One Missouri representative takes a special interest with St. Louis City Drop Outs
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One Missouri representative takes a special interest with St. Louis City Drop Outs

Date: January 21, 2011
By: Jamal Andress
State Capitol Bureau

One Missouri Representative has made a commitment to the St. Louis City drop out problem and in May she will have managed to get 250 former drop outs their high school diplomas. Jamal Andress has more from Jefferson City.
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Wrap: For St. Louis City representative Jamilah Nasheed, the high drop out rate for St. Louis city school students has been a long-term concern.

She says the high drop out rate has a direct correlation to crime in the city.

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Description: "I truly believe that every time we turn on the news those young men and women that we see that have committed a crime, nine times out of ten they've dropped out of the system."

Nasheed says she understands what being in this position feels like.

At the age of 16 she dropped out of the St. Louis City School system and no one attempted to bring her back in.  

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Description: "When you fall behind on your credits they think that you can't make it up so they tell you that you don't have to come back. So I was really pushed out of the St. Louis Public Schools. I felt that that was a major issue."

After running her own bookstore for 10 years Nasheed was elected to the Missouri house in 2007.

She has been actively fighting the drop out problem in St. Louis ever since.

 Nasheed got together with local community leaders in the St. Louis City area to organize two connected programs called "In it to Win" and "Fresh Start Academy"

The two prong approach starts with In it to Win, which is a community based group that is focused on recovering young people that have dropped out of the educational system.

Lee Scott is the director of In it to Win and he says just by being there his group is making a difference.

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Description: "When you hear parents after contacting them and finding out where their young people are and trying to help put them on the right path they're in tears saying we're so glad that you called because we didn't know how to get our kids back in school and it works."
But Scott says convincing these students to give up their lifestyle for education is always difficult.

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Description: When you ask them to give that up and come back to school and not have to rely on the street life or the hustle to help them, which could potentially lead them into incarceration. We ask them to give that up, come back to school, trust the system to work for them. That's not an easy sell.

After In it Win reaches out to students and convinces them to get back in school those kids attend Fresh Start Academy.

Fresh Start Academy is a non traditional program that helps drop outs between 17 and 21 years old get their high school diploma.

Fresh Start is funded by the St. Louis Public School District and partners with various national organizations such as the YMCA,Inroads, and the NAACP. 

So far 150 former drop outs have graduated from Fresh Start Academy.

The Head of communications for the St. Louis City School District, Patrick Wallace cites Fresh Start Academy as an effective tool for drop outs.

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Description: "Well one of the programs that is very successful for us is called Fresh Start and it's a program for 17 to 21 year olds who have dropped out. And it's a way for them to come back to school and earn not their GED but their actual high school diploma."

Scott says students receiving their high school diploma is what really makes the program special

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Description: "Most people who drop out get a GED certificate but that's not the case with Fresh Start. Fresh Start you get a high school diploma. That means everything."

Sean Nichols is the principal of Fresh Start Academy and he says the success stories are everywhere.


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Description: "I've seen the benefits of young people going to college, young people being pulled off of the street, young people making impacts on their families, students starting their own businesses so we're definitely impacting lives."

Nasheed says Fresh Start is going to be having it's largest graduation ever this year.

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Description: "We've graduated out of that school 150 students. Right now what we're trying to do is graduate 100 this year."

Along with In it to Win and Fresh Start, Representative Nasheed also offers a scholarship for drop outs to go to trade school.

Nasheed is currently working on a Math and Science Tutoring Center for "In it to Win."

From the state Capitol, I'm Jamal Andress.