Parents of incoming freshmen at Effingham County High School got a primer in the Willing Intervention Now for Students from Principal Yancy Ford on Monday.
The program, which began last school year, is targeted to help students who may need some extra attention during the transition from eighth to ninth grade.
“Our overall big picture is to create a mentoring program for our students at ECHS,” Ford said, “whether you’re a ninth grader, 10th grader, 11th grader or a 12th grader, whether you’re missing school, you’re having poor grades, or something outside of school that is preventing you from studying, or if you’re a pretty good student who just needs an extra nudge to help you get over the bumps.”
Ford said he and the staff at the school also have mentors who have more experience to advise them.
“I tell our ninth grade parents when we have our orientation in the fall when students come to high school you’ve been involved in their school days in elementary and middle school, and now they’re going to tell you ‘mom, dad you can stay away,’” he said.
“We tell you that’s not the case. We want you to be involved. We want you to be here. Our doors are always open,” Ford said. “The success of your child, the success of our community, is really three-fold. We’ve got students, we’ve got the faculty and staff here at ECHS, and we’ve got the parents and if those three (work together), our students are going to be successful.”
Bonnie Dixon, director for the Effingham United Way, said the program is funded by the Legends grant through United Way.
A team, recognizing the school truancy issues, wrote the grant, and the Effingham United Way was awarded $20,000 to plug into the school to help with the truancy problem with ninth graders.
Dixon said after three unexcused absences, parents will be contacted and when there are a group of students, the parents will be asked to attend a meeting on the program.
The meetings will have a judge, a representative from the Department of Juvenile Justice, a law enforcement official, a representative from the Department of Family and Children Services and the parents and child in question, “saying we need to get a handle on this now,” Dixon said.
“Out of 10 ninth graders only four of them will graduate,” Dixon said, concerning the statistics of graduation.
Ford said the mentoring program is to “help kids prepare for life.”
“I know when I was a kid my parents would tell me that I need to do certain things, and I don’t need to do certain things. Sometimes when you hear that reassurance from another adult, someone else in that child’s life, sometimes they respond differently,” he said.
Mentors will be community members, staff and faculty at ECHS and seniors at the school who have been recommended by their teachers and other community members.
Ford also explained the freshman academy to the parents. He said there will be three teams with teachers having a range of experience. The students will use planners. He also told parents there is free after school tutoring with transportation that can be provided, and the parents will get a phone call if at any point their child begins to have failing grades.
Ford said that last year out of 486 students, 31 were removed from the school record. He told parents that one student dropping out is too many.
“Some people say you can’t save them all, but we’re going to do our darndest to save them,” he said. “We’re going to try our best to save every kid that comes through the door.
“I’m going to tell your child when I talk to them that I love ’em, and I care about them,” Ford said.
There will be a mentor training on Aug. 27. Any community members who would like to mentor a student can call Cathy Zipperer at 754-6404 ext. 1237.