By Abhiniti Wagh
It is often a Herculean task for students to understand schoolwork and pass their classes. Some give it their all, but poor time management skills, personal problems, sheer frustration, or lack of understanding get in their way. Succeeding in high school may seem easy to most, but to the percentage of students that struggle, it seems out of reach.
At High School East, a program called Operation Graduation has been implemented to help seniors that are unable to succeed. Paul Ripchik, academic administrator, started this program approximately eight years ago, according to Matt Heckman, Senior CAP, and has twenty-two teachers, one staff member, and seven administrators mentoring this school year. Some mentor about two to three students each.
Heckman said, “We look at students that struggle academically, talk to school counselors, and mentors are given to contact teachers. Monitors approach them [students], and ask them if they need help.” Kristi Drinkwater, a special education teacher, elaborated on the process of figuring out which students need extra help. She said, “In the first five weeks, you can tell if a student is at risk. The portal is a venue they [administration] might use to determine if a student needs an adult mentor.”
Students that require additional support benefit from the program, because mentors make it their priority to help them graduate. Heckman said, “These people [mentors] are not their teachers.They can help emotionally and help those in jeopardy of not graduating. We hope this will help kids get across the finish line.”
Similarly, Drinkwater said, “I’m always rooting for the underdog; looking for their backstory. It’s my job to find their story and help. Not everyone fits in that square box.”
As for the students in the program, there are a plethora of reasons for why they struggle with schoolwork. Cindy Carey, a Journalism teacher, said, “Sometimes students are new to the district. Some of them have difficult lives where they need adult support and guidance. Often kids are bright and motivated but for reasons beyond their control, it’s hard for them to finish their education.”
There are also students that may need the help but don’t receive it. Mr. Heckman says that some turn down the support or may not be identified by the administration as needing help at all.
Few students in the program end up not graduating. According to Carey, students who don’t graduate at the end of the program may have a lack of determination or are simply too difficult to persuade. But that doesn’t mean the program isn’t successful, because most of the seniors involved do graduate. Heckman said that there are forty students in the program as of early November. With the help of their mentors today, students will be one step closer to graduating in June.