East Lee County H.S. Has
New Mentoring Program
Destination Graduation is a comprehensive mentoring and academic intervention program designed for high school students who for whatever reasons, are unmotivated and/or unsucessful and are identified as at risk: economically disadvantaged, basic skills deficient, chronic absenteeism, juvenile justice issues, foster care, etc. Destination Graduation Mentors are based in the high school each serves, and have access to student’s teachers, administrators, and space for group work as well as a private area in which to meet with students confidentially.
What makes it different than other programs? The mentor is on-site and available to the students on demand 24/7; not by design, but because these students have fallen behind academically and socially. As a result they have significant needs, and it is our commitment to meet those needs. The other critical aspect of the program is that it affords the student a surrogate parent, which in many cases is the only support a student has in dealing with the daily challenges of succeeding in school and in life. The strong bond of trust forms as the student recognizes the mentor’s genuine commitment to their success.
Mentors work with their students on personal, academic and employment success. The goal is to prepare the student holistically for post-secondary education and/or to enter the workforce successfully.
Background: We learned from local school districts that disadvantaged youth were dropping out of high school at a greater rate than other student groups. We also knew from experience that summer youth job programs often ended up serving this same group of youth but generally on a first come, first served basis, and provided no incentive to remain in school.
As a result, we created Destination Graduation, promoted it as a youth jobs program but enhanced it with dropout prevention strategies. The program provides work-readiness training, one-on-one mentoring, and individualized academic assistance, incentives to attend school regularly, improve grades, and graduate.
The program was established first at Dunbar and Cape Coral High Schools in Lee County shortly after mid-year 2009/2010. The following year, three more mentors were placed in high schools in Collier and Glades counties. Two more were added in Charlotte and Hendry counties in 2012 and five more this fall. The program now serves over 300 youth in 12 high schools in all five Southwest Florida counties.
To date, 105 Destination Graduation students have graduated high school, a 94% graduation rate. Most of them have attended, or are attending college or some technical training program.