Attendance is key to student success

Kids are back in school, the weather is the best that it gets all year here in the Bay Area and Pope Francis was just in the U.S. for the first papal visit in seven years. Fall has a lot to offer this year!

But what does Pope Francis have to do with fall and kids being back in school? Well, interestingly enough, the Pope has a very clear understanding of what kids really need as they strive to succeed in life and in school. During a conversation that Pope Francis had with a young woman in Texas, he said “What I hope for from youth is for you all not to walk alone in life. … Each youth has to look in life for someone that helps them along the way…”

This statement rings true for so many children who are in school today.

September was Attendance Awareness Month, and studies show that there is a direct link between absenteeism and high school dropouts. Statistics tell us that three-fourths of students who are chronically absent in sixth grade will drop out of high school and that a student who is chronically absent in high school is 7.4 times more likely to drop out. It is up to us to give children a reason to stay in school.

As part of the attendance awareness discussion, earlier this September, several child serving agencies promoted “Mentoring Effect & Attendance Week”. The bottom line is that mentoring helps children stay in school. Studies of formal mentoring programs have shown:

• Students who meet regularly with their mentors are 52 percent less likely than their peers to skip a day of school.

• Students who meet regularly with their mentors are 37 percent less likely than their peers to skip a class.

• Students at-risk for not graduating were 36 percent more likely to aspire to enroll in and graduate from college if they had a mentor.

Mentoring is proven to help students feel more connected to school and to feel more positive about school. If kids stay in school, our communities benefit. According to the National Dropout Prevention Center/Network website:

• High school dropouts are four times as likely to be unemployed as those who have completed four or more years of college;

• Graduating from high school will determine how well you live for the next 50 years of your life. High school graduates earn $143 more per week than high school dropouts. College graduates earn $336 more per week than high school graduates ($479 more per week than high school dropouts);

• Dropouts are more likely to apply for and receive public assistance than graduates of high school;

• Dropouts comprise a disproportionate percentage of the nation’s prison and death row inmates. About 75 percent of America’s State prison inmates, almost 59 percent of Federal inmates, and 69 percent of local jail inmates did not complete high school (Harlow, 2003).

Little Sister Ircy is a great example of how mentors help students stay in school. She was matched with her Big Sister Ana since she was 10 years old and now she has graduated from high school. Ircy has had many challenges growing up, and her Big Sister has been there to help her along the way.

When Ircy was asked about her experience as a Little Sister, she said, “It’s been a wonderful experience to have a big sister to support me and keep pushing me forward. It’s a perfect match-we’ve been together for seven years. She understood me.” Ircy did not have to stand alone, and she showed up to school and ultimately graduated from High School. Ircy’s story is one of many Big Brothers Big Sisters stories that illustrate the statistic that students are more likely to show up to school if they know someone they respect cares — like a mentor.

If you are interested in learning more information about Big Brothers Big Sisters of the Bay Area, visit www.bbbsba.org.

Dawn Kruger is chief executive officer of Big Brothers Big Sisters of the Bay Area.

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