Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Jump Start Gives Dropouts Welcome Breathing Room

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Jump Start Gives Dropouts Welcome Breathing Room

Article excerpt

Suzi Landers knows that getting a good education is hard, but

being a student, a wife, and a mother can seem downright

impossible, she says.

Landers, 18, became a high school dropout because she had such

a difficult time maintaining her family life and staying in

school at the same time.

"It was just too hard trying to go to school, raise the kids

and keep up with the house," Landers said.

But now that Landers has joined the Jump Start program at St.

Johns River Community College, things are starting to come

together. Though she moved to Jacksonville less than a month

ago, Landers already has a job, is studying to take her General

Education Development test and earn a diploma -- all

requirements of the Jump Start Program.

Jump Start is designed to help high school dropouts ages 16 to

20 pass the GED, maintain a job and get a diploma. It is taught

by Robert R. Williams, who just won an $1,000 award from the

First Coast Manufacturers Association's education committee for

being an outstanding teacher. The class is in its third year and

has had 121 graduates so far.

"Everyone is unique in this program, so the students are the

ones who decide what pace they can work at," said Williams.

"Since it's an open-entry class, they work at their own speeds,

so some take longer and some take less."

The year Jump Start began, Clay County's high schools averaged

a dropout rate of 4.17 percent, lower than the state's average

of 5.02 percent for the 1995-96 school year.

Even though Clay County's rate was lower than the state

average, Jud Wilhelm, the director of secondary education for

the Clay County School Board, JUMP START 6 Jump Start said that

there's always room for improvement.

Lou Bethea, supervisor of the Center for Adult and Community

Education, decided to implement the program in Clay County after

seeing its success in Nassau County.

"I had been on a visit to Nassau County, where it had been

running for about 10 years," Bethea said. "The purpose behind

the program was to retrieve dropouts. I felt so good about it, I

took a School Board official and some other officials up to see

it.

"Last year, Raleigh Sapp, the vocational director for Clay

County schools, wrote a grant called Break the Mold. He went in

with St. Johns River Community College on the program, and we

were able to pick up 40 computers through the grant."

The state grant brought $97,000 to the program, and now

students have their own IBM computers with Windows 95 to help

prepare them for the high school competency test and the GED.

The class, which meets every weekday from 7 to 11 a.m.,

requires that students attend a minimum of 2 1/2 hours each day.

Williams says the long class hours are to let students use the

time according to their own individual needs. …

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