Education program supports at-risk youths
EMC photos by John Haeger
Rachael White lives with a relative and six other children in the city of Rochester.
Home life is usually so busy that she isn’t able to get a lot of help with homework, said the 16-year-old East High School junior.
So, when a friend recommended the Liberty Partnerships Program at Monroe Community College, which offers personalized tutoring among its services, Rachael said she quickly enrolled.
“I really needed help,” she said. “My grades were sinking a little bit.”
LPP is a state-funded dropout-prevention program that connects local school districts with colleges and community-based organizations, according to information from Monroe Community College officials. Program participants often are referred by their school counselors based on such at-risk factors as poor attendance, poor academic performance or behavioral problems, said Susan Gunther, who directs MCC’s program.
“The mission of the program is to support at-risk youth, in the Rochester City School District in our case, by providing academic and personal support so they can graduate and move on to post-secondary education or enter careers,” Gunther explained.
MCC recently received a five-year, $355,000 LPP grant from the state to support about 285 middle- and high-school students annually. The 2017-18 program kicked off with a Sept. 28 celebration at Rundel Library in downtown Rochester.
Additionally, Rochester Institute of Technology and Genesee Community College each received five-year, $450,000 LPP grants to serve additional groups of students in the Rochester area, according to information from New York State Education Department (http://bit.ly/2ybOcUL).
Through LPP, students receive tutoring two days a week at their respective schools and attend workshops on a variety of topics, Gunther added. LPP staff also provide case management and connect with parents, teachers, counselors and the students to ensure that participants are receiving all the support services they need, she said.
“Some of them come from pretty difficult situations,” said Gunther, noting her staff annually makes about 150 home visits. “This (program) is not just about grades. If they’re missing school because of a family situation, we need to look at that. If they’re at school every day and on task because they’re not distracted (by) other issues, we supplement what the school district is doing (with enrichment activities).”
The program also provides information on vocational programs at Rochester Educational Opportunity Center or trade apprenticeship opportunities, Gunther added. And LPP also connects students to professionals as mentors in specific industries based on students’ particular interests, she said.
“We do a lot of activities around career exploration,” Gunther said.
That is one aspect Rachael said she really enjoyed about the program, and now she plans to study early childhood education. Additionally, her grades have improved a year after starting LPP, she said. And, she has had the opportunity to visit local colleges and museums like Seneca Art & Culture Center at Ganandogan in Victor.
“I’m Native American, too, so I got to learn a little bit about my history,” Rachael said. “Since I started LPP, my grades have been coming up. I have a teacher who works one-on-one with me and helps with whatever subject I need help with.”
Additionally, the program’s summer component keeps students who face academic challenges from losing gains they have made, noted Susan Hulse, the mother of a freshman in the program.
Hulse adopted Nichole, 14, nearly a year ago. Nichole had lived in an impoverished area in another state, she said, and a counselor recommended LPP to help her catch up with current students in her grade level.
“She had never been exposed to much,” Hulse added. “She was not academically challenged. No skills, no interests were fostered.”
She noted that the extra help through LPP makes participating students more engaged and interested in school and in doing well.
“And they know when they’re doing well they will have awesome opportunities,” Hulse said. “When else do you have eighth-graders visiting colleges?”
LPP also is offering opportunities for parents to become more engaged in the program by participating in a new parent advisory committee, Gunther said. Hulse and another parent were asked to form the committee after attending a statewide conference last spring, Gunther said, noting that the committee will help plan monthly workshops on topics of interest to parents, Gunther said.
“Our situation is little bit different: I have a child who is at risk because of her past,” Hulse said. “Other kids are at risk because of their current (situation). Some parents have the resources to learn about different opportunities about college and financial aid and staying in school. Some parents don’t. LPP can be that place.”
The group is planning to meet at a central location, such as the Rochester library downtown, to help with transportation challenges, Hulse said. Additionally, the group is considering offering child care through the LPP students, she said.
“Maybe we can find out what the parents need, help find resources to help them get what they need, overcome barriers to being a (more) involved parent,” Hulse said. “Being a child in the City of Rochester can be a traumatic experience based on where you live, who your classmates are. Dealing with those issues impacts educational learning. … If you don’t have enough food or work a shift and can’t get to a meeting because if you don’t work, your family has no food. That’s the thing; there so many different pressures experienced in a city like ours.”
Gunther said she looks at the work of LPP as ensuring no child — no matter what their situation — falls between the cracks of the educational system.
“I really come into my job every day with the philosophy that every student has potential,” she said. “Sometimes, they don’t have the resources or support or both.”