More than 2,300 Southwest Florida students did not graduate from high school in 2016. But with the help of mentors, toady’s at-risk youth are headed in the right direction.
Southwest Florida Workforce Development Board created Destination Graduation in 2009. The first set of schools it tapped into in Lee County were Dunbar High School and Cape Coral High School.
The program now works with 15 public schools throughout Charlotte, Collier, Glades, Hendry, and Lee Counties. The goal of the program is to provide students with mentoring and academic intervention for at-risk high school students.
Many of these children are fighting battles everyday people don’t see.
“I’ve had students who were referred to me that were homeless. I had one who was living in a car with her mom. And another one was living in a van. It was just unforeseen circumstances” said Victoirie Dempiere Soloman.
“Sometimes there is not a lot of guidance at home,” Thais Kouman explained. “Our mentors are able to come in and be a surrogate parent for some of them.”
Mentors who act as secondary parents spend their free time showing support during extracurricular activities like basketball games and other sporting events.
“My mentor is amazing,” Vanisia Blake shared. “She’s done a lot for me, and she’s helped me accomplish some of my toughest obstacles.”
“My deepest fears were to fail,” said Jatyra Knight. “I don’t even look at failure anymore, I just stomp over it.”
For the 2018 school year, Destination Graduation’s mentors helped 146 students graduate from high school.
Reporting by Terrace Myles and Val Simpson