According to the U.S. Census Bureau Statistical Abstract on education, in 2008 approximately 98.7 percent of children ages 7-13; 98.6 percent ages 14-15; 95.2 percent ages 16-17; and 66 percent ages 18-19 were enrolled in our nation’s schools. Those numbers were significantly lower for economically disadvantaged and minority students (in some cases, as much as a full percentage point lower, depending on race). High School dropout rates are significantly higher in minority populations and lower-income communities and rose significantly from 2007-2008 among Black and Hispanic populations. Regardless of race and household income, the United States’ educational attainment and enrollment data suggests a recent trend towards lower percentage enrollment with a growing disparity between lower-income and minority populations.
Our nation’s youth, particularly our teens, are our immediate future. Trends downward in educational rates, attainment, and enrollment percentages are disturbing, no matter how slight. But what can we do to reverse this recent slip, and help prevent it becoming a trend? For starters, we can support organizations that support economically disadvantaged teens. Organizations like The Wyman Center.
The Wyman Center is based out of St. Louis, Missouri and serves youth ages 11 to 18 years who are, “economically disadvantaged and whose circumstances create risk of lower life opportunities.” This equates to roughly 1,200 teens in the Greater St. Louis area each year. Through partnerships with many organizations and agencies, Wyman’s Teen Outreach initiatives are projected to reach nearly 41,000 teens across the nation this coming school year. Always with an eye on the future, Wyman plans to expand that support 6-fold in the next five years.
Philanthropically supported, Wyman coordinates partners to help identify gaps in youth services. Working with those partners and programs, Wyman is able to implement solutions and identify barriers to many problems preventing teen development. Broad social problems, such as low graduation rates are definitely on Wyman’s radar. Recently, Wyman collaborated with The Scholarship Foundation of St. Louis to establish a Teen Leadership Program whose ultimate outcome is to offer opportunities to college-bound high school students that will better prepare them to graduate from college.
Through this partnership, staff will work with 300 students in the Teen Leadership Program from high-school graduation through their sophomore year of college and help them to integrate educated goals and outcomes for integrating financial, psychological and institutional support. According to Wyman’s data sources, those are the three key reasons that nearly 75 percent of students are likely to leave college.
How successful is Wyman’s Teen Outreach Program? Well, according to Wyman’s data, in a 12-year study of the program participants, those participating in the program are:
- 52% less likely to be suspended from school;
- 60% less likely to risk course failure;
- 53% less likely to become pregnant and;
- 60% less likely to drop out of school.
Those are positive and measurable outcomes that serve as strong building blocks towards success.
Wyman is supported through partnerships, as well as grants and offers teens access to the Scholarship Foundation’s Interest-Free Loan Program – with a default rate less than half of the rate of peers borrowing from other programs.
With so many roadblocks, and obstacles towards college graduation facing today’s disadvantaged and lower income teens, it’s comforting to know that organizations such as Wyman exist to help guide these students towards a successful education that will carry them into successful careers and successful lives as adults.
If you’d like to reach out to the Wyman Center or follow their successes online, their contact information is below: