A small group of rising ninth-graders sat in a classroom and asked questions of Blair Pruette, a ninth-grade math teacher.
One student asked about transportation, and how he would get back and forth between the ninth-grade center and Garner Magnet High School. Another asked how the A-day, B-Day schedule worked. Others asked math-related questions.
Pruette gave the students advice on how to best approach A-days and B-days. He recommended having two different book bags, or one three-inch binder that separated all of their courses. And he said to do your homework when its still fresh in your mind.
This back and forth is part of a three-week high school transition program that Garner High School hosts some summers, to help rising freshman who are at risk of dropping out, and show them how to be successful in high school.
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“Many students, the first day, I ask them what they struggle with,” Pruette said. “So it’s really instead of me saying this is what y’all struggle with, finding out what they struggle with and keying on that.”
Pruette said many of the students said they struggle with equations. So for the past week, that is what they worked on.
The students also learned the average annual income for non-high school graduates and compared that to students who graduate from college with a bachelor’s degree, computing the difference over their work lifetime.
“So how much more is a high school diploma worth than dropping out?” he said. “How much more is a college diploma worth more than a high school diploma? So they can actually see (it).”
The program is usually about three hours each day Monday through Friday.
For an hour and a half they work on their math skills and the other hour and a half they work on literacy skills.
Pruette said some of the students in the program didn’t try their best in middle school, so one of the things he’s been working on is teaching them how to make good decisions.
Students understand program’s value
Dajaun Manning, 13, said that was the case for him. He said this course has helped him realize his potential.
“It’s helped me to know that I can learn and not sleep in class,” he said.
Dajaun said he wants to play football when he gets to high school. He claims he can really play.
Charity Fincham, 14, said one of the things she worried about when coming to high school was about failing and getting in trouble. She said she wants to get involved in sports like gymnastics, swimming and soccer.
She said she feels more confident that she can achieve those goals.
“I think that gives them a leg up to know what they are coming into,” Pruette said. “Just the confidence, that we’re going to be able to do this high school thing.”
Jeffrey Turner, a ninth-grade English teacher, and former middle school teacher, said high school is a culture shock for rising freshman.
He said programs like this are needed to help them build a foundation for school.
“We’re trying to get the students ready for the adult world,” Turner said. “They only have four years here. Those four years are going to go fast and if you don’t get those skills and strategies that you need by the time you’re a junior or senior, you’re in trouble.”
He said the biggest difference between middle school and high school is the freedom that students have in high school.
“You can either get in a lot of trouble or you can use it to your advantage,” he said. “So we try to push them in the right direction.”
More than just talk
The high school transition program is part of a larger program that helps at-risk youth throughout their four years in high school. Mark Maultsby, an assistant principal at Garner High School, said they started this program in 2011, with 21 students participating. School officials and counselor make sure the students stay on track and map out their plan to graduate.
The students get to meet their teachers and counselors before they start school and learn the hallways.
“They have ownership because they’ve been here,” he said.
Maultsby said the program has worked because 19 of those students graduated on time. He said two students transferred to a different school district before finishing the program.
This year there are 31 students in the program.
The summer portion is funded partially by a $10,000 grant the school applies for, and with $5,000 from the Garner Education Foundation. But sometimes, the school isn’t able to secure the funding for the grant.
“I wish we’d get an allotment so we can run it every year,” Maultsby said.