When students leave school before graduating, it is for a variety of reasons, including family issues or the need to work. Without meaningful support, including child care, counseling and alternative scheduling, it can be nearly impossible for these children to find their way back.
Enter the CPS Student Outreach and Reengagement (SOAR) Centers, which identify out-of-school and off-track youth and help get them back into the classroom. Since opening their doors two years ago, these community hubs have brought 2,400 students back to the CPS fold, with momentum picking up steadily over the past six months.
“Once they’ve dropped out, a lot of students don’t realize that there are options out there for them to get back into school,” said Jose Rodriguez, a re-engagement specialist at the Little Village SOAR Center.
Staff like Rodriguez help address students’ individual needs, offering support such as outreach, enrollment assistance and counseling referrals. And through a two-week workshop, they also provide training that prepares students for a successful reentry to school. Through this program, students create individual success plans with short- and long-term goals, as well as strategies on how those goals can be met.
“We do our best to make a connection while they are doing the workshop so that they feel comfortable when they leave here,” said Rodriguez.”
The workshops allow youth to bond with and learn from their instructors, as well as from each other.
“I’m really close with these people,” said Edgar, a recent SOAR student. “I just love this program because you’re around other people with your same circumstances and you get to see them succeed.”
After graduating from the SOAR workshops, students hopefully possess the confidence they need to finish high school and pursue post-secondary plans like enlisting in the military or finding meaningful employment and owning their own homes.