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Dropout Recovery Program

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A relatively new Birmingham Schools program is changing lives for the better. Several school districts want to know more about the program that's putting high school dropouts back in the classroom.

"Sometimes they talk about if only they could go back." Students like 17-year-old Tasha Washington are getting a second chance to finish high school. "I was tired of being out of school and I feel like I want to something with my life.

Like a million students across the nation, Tasha dropped out of school, but one day she realized. "Everybody needs an education." She learned about Birmingham's Dropout Recovery Program and got on board.

"This is not a job, it's a mission for us. We realize we're impacting the lives of our youngsters." Program Director Dr. Maxine Pijeaux says students ages 17 through 21 can finish where they left off.

They hit the books with teachers and tutors. "They come to us, so ready to earn their high school diploma because they understand that a high school grad can earn $8,000.00 more than a dropout."

The Southern Education Foundation says 40% of Alabama's students failed to graduate in 2010. Pijeaux says "The dropout situation is a national problem, so we got to work every day understanding what we are contributing and understand these are our kids, they deserve the best and we have to give our best to make certain they get what they need."

And results are showing. The program is growing. 33 kids graduated from the first class, 38 from the second and at least 75 will graduate next week. Add that up and you'll get 146. Divided by the total number of kids in the program, that's a 91-percent graduation rate.

Pijeaux says many students have become first generation high school grads who have gone on to college. So what's behind this success? "The relationship between are staff and students is such that they feel comfortable talking to us, helps them unload, helps us guide them."

Helping students like Tasha graduate, so they can accomplish more goals. "It can take you along way."

The next graduation will be May 17th at 10:00 a.m. inside Boutwell Auditorium. If you would like more information about this program, call 205-231-2954 or 231-2951