Local News

Teen's advice: Think twice

Dropouts: Garden Citian hoping experience will help on dropout prevention council.

Date: 9/3/2009

Posted by 25th Judicial District Youth Services on 11/17/2009


Author:    Rachael Gray

rgray@gctelegram.com

Courtney Ochs didn't know when she dropped out of school in 2007 that she would be serving on a council for dropout prevention in 2009.

The services of Programs Assessments Treatment Habilitation, or PATH, have given Ochs the chance to take GED classes in hopes she'll pass the GED test in a few weeks. Not only will she then have the equivalent of a high school diploma, but she's also giving something back to the state of Kansas: advice.

Ochs became a part of the Kansas Dropout Prevention Summit Youth Council through DropIN, a statewide collaboration committed to dropout prevention. The program is through the Kansas Department of Health and Environment. Sixteen Kansas youth serve on the council.

The KDHE reported during the 2007-2008 school year that 3,515 Kansas students dropped out of school. The Kansas DropINs hope to help all Kansas children graduate high school. The programs serves as a voice in dropout prevention discussion.

Ochs attended her first meeting Aug. 8 in Junction City at Rock Springs Ranch. She said the day-long panel provided discussion on what the youth will discuss during the conferences.

"I told them what I could bring to the table," Ochs said.

Ochs has been in the juvenile corrections system since 2005. She said she continued to take classes but moved around so much she didn't have sufficient credits to match her grade level to her age. In 2007, she decided to quit school. Since, she has found it difficult to find work and acceptance, she said.

Tamera Delacruz, Courtney's GED teacher and Family Impact team officer, found out about the council at the governor's conference in April.

The goal of the council is to create a youth council that represents the racial, ethnic, geographic, socioeconomic, cultural, religious, physical and educational diversity of the state. Delacruz knew Ochs, who is half-Hispanic and had previously dropped out of school, would be a good candidate for the council.

"Courtney has a lot of potential. She's one of my smartest students," Delacruz said.

Ochs said she made a good candidate because she already made the decision of whether or not to stay in school. Ochs shared some advice she has already given the council.

"Teachers should make school fun. It should feel like a place students want to be, not need to be," Ochs said.

She said she didn't regret her decision to drop out because she's almost ready to test out of the GED program now, but said dropping out created more challenges for her.

To students considering dropping out of school Ochs said, "It's not as easy as you think. It's not the easy way out. You'll want to go back, and when you do, you'll be behind."

On Sept. 29, Ochs will join the other Kansas students for a Regional Pre-Summit at Garden City Community College. On Oct. 20, Ochs will join the 15 other students in Wichita for the Dropout Prevention Summit at Wichita State University. During the summit, the youth council will serve as liaisons to the statewide planning committee and coordinators of a corresponding half-day youth summit.

The youth council is sponsored in part by the Kansas Volunteer Commission, the Kansas Parent Information Resource Center and CVS pharmacies. Other youth council members include Manuel Acosta from Ulysses and students or former students from Edwardsville, Shawnee, Lawrence, Topeka, Pittsburg, Newton, Winfield, Wichita, Salina, Manhattan and Goodland.

The Dropout Prevention Summit is funded through a grant received by the America's Promise Alliance, a national organization committed to ending the nation's dropout crisis, and a donation by State Farm Insurance.

Kansas DropINs was formed in 2008 and is tasked with planning the state's Dropout Prevention Summit. For more information about the summit or Kansas DropINs visit www.kansasdropins.org.