Foundation partnership to decrease dropout rates in Rome schools

Today, The Foundation announced a partnership with Rome City School District that has the potential to dramatically increase the graduation rate for at-risk students.

The joint effort brings nationally-recognized youth development program Hillside Work-Scholarship Connection to the city.

“This program is far more than a safety net, it is a lifeline. Rome Free Academy students will greatly benefit from the additional support and supervised work placement provided through a dynamic partnership between the Rome City School District, the Community Foundation of Herkimer & Oneida Counties, Inc., and Hillside Work-Scholarship Connection,” said Jeffrey P. Simons, Superintendent of Schools, Rome City School District.

The established program that helps students overcome learning barriers while connecting them to work opportunities has already led to significant success in Rochester, Syracuse, Buffalo and Prince George’s County, Md. In Syracuse, 96 percent of students who participated in the program and completed Hillside’s Youth Employment Training Academy graduated on time.

Expected results for Rome schools include:

  • Decrease in dropout rates.
  • Increase in graduation rates.
  • Refinement of skills and confidence needed for home, college and workplace success.

The collaboration also has the potential to move the community closer to the 25/25 Goal, established by The Foundation in 2013, which seeks to increase the percentage of adults in Herkimer and Oneida counties who have bachelor’s degrees to 25 by 2025.

“We use data from our indicators site to determine how to invest and where the impact will be greatest,” said Peggy O’Shea, Foundation President and CEO. The Foundation invested $95,000 in start-up funding, $20,000 of which came from The Mele Family Fund. “Hillside’s established reputation for success will allow us to grow a more educated workforce and ultimately healthier community.”

The program will enroll 60 Rome Free Academy freshmen in the 2014-2015 school year. Students must meet at least two of six risk factors that increase the probability of dropping out of school, including low socioeconomic status, failing grades in core subjects, multiple school suspensions, low standardized test scores, over age for grade level and high absenteeism.