Teens come up with solutions to keep kids in school

A desk sits empty while a teacher at the Hill Public School works with the students at a table January 25, 2005 near Bayard, Neb.

Amethyst Lewis is 17. Christian Orellana is 18.

They just graduated from high school in New York City, where they spent more than a year tackling a serious public policy problem -- kids skipping school.  The issue's also known as truancy, or chronic absenteeism.

Amethyst and Christian were members of the Youth Justice Board, a project with the New York’s Center for Court Innovation.

They met with students, teachers and administrators to find out why kids don't show up for class and how to solve the problem.

First, they had to identify why students were missing so much school. 

"Each kid's story is different. It could be that their parents don't speak English and they have to translate for them. Or that they don't have a Metro card to get to school and they live really far," says Amethyst.

They said that some students were also discouraged by the tight security they have to go through to get in the building.

"Because of the long lines in front of their school and getting into the building, they're already late for class so they feel like why should I go to class?"

The group identified a list of recommendations including providing more mentors,  and making sure parents, guardians and the students themselves are aware of the importance of attending school.

"We had recommendations about how to connect everyday life with school and how students can connect school with life," said Christian. 

They even made the economic argument: "A lot of teens today think that school is no big deal and that they'll just get a job but they don't realize that the money they want to make isn't easy without an education," said Amethyst.

The members of the Youth Justice Board just presented their findings at New York's City Hall.

About the author

David Gura is a reporter for Marketplace, based in the Washington, D.C. bureau.

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