Downstate program supports families, educational process

A program developed by a downstate school district and profiled on page 5A of Friday’s Mining Journal seems like an outstanding way to provide support to teenagers, and by extension families, in crisis because of pregnancy and the many complications that arise because of it.

It’s called STEP – Students in Transition Empowerment Program – and it was developed by the Traverse City High School. In part, it allows students with children to remain in high school while providing support for the little ones during school hours. The program accepts and confirms what many educators know to be true, that once a student drops out of high school, the number of good quality alternatives for a viable future significantly diminish.

One key consideration was simply insuring the student is able to get to school every day. That means arrangements must be made through the local public transit system. Once there, the Traverse City High School has a daycare facility set up, making it convenient for parent and child to get together for occasional feedings during the day.

Further, the STEP initiative assists in housing placements and follow up work. More than 500 students from that region of the state have been helped in the past year.

Why are students in transition? According to the district’s own information, the top three are: financial problems, 44.3 percent; abuse and/or neglect, 21.7 percent; and loss of home due to foreclosure and/or eviction, 18.3 percent. Other reasons include, but are not limited to, parental addiction/mental health issues, parental abandonment and substance abuse.

Financial support comes from a variety of local and regional sources. Some 58 donors – from individuals to service clubs to businesses to government agencies – are listed on the school’s website. Another 17 collaborative community partners are also cited.

The reasons we like this program are easy to see. Students and children are supported in a number of important ways with the overall goal of keeping the student in school, thereby assisting them in preparing for the future. In addition to transportation to and from school, other services include free- or low-cost school supplies, tutoring and other academic support, clothing, personal hygiene products, assistance in obtaining a driver’s license and referrals for mental health services and/or housing.

Work programs, job training and post-secondary education counseling are also a part of the possibilities.

We congratulate the Traverse City High School for conceiving of a program that was certainly needed and then putting it into operation. School districts everywhere, including those right here in Superiorland, could learn something from their work.