Orangeburg’s three school districts are trying a new way to fight the high number of students dropping out of high school. Leaders held a “walk for success” Saturday, going directly to the homes of teens who were not appearing in class to meet with them.
It was the idea of new Orangeburg Consolidated School District Five Superintendent Cynthia Wilson. She said she got the idea from her previous job in Houston.
Wilson said, “We know in order for us to do our job, we have to make sure that every student we can get to return to our schools, that we give them that opportunity.
Wilson said 60 students did not appear for class at Orangeburg-Wilkinson High School at the start of the year. The school’s staff worked to find out what happened to those “no-shows.” They found about half had transferred to other schools, while about 30 just did not return. She said she and other school officials found out where those students lived and went to their homes Saturday.
“I think when the superintendent, board members, and community members of high stature participate, then it sends the message that every student matters, and that’s the message we want people to really absorb and take in,” stated Wilson.
She said many of the dropouts were trying to help their families, including several who had children they needed to take care of. Wilson said the school is trying to help those students out.
School board members, administrators, and volunteers were involved in the walks. Wilson said it was important to show those students that the school was not giving up on them.
“I think the community was very excited to see our board members and community members of high stature coming into their homes; not to say anything negative about the kids, but just to encourage them and let them know we had their best interests at heart,” remembers Wilson.
It will take more than just one event to lower the district’s dropout rate, according to Wilson. She added, “We cannot wait 365 days to do this, we have to make sure it’s a daily effort on our part to get out and bring kids back into our system.”
Wilson said they need more help from Orangeburg residents, as well, “If they want to come and volunteer next year we’d love to have them. The more people we have, obviously the more doors we can knock on.”
She said in their efforts to track down students, the district discovered nearly half of teens reported as “dropouts” had simply transferred to other schools.