HAVERHILL — Denisse Baez said without programs like night school at Haverhill High, several of her friends would have quit long ago.
They would have joined former students who have kept Haverhill's dropout rate at nearly double the state average for the last five years.
The night school and other programs aimed at keeping potential dropouts in school will reach out to more students because of a federal grant announced yesterday. The grant total can reach $4 million in the next five years, school officials said.
City and school leaders gathered in front of Haverhill High School to announce that Haverhill is the only community in the state to win such a federal grant.
The school will get $760,000 this year under for its Youth Engaging for Success, or YES program. The grant targets students who failed either English or two or more subjects in the previous year, have more than 15 days absent and multiple suspensions, and fail to make sufficient progress in English as a Second Language.
If Haverhill can show it is making progress, it will get an additional $838,000 next year, and $831,000 each year for the following three years for a total of more than $4 million, school officials said.
"A lot of my friends are still in school because of the night school program," Baez, a Haverhill High senior, said when the grant was announced. "Some of them were failing, they were getting older and didn't want to get up in the morning. But they still wanted to graduate and not be a failure."
She said her friends are now getting A's and B's and are on the road to completing high school.
"Night school also helps avoid the drama of daytime school," she said.
Haverhill wrote a grant application that showed the need for help because of the city's high dropout rate, but also demonstrated the success some programs are having here, school officials said.