With school buildings across the state officially closing for the rest of the year, the students who are really missing out are those whose schooling is coming to an end. Our 2020 seniors are not only missing those exciting milestones like prom, graduation, and end of the year celebrations, but they’re also missing an important chunk of their education that helps to prepare them for their future. There are many requirements and end of the year presentations, projects, and assignments that seniors need to complete to graduate High School, and with schools closed down, it is more difficult than ever for them to get the support they need to finish out their year successfully.
This is where paraeducators like Jaci Barbano come into play to save the day.
“I am the District Success Coordinator for Everett Public Schools and the focus of my job is re-engagement. I work primarily with students who have dropped out of school or who are struggling in the traditional school setting and need a different type of program to help them finish their diploma,” Jaci explains. “Our district partners with an online program called Graduation Alliance and a large part of my job involves helping students get referred to and then enrolled in this program. In order to enroll in Grad Alliance, students need to be significantly behind in credits, have dropped out of school, or be recommended by a counselor/case manager because they have some sort of circumstance that makes this program a good fit for them (working full-time to support their family, caring for their own children, medical reasons, etc.).”
There are many students who need extra support in order to succeed. Not every student has a family that is helping them along the way, and some of them even have children of their own to care for. They may be attempting to juggle working full-time jobs, while also trying to finish High School so they have a solid base of an education to support their future endeavors. They may not be able to show up to class every day when school is in session, and now that they’re closed, they need a support system to help them figure out how to navigate online schooling among the many other responsibilities and struggles they face each day.
“Grad Alliance provides a way for us to help these students catch up on credits and work around their schedules so that they are still able to graduate. We have seen enrollment in the program continue to increase over the past few years, and especially now that students need an online option,” says Jaci.
Jaci is lucky to also have the support of other paras who work on the ground seeking out those students who may need a helping hand.
“Each building has Success Coordinators that work closely with the students to help get them to graduation. They are often the ones who identify students that are struggling and would be more successful in Grad Alliance or another program,” Jaci says.
With schools closing for the rest of the school year, their work has gotten a little more complicated and a lot more focused on ensuring every senior has the opportunity to succeed.
“Since the building closures, we have been going through lists of seniors and seeing if there are some who may be short in credits and will not complete everything on time through the comprehensive high schools,” Jaci says. “I also work with these Success Coordinators to track down our dropouts and help get them reengaged at the high school or enrolled in another educational program.”
Luckily, Jaci is already prepared to work with these students virtually. She explained that, “since many of the students I work with are not in the buildings during normal circumstances, I have already been finding other ways to connect with them, such as texting via Google Voice, phone calls, email, and social media. Now that we are working from home, these communication strategies have become essential to staying connected with students.”
Jaci is also kind of an expert in connecting with teens. “I have been using Google Voice a lot to reach out, which is really handy because, let’s be honest, most teenagers don’t answer phone calls, but they do respond to texts!” she says.
Jaci’s work, among many other paras who specialize in graduation and re-engagement, is so important in ensuring no student is left behind and that every child has the opportunity to succeed. Without them, so many would be forgotten during this crisis, but with them, we can trust that the class of 2020 will be ready and prepared to take on the world, even through a global pandemic.