The US Department of Education launched the High School Graduation Initiative in 2010 to support school districts doing dropout prevention and recovery work. Competitive grants were given out to 27 districts and two states, for a total of just under $50 million.
At least 15 cities have organized stand-alone reengagement centers. They offer a one-stop, personalized case-management approach – bringing together schools, private businesses, workforce-development experts, and other partners to try to reconnect young adults with a promising future.
Staff members at Boston's REC listen to each student's story, share struggles from their own school days, help them find the right school or alternative program to fit their needs, and stay in touch once they've reenrolled.
That's what won the trust of Quinones. In November she started coming every weekday to take online credit recovery courses at the REC, a bare-bones set of offices and computer labs with inspirational posters.
In just a month – keeping normal school hours, though that's not required – Quinones finished four courses and is on track to earn her diploma in February. Although she feels "stuck" in geometry, a teacher is on hand to guide her.
"In high school, teachers never really sat with me.... Having teachers take out their time ... to go through one problem for four hours, that means a lot," she says.