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Chicago Charter Network Stems Dropout Tide in City

Education Week's annual Diplomas Count report on graduation rates is out today and is packed with data and stories about dropout recovery and the urgent economic imperative to bringing these students back into the fold to earn full-fledged high school diplomas.

My part in this project was to go to Chicago—a dropout epicenter—to write about a group of 22 schools known as Youth Connection Charter Schools that specialize in serving recovered dropouts and kids who are on the verge of doing so. What I found in the three schools I visited were pretty robust, rigorous academic offerings and committed teachers and administrators determined not to let their students fall short of a diploma and placement in some postsecondary program after they graduate.

Three students I interviewed at length shared their paths to dropping out and how they got back on track at their respective YCCS schools.

Devonte Perry-McCullum, after stumbling several times, is about to graduate from YCCS' Innovations High School and will head to college in Texas this fall. At an awards ceremony at Innovations earlier this year, he issued an apology directly to his mother for taking so long to live up to his potential, a move that prompted tears from several people who were there.

Andrew Delgado went from being a 16-year-old dropout with a newborn son to being in the running to graduate first in his class this month at YCCS' Dr. Pedro Albizu Campos Puerto Rican High School.

Kimberly Mitchell, an honor student who drifted away from school amid a spate of violent crimes that killed two of her close friends, found her second chance at YCCS' CCA Academy.

The three of them tell their own stories eloquently in this video.

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