MANCAO HFR (APPROVED, DON'T POST UNTIL STORY AIRS) - High School Seniors Prep To Graduate

7 years 11 months 3 weeks ago Friday, December 17 2010 Dec 17, 2010 Friday, December 17, 2010 3:55:36 PM CST December 17, 2010 in News

FULTON - Math, chemistry, and history: all subjects high school students are required to learn before they get to the graduation finish line.

For Fulton High School student Denzel Weaver, the end of the race is on the horizon. However if you would have asked Weaver’s mom a year ago if she thought he would graduate, her answer might surprise you.

“I thought he was going to drop out and be through,” Ida Speaks said.

That’s because a year ago Weaver was a Fulton Academy student, not a Fulton High School student.  Fulton Academy was an alternative school that gave at risk students and student   Last spring, the Fulton School Board closed it due to dire budget cuts.  Although Weaver knew he wanted to continue his education, he was apprehensive.   

“I had originally, just like I am now, planned on coming back to the high school... I can’t go a full year here at the high school cause I’m right now already struggling with the high school environment again and I can’t.  I don’t like it because of all the bullying and stuff I have to deal with here,” Weaver said.

But despite the struggles, Weaver managed to get his grades back on track.

“Honestly with all the pressure I got on me, I try to study as much as I can.  I usually try to do it after I get out of school and once I go home.  I try to study my butt off,” Weaver said about his new study habits.

The closure of the Academy left the future of its 25 students in the air, but Fulton High School principal Teri Arms believes the students who came back to the high school adjusted well.

“I think for the most part, they’re doing well.  They’ve assimilated back well.  I’m a firm believer you get out of something what you put into it.  And I think for the most part the students have realized it’s not anything that they did or we did to the program.  It was a necessity at the time budget wise,” Arms said.

Of the 25 students, three have graduated, six are attending classes at Fulton High School, six are working on their GEDs, and one is enrolling back into the school.  Three of the students have transferred, one got their GED separate from the high school, one’s status is unknown and four have dropped out, meaning they quit school.

Communications coordinator for the Missouri Department of Elementary and Secondary Education, Michele Clark, says those who decide to dropout have a rough future.

“Many studies have shown that students who do not complete their high school diplomas really have a tough battle facing them in the future.  Whether it’s criminal activity or poverty, health issues-- it really sets someone up for not a bright future,” Clark said.

Clark says high schools can be instrumental in helping a student stay in school through alternative programs.

“What a lot of the schools do is try to find ways to help connect with the student and help them see the purpose in school, in terms of preparing for their futures.  Understanding what their career goals are can really help a student connect what they’re learning in school and what they can do in the future, Clark said.   

Career and technical education programs, service community projects and Missouri Options programs help decrease the numbers of dropouts.  

According to the Missouri Department of Elementary and Secondary Education, dropout rates for high school students are lower in 2010 compared to previous years.  In 2009, there were 11,028.  In 2010, 9,953 dropout were recorded in Missouri. 

Upon graduation, Weaver hopes to move to Kansas City and pursue a musical career.  Becoming a successful musician is his dream, but making his mom proud is his drive.

“She said that’s the main thing that she wants out of me is for me to walk across that stage because that would make her really happy.   And so that’s why I’m pushing myself so much in school and that’s why I went back to the high school after the alternative school was because I was so close to graduating.  And I want to try to please my mom before I move out of Fulton and work on my music career,” Weaver said.

And that is music to Speaks' ears.  

Speaks says, “I’m very proud of him.  And I would love to see him walk across the stage.  I’d love to!”

Weaver is set to finish this semester and graduate in the spring. 

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