By Jaimee Diehl, Program Director, Young Adult Borough Center at Flushing High School
Last month, the Young Adult Borough Center (YABC) at Flushing High School in Queens held a career fair to get students excited about what comes after graduation, and to see their academics as part of a larger plan. Increasing high school graduation rates is a key goal of The Child Center of NY.
Research and firsthand experience show that earning a high school diploma is one of the most effective ways we can disrupt the trajectory of generational poverty.
YABC is a high school for over-age and under-credited students, ages 17.5-21. These are young people who have dropped out, been kicked out, or are so far behind that graduating may seem impossible. It’s a voluntary program that allows students to attend classes in the evening to obtain credits required for graduation. Each scholar is paired with a primary contact: a caring and qualified Child Center team member whom students can count on for guidance and encouragement. Our students face so many challenges—such as dealing with previously undiagnosed learning disabilities or needing to work to help their families financially—that it’s difficult to see beyond current struggles. We know that with the right support, young people of any background can reach their full potential.
Career fairs are always an important part of the high school experience, but they are especially important to YABC students. Eighteen speakers representing 14 industries spoke to 102 students about careers in civil service, education, mechanics, medical imaging, social work, IT, literature, and more. We also encouraged students to speak with at least three professionals to deepen their understanding of the potential career path. The excitement and focus in the room were palpable, as you could sense these young people—many of whom had all but lost hope not long ago—beginning to look forward to their futures.
Questionnaires were distributed after the event—and students had a lot to say.
One student observed that the city sanitation test consisted of mostly common-sense questions. Another noted that “newer model cars are becoming harder to work on” and, hence, studying to be a mechanic can lead to a fulfilling, successful, and in-demand career.
Several students commented that education is the key. “Health care, makeup, radiology,” said one. “I learned about the benefits, salaries, and what education I would need and how I can move forward with that education.”
Most students do not realize they are able to go into so many different fields. Maybe they were told they would not make it, or were discouraged because their grades have not always been the best. Presenting the students with dynamic opportunities helps drive them to excel in their education.
Our holistic approach to supporting YABC students, working in tandem with an excellent school administration and staff, is yielding encouraging results. For the 2021-22 school year, we achieved a 91 percent graduation rate. The rate for students with disabilities was 83 percent, and the rate for English language learners was 84 percent.
These are extraordinary results when you consider that each and every one of these students was at risk of dropping out. The entire team—school administration, teachers, staff, and of course, our own Child Center team—is very proud of these numbers. Our students’ success comes before anything, and we strive each day to make a difference.
We have a mantra at The Child Center, which is that it is never too early or too late to change the trajectory of a life. The scholars of YABC are living proof that it is never too late, and it is entirely worth the effort.
See our Q&A with Jaimee to learn more about her journey and her role here at The Child Center.
Get an inside look at YABC through this first-person story by Christopher, who recently graduated from YABC.