EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

Opinion

January 26, 2014

Your view: Letters to the editor

Learning Center helps kids graduate

To the editor:

After reading the story “Phoenix on the Rise in Lawrence” (Jan. 2), I feel compelled to point out that there has been a school in existence that works to serve the needs of the over-aged, under-credited student. This school is the Lawrence High School Learning Center.

In the past two years alone the High School Learning Center (HLC) has graduated over 200 students who otherwise would never have finished high school. The school attracts students who are 17 years or older who earned very little high school credit. These students, despite the malicious label, are not “throw-away” students. While some cut classes their first two years at the flagship high school or somehow never connected well with school itself, most of the students fell behind because they were working as head of a household, taking care of grandparents or siblings, or struggling with homelessness. Some even struggled through pregnancy, abusive families and relationships, gangs and drug addiction.

The High School Learning Center prepares students for college and career readiness. In place were always the wrap-around services necessary for student achievement -- health and counseling services, job and career services, referrals to outside agencies for housing, wellness and a warm meal. This school is unique in the commonwealth, not only because it is a district-based public high school (not a charter, nor collaborative, nor a private school), but because it is a family. Anyone who walks through the door feels the close-knit connection between teacher and student. Most importantly, the kids know it’s real.

This is a school that is truly about the students. The High School Learning Center teachers and staff work within the context of students’ realities -- to change their minds and hearts and get them to realize the power of an education. The mentoring program, the teacher leadership, family nights, the competency based curriculum, myriad out of school field experiences, small classes, flexible scheduling, the job fairs, the college visits and the sense of commitment all help move kids to graduate high school. Over the last two years, for both the June and August graduations, the numbers soared into the 50s out of a total average student population of 190 students.

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