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Administrators at Oklahoma City school identify, correct at-risk students

U.S. Grant High School employs four full-time attendance advocates who work to keep students in school.
BY CARRIE COPPERNOLL Published: February 26, 2012

The pressure to work to support the family can be intense, Mitchell said.

Trading paychecks for backpacks is a tough sell.

Some students work construction or roof houses for $10 an hour — more than their parents make.

“The kids have not been acclimated to viewing education as a priority,” Mitchell said. “They're wrestling with getting a job and getting an education.”

For some students, the decision to stay in school comes down to simple math, said Gary Redding, attendance advocate for the sophomore class. If they have a diploma, they're likely to make more money in the long run.

But giving up a paycheck to lug books and do homework can be difficult when their families need money today.

“You're liking that $300, $400 now, but you can't survive on that the rest of your life,” said Redding, a retired high school principal from Texas.

Encouraging students to stay in school — or come back — is a challenge, Mitchell said. Life is complex for many students at Grant. So the attendance advocates work to build confidence, set expectations and hold students accountable.

They want to create hope for their students, Mitchell said. Nobody slips through the cracks. Their students aren't throwaway kids.

“They're salvageable,” Mitchell said. “We take them under our wings.”


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