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Summit Aims to Help WA Teens Stay in School

April 16, 2009

Spokane, WA – For Washington high school students, it's almost graduation time – except for the 30,000 students who dropped out this year. On Friday, 300 business leaders, educators and high school students will tackle this problem at "One in Three: A Regional Summit on Dropout Prevention" in Spokane.

With all the economic and time crunches that families face, keeping kids in school can be a challenge. Almost 30 percent of Washington teens fail to graduate from high school on time, and at least five percent drop out altogether.

Ben Stuckart, executive director of Communities in Schools of Spokane County, runs after-school programs in Spokane middle schools. He points out that not everyone is an athlete or can afford private lessons and activities, so students need other options.

"The activities that are most needed are the after-school activities. I think everybody kind of has in their mind that if we send the kids to school, the teachers teach 'em and it's all fine – but they don't know about all these other extraneous pressures, on children and on families."

Both the Washington House and Senate have eliminated state funding for after-school programs in their proposed budgets. Stuckart says he hopes they will reconsider, and he urges businesses and community groups also to step up to help keep the programs going.

Stuckart says school budgets are too tight to offer many extras, so it's up to after-school programs to fill in the gaps.

"Some kids have sports and activities, but other kids need other cultural enrichment activities. Academic support also happens after school. Both of those are very important, to keep the kids off the streets, engaged in school, and to keep them coming back and staying in school."

High school students will be part of Friday's summit at Lincoln Center, Spokane. It is scheduled from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m.; people may register at the door.

Chris Thomas, Public News Service - WA