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August Martin High School Now Has Higher-Than-Average Graduation Rate

August Martin High School culinary students with Lidia Bastianich

AMHS scholar-chefs with Emmy award-winning public television host, best‐selling cookbook author, and restaurateur Lidia Bastianich. Read the full story behind the photo: childcenterny.org/the-child-center-of-ny-on-pbs/.

Ready for some good news for which to give thanks? August Martin High School (AMHS) in Jamaica, Queens, achieved a 91.7% graduation rate for the 2019-2020 school year!

“This is a great achievement, exceeding NYC’s average high school graduation rate,” says Amanda Etienne, The Child Center of NY’s Senior Vice President, Youth Development.

The city-wide high school graduation rate for New York City was 77.3 percent in 2019, the most recent figure.

The Child Center of NY has served as lead community-based organization (CBO) for August Martin High School since 2015. The previous year, Mayor Bill de Blasio established the Community School Advisory Board to work on the creation of 100 community schools in some of the city’s most under-served neighborhoods. August Martin High School was one of them, and when The Child Center of NY was asked to take on the role of lead CBO, we accepted without hesitation.

What happened next stands as testament to the fact that all young people, given the right skills, education, opportunities, and support, can reach their full potential.

Within three years, August Martin’s graduation rate rose from 24 percent to a remarkable 73 percent — and now that figure stands at an impressive 91.7 percent.

This turnaround didn’t happen by accident. Its foundation is an evidence-based strategy based on a bold attendance initiative; getting to know each student and family and following up frequently; and a strong school administration, led by Principal Rory Parnell, who has spearheaded the effort to ensure first-rate academics and high expectations.

“The success of the school is the unwavering high standard and expectations students are held to,” says Associate Vice President Youth Development Saran Shields, LMSW, “putting academics at the forefront of everything and allowing students to truly earn their incentives and rewards. It is the intensive work that the staff do behind the scenes to get the students to school and create opportunities for support and enrichment. It is truly a team effort at August Martin High School.”

Shields notes that scholars’ families and the larger community are also integral components of that team. “Whatever it takes to support a scholar on their high school journey — we surround them with encouragement and support toward success.”

That often includes linkages to social services, success mentors, and filling practical needs, like free hygiene products, vision screenings, and immigration clinics. According to Shields, “Our aim is to create a welcoming environment that allows all students to be confident and free to pursue their academic goals.”

“The students, teachers, school administration and our community school team all celebrate where AMHS is and the journey it took to get here,” says Etienne. “The results speak for themselves.”

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