons for dropping out.
"It's not our future. It's their future," Superintendent Scott Lampinen said, adding that this forum was one of up to five related forums Upshur County Schools would like to host this fiscal year. "Our goal is to change the data."
A Buckhannon-Upshur High School survey showed the student response to school climate and environment.
"I think an individual addressing that full-time will make a dramatic difference," Idress Gooden with RESA 7 said.
Ashley Barlow, junior and student body vice president at Buckhannon-Upshur High School presented the results of the survey conducted in October at the high school.
Of 791 students participating in the survey, 46 percent disagreed that they feel motivated to learn while in school. In regard to school safety, 37 percent of students disagreed that they feel safe at school. 36 percent of students disagreed that their school was doing a good job in preparing them for the future.
The survey showed that 34 percent of students said they did not feel like they belonged at their school, and 33 percent of students did not feel there was an adult at their school they could talk to if they were having problems. Students who felt their teachers did not know how to relate to students totaled 44 percent.
"I just wish the people would listen. Even though the children are little, they do have concerns," said Ann Lofton of Upshur County.
The results of the survey are being reviewed by the school staff and administration to help identify how to provide a better school climate.