How an Arizona high school designed an initiative to help potential dropouts get back on track

Every year, more than 1.2 million students in the United States drop out of high school. That equates to one student quitting every 26 seconds or 7,000 students daily. But for more than two decades, Eastpointe High School has been helping to prevent at-risk Arizona teens from becoming a statistic. 

Now, thanks to a Covid-era initiative designed by Eastpointe, a national model could be emerging for getting teens and young adults back on the path to high-school graduation.   

With the help of a Governor’s Office grant secured in 2022, James and Chris Meehan, brothers and co-owners of Eastpointe, launched Elevated Education. This concentrated community outreach campaign connected with nearly 2,000 Arizona teens, 779 of whom enrolled in the program and got back on track to graduate thanks to dedicated mentoring and the development of individualized learning plans for each student.  

“Hundreds of young Arizonans who were likely to have remained high-school dropouts are now on their way to becoming graduates,” James Meehan said. “Elevated Education has proven that many teens who have set their education aside for whatever reason want to get back in school – they just need a little help.” 

The pandemic exacerbated existing educational challenges in underserved communities, where students were more likely to have little to no access to reliable internet service that would allow for remote learning or who were more likely to have a caregiver who was negatively affected by the pandemic, whether because of an interruption in employment or severe health problems.  

As an unfortunate result, those communities were more likely to experience higher absenteeism, failing grades, and shrinking enrollment. 

Communities with low high-school graduation rates often suffer the consequences, including lower employment rates, higher incarceration rates, more reliance on public assistance programs, and more demand for unemployment compensation and charitable services. But with programs like Elevated Education, that cycle can be broken. 

The Elevated Education campaign partnered with school districts, charter schools, Boys & Girls Clubs, and other organizations to identify students who would benefit most from Elevated’s services.  

“We conducted nearly 4,000 mentoring sessions, which is about eight sessions per active teen we worked with,” Chris Meehan said. “We took the time to understand each student’s particular challenges, what they need to be successful and, where appropriate, what additional wraparound services they might require to increase their chances of successfully graduating.”  

Elevated’s mentoring program included academic coaching, a concentration on strategies for academic success, life skills workshops, and more. Students could return to a traditional classroom, a hybrid arrangement, or fully online. 

While the program ended in February of 2023, the team at Eastpointe High School continues to serve Arizona’s most at-risk students, and many of the strategies developed for the Elevated effort have since been refined and continue to be utilized by the team at Eastpointe. 

The need to reach these students and young adults remains the number one priority, and the Elevated Education program’s robust marketing and outreach strategy highlighted the fact that there are more students and young adults ready to get back on track to graduate than anyone could have predicted.

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