How We Are Fighting School Absenteeism

Two years ago President Obama launched My Brother’s Keeper, an initiative to address persistent opportunity gaps faced by boys and young men of color and ensure that all young people can reach their full potential. A key component of the initiative is mentorship. 60 students have participated in this initiative between mentors and mentees. Mentees have experienced significant increases in daily attendance.

Earlier this year the President expanded My Brother’s Keeper to create My Brother’s Keeper (MBK) Success Mentors Initiative, a national effort and Ad Council campaign to eliminate chronic absenteeism to drive student success in 10 cities. The MBK Success Mentors Initiative joined another White House initiative, Every Student, Every Day, to combat chronic absenteeism in our nation’s schools.

The MBK Success Mentors Initiative is being implemented at the High School for Media and Communications in Washington Heights in partnership with Catholic Charities Community Services’ Alianza Division and its community school program.  It is one of only five non-profits from New York chosen for the White House and U.S. Department of Education national initiative.

The High School for Media and Communications was chosen as a showcase school for Every Student, Every Day by the Department of Education’s Office of Community Schools. This was a result of the notable increase in average student daily attendance – from 83% at the end of the 2014-2015 school year to 88% this month. The MBK Success Mentors Initiative is key part of Every Student, Every Day and 60 of our students form the core of that initiative.

An AmeriCorps volunteer, Tylon Washington, has been working under the direction of Community School Director Juan Rosa to recruit teachers, administrators, safety officers, custodians and other school personnel as well as students to mentor students who need the guidance and support to improve attendance and in the process improve their grades and pass the required exams to graduate high school on time and successfully. 

Success Mentors are encouraged to meet with their mentees to discuss issues related to their class work and home life; highlight the importance of school attendance with positive reinforcement and acknowledgement of modest improvements. They track their mentees’ daily and classroom attendance and help troubleshoot any communication issues between their mentees and administrators or teachers.

The program has been so successful that this past February it was chosen by the New York City Department of Education to be featured in one of the initiative’s ads featuring George Washington High School, Assistant Principal Emel Topbas-Mejia and student mentee Kajhiada Holmes. The ad was featured in the United States Department of Educations’ official website and Twitter feed:  www2.ed.gov/about/inits/ed/chronicabsenteeism

Additionally and most impactful is CCCS Alianza Youth Division's involvement in the development of the High School for Media and Communications Community Schools’ initiative.  The Alianza staff has made raising the daily attendance of students and building a more supportive school environment a priority and it shows.  Working side by side with students, parents, school administrators, guidance counselors and teachers is key to the rise in the average student daily attendance.