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Positive role models keep kids in school

By Keryn Page

MISSISSIPPI STATE -- Positive adult role models decrease the chances a student will drop out of high school, and community members can help children who fail to receive encouragement at home.

"Research shows that family involvement is one of the most important factors in helping a child succeed in life. Doing things together as a family -- even something as basic as eating meals together -- improves a child's behavior," said Patsilu Reeves, family life education specialist with the Mississippi State University Extension Service.

"If children don't get this involvement from their own parents, they still need positive role models. These can be coaches, teachers, siblings or other mentors," Reeves said.

Parents or adult mentors should spend time with students and show an interest in their activities. Get and stay involved in the student's education, communicating effectively and often with teachers.

"Parents must be involved not just when a child is bad. At the beginning of the school year, go meet and talk to your child's teacher," Reeves said. "Open communication with teachers and other school officials can make parents aware of any problems that might arise, but it also shows children that someone cares about their education and well being."

In Mississippi, between 30,000 and 40,000 students drop out of high school each year, and only about 14,000 people take the General Educational Development test.

The National Dropout Prevention Center/Network reports that high school dropouts are four times as likely to be unemployed as those who completed four or more years of college. High school graduates earn $143 more per week than high school dropouts, and college graduates earn $336 more per week than high school graduates.

Dropouts comprise a disproportionate 82 percent of the nation's prison and death-row inmates. They also are more likely to apply for and receive public assistance than graduates of high school, according to the NDPC/N.

Louise Davis, Extension child and family development specialist, said recognizing the drop-out warning signs is a must for parents, teachers and other mentors.

"Some of the indicators a student is likely to drop out of high school include poor attendance, low grade-point average, low test scores, discipline problems, low parental educational level, lack of participation in extracurricular activities and low socio-economic status," Davis said. "Increasing our awareness of these warning signs can help protect kids from the hardships associated with dropping out of school."

Davis said students who drop out often do so because they feel hopeless about their ability to succeed in high school and the workforce. Teachers must recognize the value in all jobs and encourage low-performing students to consider some type of vocational training.

"Students shouldn't feel they have to give up on high school just because they aren't 'college material,'" Davis said. "Finishing high school and receiving practical training in some trade increases their chances of success in life and of making a decent living."

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Released: July 21, 2005
Contact: Dr. Patsilu Reeves, (662) 325-3080

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