5 Ways to Re-Engage High School Dropouts

For Christine Wilkins, now 16, freshman year of high school was an ordeal. The same students who bullied her in middle school were at her new high school. Just approaching the school entry filled her with angst. One day, instead of going in, she turned around and went home.

“The idea of walking through those gates gave me so much anxiety,” she says.

Christine hated school. Unable to focus or dedicate herself to her schoolwork, she made C’s, D’s and F’s.

Eventually, Christine stopped going to school and dropped out.

Tackling the dropout issue

There are many reasons students drop out of high school. Poverty, pregnancy, homelessness, bullying or just losing interest are some of the many issues that cause students to skip a day of class, a week and eventually drop out altogether.

According to the U.S. Department of Education, missing just three weeks of school is enough to threaten a student’s chance to graduate.

What can be done to help these students?

As each person is a complex individual, there is no single solution that can reach the multitude of different students.

This is why Learn4Life, a nonprofit dropout recovery program, takes a dynamic approach to reengage students.

The average student who enrolls in Learn4Life has been out of school for 11.4 weeks. Through different methods, such as personalized learning, mentoring and job skills training, the program has been highly successful in reengaging dropouts and keeping them in school.

These are the five effective ways they reach out to these students.

1. Dealing with issues outside of the classroom. Whether it’s counseling to help students come to terms with issues they’re facing or a mentoring program that builds confidence, helping students deal with non-academic issues is a way to give them the stability they need to succeed.

2. Meeting students where they are. Not every student is at the same emotional, academic or mental level as their peers. Through one-on-one attention, personalized learning and academic planning, students can get help where they most need it. This personalized approach is designed to find a solution that’s best for the individual.

3. Removing obstacles to learning. Sometimes it’s something as simple as not having proper transportation or childcare that prevents a student from returning to complete their education. Giving students flexible schedules, help with transportation and access to teachers or mentors at different hours of the day can make a big difference in their ability to learn.

4. Making them feel safe. It’s an unfortunate fact that schools are not always the safe environment they ought to be. Creating a respectful and safe place to learn is essential for removing social anxieties and fears that can hinder learning.

5. Helping them see a future. Through job skills training programs, students can prepare for a future beyond a diploma. As a Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA) partner, Learn4Life offers courses in work-readiness skills, career exploration, writing cover letters and resumes, completing applications and interviewing.

The effectiveness of Learn4Life’s approach can be seen in the fact that when students enroll, only 15 percent of them come to school regularly, but as the year goes on, that number jumps to 86 percent.

Concluding Christine’s story

After six months out of school, counselors at Christine’s old high school pointed her to a Learn4Life program at Desert Sands Charter School.

She enrolled and by participating in an internship with Pacific Gateway, part of the YouthBuild WIOA program at Desert Sands, Christine gained experience in customer service and Microsoft applications.

Currently, Christine attends school and is getting all A’s and B’s in her school work, and has a full-time internship. At the end of the internship, she will receive certificates in customer service and Microsoft Office.

“I’m dedicated because I’m getting knowledge and experience for a life outside of school,” Christine says. (BPT)

How to Build Healthy Habits for the School Year and Beyond

Bells are ringing across the country as kids settle into classrooms for a year full of fun, friendship and plenty of learning.

While exciting, adjusting to new school schedules is a hectic time. Healthy habits are often forgotten as the focus shifts to studies, assignments and extracurriculars.

“Parents and caregivers can make a big difference in helping kids lead a healthy lifestyle during the back-to-school season and beyond,” says Deanna Segrave-Daly, a mom and registered dietitian. “A few proactive steps can set kids up for success in and out of the classroom.”

Segrave-Daly offers six easy ideas you can try to help encourage your kids to build healthy habits that last a lifetime:

Prioritize sleep

Sleep is something families often sacrifice due to busy schedules. Remember, kids need significantly more sleep than adults to support their rapid mental and physical development, according to the National Sleep Foundation. School-age children should strive for nine to 11 hours of sleep each night. Establish a nighttime routine and prioritize sleep every night.

Eat breakfast

We all know that breakfast is the most important meal of the day — especially for our kids. Help them jump-start their day with a quick breakfast of healthy foods like fruit, eggs and whole-grain cereal. For those busy mornings, grab fridge-free, GoGo squeeZ YogurtZ, made with real low-fat yogurt and fruit, for a wholesome option they can easily eat in the car or bus with a banana, toaster waffle or whole-wheat toast.

Encourage exercise

Kids should do at least 60 minutes of physical activity each day, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Hopefully some of this physical activity can take place during the school day, but there are lots of easy ways to build healthy activity into daily life at home. Make a habit of going on a family walk after dinner (a great chance to unwind and reconnect) or challenge kids to bring their books up the stairs or to another room one at a time. Take 10-minute “dance party” breaks during homework or see who can jump rope the longest.

Manage screen time

It’s important for families to be mindful of screen time for kids. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends kids ages 2-5 limit screen use to one hour per day of high-quality programs. For children 6 and older, place consistent limits on the time spent using media and monitor the types of media used.

Snack well

Kids love to snack, and it’s important to keep nutritious options on hand for when hunger strikes — it helps them avoid emergency vending machine stops. Stock your pantry with healthier snacks like GoGo squeeZ applesauce pouches. These fridge-free pouches, made from natural ingredients, are easy to grab on the way to soccer practice, music lessons or the playground. They’re also an easy lunchbox addition!

Adjust the attitude

Mental wellness is part of overall wellness. Keep in mind the power of a positive attitude toward education. Encourage kids to look at issues from different angles, appreciate diversity and be resilient. Have conversations with children and truly listen to their concerns to build trust and solve problems.

Finally, it’s the adult role models in a child’s life that really set them up for success.

“If you model healthy habits, your child is likely to follow your lead,” says Segrave-Daly. “Try to routinely eat well, sleep well, exercise and have conversations about the good and bad parts of your day. Your kids are paying attention even when it seems like they aren’t!”

Ride Safe

Bus Safety Tips for Back-to-School

While school safety is of the utmost importance to parents, millions of school-age children begin and end their days with a bus ride. To provide some measures for parents to help increase safety going to and from the bus and during the ride, the National Association for Pupil Transportation offers these tips.

Before the Bus Arrives

  • Ensure backpacks are packed securely so papers and other items don’t scatter as the bus approaches.
  • Create a morning routine that puts kids at the bus stop five minutes before the scheduled pickup time. This helps avoid a last-minute rush, when safety lessons are easily forgotten, and ensures kids are safely in place for boarding.
  • Encourage children to wear bright, contrasting colors so they can be seen easier by drivers.
  • Walk young children to the bus stop or encourage kids to walk in groups. There is safety in numbers; groups are easier for drivers to see.
  • Instruct children to walk on the sidewalk. If there is no sidewalk, advise them to stay out of the street, walk single-file, face traffic and stay as close to the edge of the road as possible.
  • If kids must cross a street, driveway or alley, remind them to stop and look both ways before crossing.
  • Verify that the bus stop location offers good visibility for the bus driver; if changes are needed, talk with nearby homeowners or school district officials to implement changes. Never let kids wait in a house or car, where the driver may miss seeing them approach the bus.
  • Remind children that the bus stop is not a playground. Balls or other toys can roll into the street and horseplay could result in falling into the path of oncoming traffic.
  • Instruct children to stay at least three steps away from the road and allow the bus to come to a complete stop before approaching it.

On the Bus Ride

  • When boarding the bus, items can get bumped and dropped. Caution children that before picking anything up, they should talk to the driver and follow instructions to safely retrieve their possessions.
  • Teach safe riding habits: stay seated with head, hands and feet inside at all times; use a seatbelt (if available); keep bags and books out of the aisle and remain seated until the bus stops moving. Also instruct children to never throw things on the bus or out the windows and to never play with or block the emergency exits.
  • Remind kids that yelling and other loud noises are off limits as they could distract the driver.
  • If cell phones and other electronic devices are permitted, instruct children to mute the sound or use headphones so as not to create a distraction for the driver or other riders.

Leaving the Bus

  • Remind children to look before stepping off the bus. If they must cross the street, teach them to do so in front of the bus by taking five big steps from the front of the bus, making eye contact with the driver and waiting for the signal that it is safe to begin crossing.
  • For parents who meet their kids at the bus stop, remember that in their excitement kids may dart across the street. Eliminate the risk by waiting on the side of the street where kids exit the bus.
  • Make the bus ride part of your daily “how was school?” discussion. Encourage kids to talk about the things they see and hear on the bus so you can discuss appropriate behaviors and, if necessary, report any concerns to school administrators.

Discuss the Bus

Join the discussion (or start one) on school districts exploring a switch from diesel buses to cleaner alternatives by downloading resources including fact sheets, videos and more at BetterOurBuses.com.

A Safe Transportation Option

Beyond teaching safety precautions around the bus, there is another option to ensure kids are transported safely to and from school each day. Many school districts are moving away from noisy, pollution-inducing and expensive diesel buses in favor of buses powered by an alternate fuel, like propane, which offers numerous benefits for school districts and their students.

Safety: Jenna Bush Hager, a teacher, author, journalist and parent of two, has partnered with the Propane Education & Research Council to educate parents and school districts about the benefits of propane school buses.

School buses powered by propane offer numerous safety advantages. Propane school buses are quieter than diesel buses when operating, making it easier for drivers to hear both inside and outside the bus. This can have a direct impact on student behavior, and many districts have reported fewer disciplinary issues as a result. An interactive audio quiz detailing the difference between the types of buses can be found at QuieterSchoolBuses.com.

“As a former teacher, I know parents often overlook how the ride to and from school can impact a child’s performance in the classroom,” Hager said. “A child’s attitude or behavior before they arrive at school can set the tone for the whole day.”

In addition, these buses meet rigorous U.S. Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards and each is equipped with an automatic shut-off feature that prevents fuel flow to the engine when not running.

Another safety consideration is the health implications of older diesel buses. The shorter height of younger students can put them face-to-face with a black cloud of diesel smoke every school day. With propane buses, however, students aren’t exposed to the harmful particulate matter in diesel exhaust, which is known to aggravate asthma and has been identified by the World Health Organization as a carcinogen. However, “low-NOx” propane engines are 75 percent cleaner than current federal emissions standards require.

Savings: Not only is propane consistently less expensive than diesel fuel, the buses themselves don’t require the same expensive repairs and replacement parts that today’s modern diesel buses demand. Saving money on transportation costs puts schools in a better position to appropriate budget toward meeting students’ needs in the classroom and other areas, such as fine arts and athletic programs. (FamilyFeatures)

Top Tips for Making Back-to-School a Success

Summer days are getting shorter. Summer fun is winding down for the season. Bedtimes are starting earlier. And parents seem to be oddly excited.

Back to school is right around the corner.

For most kids, the thought of going back to school can be a drag. But it doesn’t have to be.

Marley Dias, 12-year-old founder of #1000BlackGirlBooks, knows a thing or two about balancing extracurricular activities and back-to-school readiness.

According to Marley, preparing for back to school is the key to success. “Tweens know, going back to school can be stressful and to conquer it with a smile takes guts,” said Dias. She offers these seven simple tips for parents to help make a smooth transition back to school.

1. Get Back to a Routine

A healthy routine is essential to getting your body clock back on schedule. A week before school starts, the family should wake up early and eat a healthy breakfast, lunch and dinner. For that week, everyone should try to go to bed at a reasonable hour.

2. Power Your Inner Potential

Seventy percent of the immune system is located in your gut. I take a daily probiotic like Renew Life Ultimate Flora Kids Probiotic to stay healthy and operate at my best. Probiotics help keep my gut healthy, which improves my sleep, mood and memory, all important aspects to being a good student, especially during the first few weeks when you still feel sluggish from summer.

3. Reconnect with Friends

Your kids’ friends have been away at camp, on vacation or visiting relatives all summer long. Chatting with friends gets kids excited about the new school year and helps avoid the back-to-school jitters.

4. Set Goals

Having your kids set goals helps them attack the school year with purpose. Challenge them to improve at a subject, try a new sport or make a new friend. Ask them to write down their social and academic goals; you can’t get anywhere without a plan!

5. Shop!

Indulge in a new outfit or cool locker supplies for your kids. Buy those fun items, but also the functional ones that last throughout the year.

6. Getting Organized at Home

Getting organized now helps them tackle all of those upcoming assignments. Help them review old work to jog their memory. Plan outfits the night before. Pre-pack lunches and snacks. Post all assignments and activities in a visible spot in the house. And lastly, set up a home homework space. Kids need a dedicated place to focus.

7. Pick a Place to Just Breathe

Pick a peaceful spot at home where kids and parents can practice deep breathing and relaxation. The school year is a hectic time. Take a moment to push pause on all electronics. This quiet moment will help each member of the family prep their mind and body for everything the school year brings.

Getting back into a routine after summer takes guts. Make sure yours are up for it. To help keep your complex digestive system thriving and restore good bacteria, visit www.RenewLife.com. #beinghumantakesguts (BPT)

Writing a Winning College Essay

Tips for letting your story shine through

For the more than 2 million students applying to colleges and universities, the task of essay writing can be a dreadful experience.

Whether applying for admission or scholarships, many students find this part of the application process to be the most stressful and daunting part of their senior year. Often without understanding how to approach the essay, students struggle with staring at a blank page and finding a compelling topic.

However, according to Howard Reichman, president of EssayDog, an easy-to-use, cloud-based platform that helps students write winning college application essays, “a college application essay is really just a story – a story colleges want to hear about you.”

“Every good story, from a blockbuster movie to a novel from your high school English class to your favorite show, has four critical elements that make it fascinating and reveal inner depth about its characters,” Reichman said. “That’s exactly what you want your college application essays to do: show the real you beyond the test scores and GPA.”

According to Reichman, every good story has these four essential elements:

  1. The initial plan
  2. The anticipated outcome
  3. The setback
  4. The discovery

Whether students use an online tool like EssayDog, which gets students started quickly by asking them to write just one sentence about each of these four parts, or they tackle the task of essay writing on their own, the next step is to round out the narrative by filling in details that let the applicant’s true character shine through.

The essays that resonate most with college admissions departments typically convey a student’s intangibles or “the Four Ps,” specifically:

  • Passion: What drives you and what do you really care about?
  • Personality: What are you like to be around? Would your friends and family be able to identify you by reading your essay?
  • Perseverance: How do you respond to challenges? What gives you strength, both intellectually and emotionally?
  • Potential: What talents, interests and goals will you bring to a university’s campus next fall? How can a college help you further develop these as you continue to grow into adulthood?

More than anything, procrastination and stress are often students’ worst enemies when they sit down to begin the essay-writing process.

“If you feel you are wasting time, switching topics or disagreeing with your parents, teachers or college counselors about the direction your essays are taking, try going back to these simple storytelling techniques to ensure you are showcasing what sets you apart from other applicants with similar grades and scores,” Reichman said.

Visit essaydog.com or find EssayDog on Facebook and Twitter to find more tips for confidently writing standout college essays. (Family Features)