Skip to main content

CYC Blog

CYC Blog: The Educational Divide

CYC Blog: The Educational Divide

Young people in Colorado that have left or dropped out of school often do so because they are unable to see the benefit of a high school diploma in their present or future. The primary goal of CYC’s Reengagement program is to get young people back into school and on track to receive their high school diploma or GED.  

Here's how the Reengagement team is adapting to the current global pandemic, and staying focused on finding a better future for their students.

As Colorado Youth for a Change staff and our Colorado Reading Corps AmeriCorps members pivot to align with stay at home orders, we want you to know that your generosity is still making a difference. Here’s how.  

Our students need us now more than ever. It may look different – a text exchange instead of a school tour or a Facetime call instead of a meeting – but the connection remains constant. Education can provide stability during a time that feels uncertain for so many.

As staff and AmeriCorps members pivot to align with stay at home orders, we want you to know that your generosity is still making a difference.

Colorado Youth for a Change is working hard to meet the needs of our youth during this COVID-19 national emergency. Here is a glimpse into how we remain committed to students and our community during this time. 

While most of my students spend their weekends hanging out with friends, Katie spends her weekends sifting through the junkyard. When you walk into the auto mechanics room at school you are sure to find Katie wearing oil-stained coveralls, teaching other classmates the lesson of the day. At the beginning of the year, she made me promise I wouldn’t take her out of her auto class for any of our meetings. “This is the one thing I’m good at and the only class I like being in,” she said. I made that deal with her on the condition that she would help me figure out what the rattling was in my car. In her own words Katie is, “smarter than anyone in the garage.”

As the semester wore on Katie started missing more and more class. Her grades started to fall and the missing work piled up. The only class she consistently showed up for was Auto. When I asked Katie about her attendance she would brush it off and tell me she wasn’t good at school and didn’t need it. Katie was planning on dropping out soon to focus on auto mechanics. She could make a nice salary doing what she loves and didn’t understand why English or chemistry mattered.

This week’s Colorado Reengagement Network call with Patrick Hedrick from the City and County of Denver prompted us to take a closer look at the intersection between the juvenile justice system and education. This topic is particularly relevant to CYC, as nearly one-third of the students served last year were involved with the court system.

We understand that early interventions, student engagement, and social-emotional learning are important to keeping young people out of the justice system. But when a student gets in a situation where they are detained, it is just as important to remember that a quality education is vital to the future success of all young people. As Patrick Hedrick pointed out on this week’s call, education may be the only constant in a student’s life. And for those that get back on a positive path forward, it requires at least one caring adult in their life.

Last year, 9,277 students dropped out of school in Colorado. That’s down from 2017-2018 when 10,180 students left school early. In some ways, that’s 933 more students who stayed in school and have a better chance at obtaining post-secondary education, meaningful employment, better health care and less interaction with the court system. This is truly a great thing.

Yet despite this amazing accomplishment, there are still trends that appear year after year and suggest the work is not finished. To simplify, we can divide these trends into two different areas. One is the demographic question while the other appears to be a resource question.

We are grateful for your support throughout the year. From the little acts of kindness to the generous donations, it all encourages change and makes a difference to the children and young adults we serve.

Here are 10 “acts of change” from 2019 and the change-makers behind them. See yourself helping next year? Then join us and BE THE CHANGE in 2020!

Students – and their success in school – are our primary focus at Colorado Youth for a Change (CYC). Yet it takes many amazing people, working behind the scenes, to help us thrive in this endeavor. From board members to volunteers, from our staff to school district partners, they humbly provide important support to our organization and the students. We are extremely grateful for each and every contribution.

In this time of giving thanks, we would like to highlight some of these special people in this month’s blog post: Clare Wilson, Board Chair; Twanisha Parnell, Director of Finance; Becky Manning, Englewood Schools Partner; Robert McBride, CYC Volunteer.

AmeriCorps VISTA is a national service program, created by President Johnson in 1965, to help alleviate poverty. VISTAs primary role is to build the capacity of non-profit organizations across the country. VISTA members serve communities across the country, creating a grassroots effort to combat poverty.

At the end of each school year, Colorado Youth for a Change collects and analyzes the data from our programs. This information is used to evaluate achievements and adjust practices to better serve our youth. Here is a snapshot of the 2018-2019 school year. Thanks for making this important work possible with your support!

My high school had a rule that if any student was tardy 3 or more times, they would receive detention. I was always a rule follower and avoided trouble at all costs, but sometimes I was 5-10 minutes late because of my carpool. I remember actually feeling angry about the rule, it’s such an extreme consequence for teenagers who had trouble getting to school by 7 am each day. Here’s how I solved my problem: on any day I was going to be late, I would just skip school entirely to avoid detention. The result was that instead of missing 5 -10 minutes of homeroom, I would miss a full day of instruction. I never got detention, but I also missed enough days of school that my grades suffered. Nothing about that experience was restorative. I didn’t grow as a person, and the only thing I learned was that high school was another “us vs. them” kind of place.

50 years ago today, members of the LGBTQIA+ (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer/Questioning, Intersex, Asexual, etc.) community began a series of demonstrations against the Manhattan police for perpetual harassment and social discrimination at the Stonewall Inn. A place of refuge for many, the Stonewall Inn, an openly gay bar in New York City in the 1960’s, was frequently raided by police (1). Usually patrons scattered into the streets but this time, they rallied together.

Here at CYC we’re pulled in two different directions. We’re optimistic about the work that’s been done in the past 10 years, cutting the number of students who drop out nearly in half from more than 18,000 in 2005.

Yet as we all know, Colorado is changing rapidly and becoming one of the most expensive places to live in the United States. The employment sector is also changing and focused on high-growth industry pathways like information and technology and construction —jobs that often require a diploma and post-secondary education. A study by Georgetown University estimates that 74 percent of all jobs in Colorado will require high school completion and some level of a post-secondary education by next year.

In honor of Black History Month, the CYC blog is highlighting pioneers in education from the African American community. Each week of February we will highlight a new figure who helped shape the course of education in America. Read more

A bell rings signaling the five-minute warning. For the 1,300 students trickling into class, it’s just another day, but for our 75 AmeriCorps members, it’s another chance to make a difference. At Colorado Youth for a Change, we constantly analyze our data and share stories of student success, but we don’t often write about the individuals on the other side of this equation. Over the course of the 2018-2019 year, Colorado Youth for a Change AmeriCorps members will accumulate over 88,544 hours serving communities across Colorado. On this MLK Day, a day dedicated to service, we wanted to highlight those who devote every day to serving.

CYC’s Master Coaches are a critical part of the Colorado Reading Corps program. All former teachers, these staff members bring a wealth of passion and experience to CYC’s unique literacy program. Click to read an interesting interview with one of our Master Coaches who provides insights into the joys and challenges of teaching.

Our mission continues to be solving the dropout crisis in Colorado and we can honestly say that we have made enormous strides in helping the children and youth of Colorado stay on track and graduate.
With each year, Colorado Youth for a Change (CYC) has expanded its programming and strived to serve more and more students. For the 2017-2018 school year, we served 2,801* students—by far the most amount of students ever served by us. A big part of that gain was the addition of the Colorado Reading Corps program, which initially started in 2014 at Mile High United Way. We’re especially excited about this program because it expands our services into kindergarten and is truly the most preventative work we can do.

Language has the power to make others feel included, seen and empowered. But for that to be a reality, we have to actively and attentively change the way that we communicate. Gender-inclusive language is not something that has been normalized or taught in our educational system, so it is up to us to UN-learn gendered and exclusionary language.
But, why does this matter? Words are just, well, words. Not so much.

The statistics drew me in: students who can’t read by the end of third grade are 4x more likely to drop out of school (Annie E. Casey Foundation). Students who do not learn to read proficiently by the end of third grade almost never catch up in school. I wanted to do something to help, and CYC’s Colorado Reading Corps program allowed me to take action.

Futures Academy, a Colorado Youth for a Change program within Aurora Public Schools, recently held its Recognition Ceremony to honor student accomplishment. It’s an amazing day and it’s hard to describe the excitement. Especially moving is the fact that many of these students had, at one point, given up the hope of accomplishing anything academically.

On average CYC serves about 140 students who were in foster care or are currently in foster care each year. This is about 6 to 7 percent of the students we serve and one of the smaller populations of students we support.

When we started CYC in 2005, we saw dropout numbers go down steadily for the first five years. Then they started to slow down a bit and have since plateaued.

...From the very beginning of CYC, we’ve known that our work would rise or fall based on our ability to serve people of all races, sexual orientations, genders, and religious beliefs.[...]

...When we first start working with a student, it’s important to hear their story and understand who they are. We do this by asking a set number of questions, which can be found below. [...]

...As we all know, Colorado is becoming an increasingly desirable place to live. The cost of living, and especially the cost of rent, is surpassing average incomes. We are quickly becoming a state where having an education is essential[...]

...Is graduating in four years important? It is...Yet for a student facing serious challenges in their life like homelessness, court involvement, parenting or being in foster care, an extra year could mean a world of difference[...]

...The school system can be complicated. It can be especially complicated for someone facing language barriers. Our native Spanish speakers within the organization have all mentioned[...]

...It’s probably safe to say, no two school districts are exactly alike. Yet as we continue to get to know and understand the state, and look at students who dropout from that perspective, the more we come to understand both the differences and the similarities […]

A junior at Adams City High School, Jorge is charismatic and extremely confident. Theater is his main love and he hopes to one day be an actor. His eyes are set on the future. Will LA or New York offer more opportunities? He wants to go as soon as he graduates. Living in a big […]

We recognize a group of students with exceptional needs and challenges. We call them the Most Vulnerable Populations (MVP) of students. Some MVP students are vulnerable because of their identity, such as LGBTQ, while others are vulnerable because of a life event, such as foster care. Other life events we recognize are pregnant or parenting, […]

10,530 students dropped out of school in the 2015-2016 school year, which corresponds to a 2.3 percent Dropout Rate. After a small increase in the dropout rate in the previous year, Colorado is back on track when it comes to dropout prevention and reengagement. Each January an eagerly awaited set of numbers are published. After […]

What makes education so powerful is its ability to build on what came before it. Curriculum is carefully designed to align with child development and to move towards greater complexity and depth in every subject. For this reason—and as many advocates claim—education begins the moment a child is born. Each development stage requires the right […]

After an overwhelming response to our last post about chronic absenteeism, we thought we would dive a little deeper into the subject. Identifying students who are experiencing chronic absenteeism—which is most often described as missing 10 percent or more of school—is relatively straightforward. As many school administrators know, it’s also one of the most powerful early […]

Students cannot learn if they are absent from school. A student who is not attending school is considered “truant” and is subject to the laws and school regulations that address this behavior. Both attendance and truancy rates are reported by the Colorado Department of Education and can be found on the SchoolView data center. Yet […]

As a nonprofit in the youth development field, there are often many objectives to juggle. They often require some debate and conversation to get it right. One particular juggling act is balancing the need for data collection and outcomes with the need to remain open-minded and youth centered. That is, it’s important to approach everyone […]

As we start the new school year, we reflect on last year’s dropout rate. After eight years of steady decline, the dropout rate in Colorado has gone up. While the percentage itself doesn’t seem like a wide swing, when you look at the raw numbers and imagine the future for each of those youth, a […]

Program staff and AmeriCorps members with Colorado Youth for a Change (CYC) speak to hundreds of youth each year about their education. Some of these youth are still in school, but are beginning to struggle–failing a core class or having issues with attendance. Some of these youth have left school altogether and are considered a […]

The Educational Divide blog is created by Colorado Youth for a Change. Colorado Youth for a change is working to help in-school youth stay in school and out-of-school youth get back into school. Because of our experiences supporting youth in multiple schools and school districts across Colorado, we have decided to bring a focused effort to sharing […]