Gabriel, a high school freshman, was in danger of being referred out of Sunrise Mountain High School for cutting classes and truancy. Gabriel’s counselor met with Gabriel and his mom to discuss her concerns that if he kept on missing school and disrupting class, he would not graduate. Concerned about her son, Angelica asked the counselor for advice on how to help.
What Angelica found out surprised her. Sunrise Mountain High School had partnered with United Way of Southern Nevada to create a Family Engagement Resource Center (FERC). Because of this funding, over 2,400 freshman and sophomore students and their families attending five local high schools, now have access to information, technology and support towards career readiness. UWSN’s Women’s Leadership Council partnered with the Clark County School District (CCSD) to increase southern Nevada’s high school graduation rate. United Way’s Women’s Leadership Council has contributed $319,880 in funding with an additional $300,000 available. With this help, students like Gabriel, can get back on track to graduate, acquire life planning skills and plan for their career choice. Angelica now had resources herself to help her son stay connected to the staff at school and Gabriel’s teachers now recognize how deeply she cares about her son graduating and planning for his future.
“Not only has he completely changed in terms of his behavior but he was one of the outstanding students in the ROTC program this year,” said Renee Fairless, Administrator at Sunrise Mountain High School. “In the beginning he hated it when his mom was upstairs in the FERC helping other students, and now he is proud to know his mom is there and he comes up to check on her at lunchtime to see how things are going.”
Research proves that students with involved parents and supportive families, regardless of their socio-economic background, are more likely to; earn higher grades and test scores, enroll in higher education programs, attend school on a regular basis, pass their classes, use better social skills, graduate and move on to post-secondary education.
“This setting allows people to come on our campus and feel like they really should be here and they are family,” said Renee. “It’s a place for parents to come and any new student to be introduced to some of the different programs in the school.”
According to Principal John Barlow, the vision behind the FERC is to engage families in their children’s academic success and provide a place at school for families to come and feel comfortable with resources that empower them to help their children succeed.
“I think as a principal this is one of the greatest things that has come my way, being able to have tools and resources that support the families with a curriculum, counseling support and community volunteers,” said Mr. Barlow. “We found out this year that we had the greatest number of students that had decreased their absenteeism from school and we also had an increase in grade point averages among our two focal group populations so we were able to see the results based on some of the activities that happen in this center.”
So that parents can help their children graduate, Sunrise Mountain High School offers FERC University, which provides complete information on class credits, transcripts and proficiencies. When they complete FERC University, parents receive a gift certificate to a local restaurant and are eligible to work at the “Career Training Center” assisting as peer-to-peer trainers.
The FERCs are staffed by AmeriCorps members that serve as volunteers and ensure that students are in class by performing a daily attendance check and providing feedback to parents/guardians.
“Many students end up in credit denial status because of their attendance, so one of the big things is having the AmeriCorps volunteers follow up on them,” said Renee.
Through United Way’s funding, Sunrise Mountain High School also hosts a report card distribution night, where as many as 1,500 families receive dinner and an opportunity to get their student’s report cards and talk to their teachers and counselors.
The students who receive additional guidance and support from the FERC volunteers often have less than 90% attendance, have failed one or two of their core classes and are identified as students at-risk of failing in high school.
“The whole idea is that they are ready to graduate,” said Renee. “We can track their attendance and their grades and we work with them every day to see if they are improving in their core classes and their attendance”.
“If they are struggling on an assignment and they don’t have a computer at home, they can come in and we will help get resources for them,” said Renee. “The staff, students and families greatly appreciate the United Way funded Family Engagement Resource Centers and use them every day!”