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AT&T supports School Success Centers benefiting Columbus students

EHE News
August 03, 2012

Student Success Centers at two Columbus high schools have entered their third year of encouraging teenagers to earn their diplomas as a path to satisfying lives and careers.

Grant support from AT&T enables EHE faculty, supervisors and master's degree students in school counseling to staff and administer the centers, which provide intensive support to high-risk students.

The AT&T High School Success grant program was established to combat the nation's high school dropout crisis and to prepare young people for an increasingly complex world of work.

EHE's Student Success Centers have operated for two years at Linden McKinley STEM Academy and South High School, both Columbus City Schools in economically challenged neighborhoods.

Approximately 138 students have benefitted from the Success Centers. Services include academic skill building, individualized counseling services, career/college advising, peer mentoring and parent engagement opportunities.

"The Student Success Centers have made a measurable difference in attendance and academic performance," said Colette Dollarhide, associate professor of EHE's Counselor Education program and a grant co-principal investigator.

"The unique nature of Student Success Centers has allowed so many of our students to realize the importance of education as they prepare for the workforce and a career," Dollarhide said.

She added, "Not only are the students at these two high schools benefitting from the centers, but our graduate students in school counseling are getting a chance to work in a grant-funded environment that highlights the positive impact school counseling can have on the success of students. It's a win-win for everyone."

How the centers help youth succeed

The Success Centers serve high-risk ninth graders who have the ability to succeed but need specialized mentoring, counseling, career and college advisement, and study skills training.

James L. Moore III is the other co-principal investigator and an internationally known professor on academic success for urban students. He said the team tracked the 138 participants in the Success Centers, comparing their attendance and grades to those of 967 peer students in the general school population. "Research shows that students struggling in school typically begin to consider dropping out as they face the challenging transition from ninth to tenth grades," Moore said. "The Student Success Centers connect these students with their schools and provide a sense of belonging.

"Also, our Ohio State preservice school counseling students offer support and encouragement that many urban students desperately need but seldom receive, at least in a comprehensive and consistent manner."

Maureen Casamassimo, supervisor of the Student Success Center at Linden-McKinley STEM Academy, listed the skills provided by the centers.

"We put more tools at their disposal to gain study skills, greater guidance for career choice and success, a stronger connection with parents and more access to counseling for life success," she said. "Thanks to these resources, our program participants have a much greater chance of graduating from high school and succeeding in life and in their chosen careers."

Students show they appreciate the program, especially those who completed it two years ago and asked to come back to mentor their younger classmates. "We are very proud of the dedication and interest shown by former program participants who believe so strongly in the Student Success Center concept that they want to give something back to the program," Casamassimo said.

AT&T's philanthropy to aspiring youth

The grant to the EHE Student Success Centers is part of AT&T's signature education initiative, AT&T Aspire, which was announced in 2008. It is specifically focused on confronting the dropout crisis to help ensure that students graduate from high school and are prepared for the future challenges of continuing education and the workforce.

"An educated workforce for the future is not only critical to the success of our nation, but to the success of our company as well," said Tom Pelto, president of AT&T Ohio. "We need these students to power the 'possibility economy' of today — and more importantly — of tomorrow."

Comments from Linden-McKinley Student Success Center participants

One thing I learned about myself is…

I am a leader and I can do whatever I put my mind to. (SH)

I progress little by little. (DC)

What have you learned from this group that will help you next year and in the future?

I learned to solve problems in a better way and how to focus on what I need to do. (LM)

I learned how to set goals for myself. (BC)

How to make good decisions with my health, attitude and education. (RB)

How to be organized. (MW)

The requirements for college and my future. (MJ)

What is something you learned about your career choices?

I learned what kind of jobs I could get and that I am qualified for many jobs. (RB)

I found out my best interest in college careers and there are a lot of choices for me and I need different skills to achieve different careers. (DB)

Would you tell a friend to participate in this group? Why?

Because it helped me focus more in school. (AM)

It took me out of the drama. (SH)

It helped me learn ways to get better grades. (DM)

Comments from OSU counseling interns and program supervisors

I have seen this center benefit the students because it provides a safe space for students to get real about the barriers to learning and to work to overcome obstacles that keep them from achieving. . . . This center pushes them to be motivated and take their school work seriously. Finally, this center has been a success because it challenges students to think about their futures and plan beyond their freshmen year of high school, which adolescents often struggle to do!

--Elizabeth Adams, EHE school counseling intern and program leader

I see the students gaining a lot of confidence to make the changes they need to in order to achieve better academically and really beginning to make the connections about how important school is for reaching their future goals.

--Ryan McClellan, EHE school counseling intern and program leader

The high school students become confident in their own abilities to become good students, to communicate in healthy ways, to make good decisions holistically about their present and future academic and behavioral choices.

The graduate students learn that through their passion and efforts, they can have a significant impact on the direction a struggling student takes. They are humbled and surprised by the relationships they form as mentors and role models and begin to believe that school counselors can 'change the world' one student at a time.

--Maureen Casamassimo, Student Success Center program coordinator and center supervisor