Friday, March 15, 2013

Rose: Access to Educational Options Could Be the Ticket to Solving Dropout Problem

Growing up in Northwest Detroit, I watched many of my peers struggle through school – some even dropped out.  What kept me motivated was the fact that I knew getting my high school diploma and making it to college were mandatory steps in achieving my dreams.  I also was lucky to have a supportive mother who kept me grounded and motivated. 

Every day, nearly 7,000 high school students across the country give up on their shot at a better life. In Detroit, four out of ten students do not graduate. A staggering number of these students in Detroit and across the country who decide to drop out of school are African-American and Latino, and come from low-income families with limited access to educational options.
Like my high school peers, students drop out for myriad reasons.  There is one thing that is certain, we need to do more as a country to ensure these students have every opportunity to avoid becoming another “inner city statistic.”  
Providing children with the opportunity for a better tomorrow starts with a good education.  The one-size-fits-all approach to educating students is obviously not working.  We need to provide families with greater access to educational options, ensuring each and every child has the opportunity to receive an education that addresses his/her individual needs.

In 2011 I founded the Jalen Rose Leadership Academy in an effort to give children in my hometown with access to a quality education in a positive environment.  Currently the Academy is serving over 200 ninth and tenth grade students selected at random with a robust educational experience.   Students at the Academy receive a leadership-focused education with the goal of inspiring students to ultimately graduate with a college degree. 
The Academy is just one example of an educational option that is working to address the needs of economically-disadvantaged students.   We must take the steps necessary to provide students with access to the education that works best for their needs if we ever hope to solve the issues that plague our inner-city neighborhoods. 
Statistics show high school dropouts are 72 percent more likely to be unemployed as compared to high school graduates.  What is also startling is the fact that nearly 80 percent of prisoners in the United States do not have a high school diploma.   With nearly 760 prisoners per every 100,000 citizens, as a nation we spend almost $70 billion each year to incarcerate adults, confine youth to detention centers, and monitor those on probation and parole.   

By ensuring every student has access to the best education possible, we can help prevent more students from becoming statistics.  We must call on our elected officials to work together to provide students with educational options, giving them a chance to receive a quality education that works for their needs. 

Through my work with the American Federation for Children, I hope to help raise awareness of the plight of low-income and minority students across the country stuck in schools that do not address their individual learning needs.   These students deserve every opportunity available to help them rise above their current economic situation and achieve their dreams. 

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