Project U-Turn ambassadors grateful for second chances
‘Tis the season to be grateful, and that’s how we feel about the second chance that we have had. As you may know, Philadelphia City Council named October as Dropout Prevention Month. Nationally, this is a time to recognize efforts to prevent youth from dropping out of school, which is very important. This support is especially needed for those who are facing challenges. At the same time, we don’t want you to forget about the thousands of people in Philadelphia who, like us, already left school before graduating.
My name is Arthur, and I left school in 10th grade when I was 17 years old. I’d like to say that my circumstances surrounding why I left are unique, but the truth is that I recognize how many others face the same challenges that I faced. I want you to know that I didn’t just wake up one random day and decide I didn’t want to finish school. Rather, it had been a number of different things that added up over time.
You see, before I came to the decision that I couldn’t finish high school, I had already been shuffled around to seven or eight different schools. I was in foster care, and things were tough for me in my life outside of the classroom. The constant moving, coupled with my personal challenges at home, led me to make choices that got me removed from classes and eventually removed from a really good high school.
Sometimes when I moved from one school to the next, my credits wouldn’t transfer. As a result, my grades had dropped, and I wasn’t passing some of my classes, which held me back. I found myself in a classroom with students who were younger than me, and I began to feel uncomfortable, feeling way older than some of my classmates. I finally decided that school just wasn’t for me. I had lost all of my self-esteem and left.
One day on the subway, I saw a poster for a program that would help me get my GED and a job. After some consideration, I signed up and got the support that I needed. During my time there, I had a lot of ups and downs and personal issues that interfered, but the staff did not give up on me. They wanted me to excel. I finally completed all four exams and received my GED within one year.
My name is Ciarra. When I was in 6th grade, my grandpop passed away, and I started having trouble dealing with my emotions. After I started high school, losing that father figure really hit me, and I developed a temper. By the time I was removed from school in 10th grade, I really just thought that school wasn’t for me.
Thankfully, I still had someone in my life who cared. My grandmother told me: “No one can tell you what to do, as long as you have your high school diploma.” After she said this, I realized that I wanted another chance.
I did some research online and found the Re-Engagement Center at the School District of Philadelphia. At first, I tried a dual-enrollment program, where I was taking college classes while trying to complete my diploma. It wasn’t the right fit for me, but I didn’t give up.
The Re-Engagement Center supported me because they have many different options, and I transitioned to another program. This program helped me get my driver’s permit and driving lessons, and I earned both my diploma and my Childhood Development Associate credential.
I always had an interest in early childhood education, and before I left school, I had spent time with the students who were in special education, wanting to make sure that they felt included. I am proud to say that thanks to earning my diploma and earning my credential, I am now working at an early childhood education center specifically with children who have autism.
Last month, we joined other youth ambassadors for Project U-Turn’s #UTurnTogether campaign to share our stories via social media. By sharing our stories, we want to reach others who may be in situations similar to ours and let them know that they’re not alone on their journey. No matter students’ specific stories, they can get connected to one of the many programs and get the support that they need to earn their GED or high school diploma.
We are grateful for the opportunity and the support that we received. So, let’s not forget about the thousands who may need that extra nudge to go back to school. Encourage them to look into the various program options in Philadelphia and share their story to inspire others using #UTurnTogether.
Arthur Green, a graduate of Healthcare Careers Program @District 1199C, and Ciarra Evans, a graduate of the School District of Philadelphia/OIC Workforce Academy, are #UTurnTogether ambassadors for Project U-Turn.