Batesville Herald Tribune, Batesville, Indiana

July 12, 2011

Leising discusses alternative for dropouts

The Herald-Tribune

-- — Guest Column by State Sen. Jean Leising (R-Oldenburg) At any given time in Indiana, there are nearly 22,000 students between ages 16 and 19 who have left high school without a diploma. It should come as no surprise then, that 30 Hoosier schools have graduation rates below 70 percent. Unfortunately, when many students ìdrop out,î they arenít thinking about their future careers and families. Theyíre living in the now ó dealing with unexpected trials or wrong choices and doing their best to overcome them. However, recent U.S. Bureau of Census statistics show the average annual income for a high school dropout is $17,299, compared to $26,933 for a high school graduate. Additionally, college graduates earn on average $1 million more over a lifetime than do high school dropouts. That's why now more than ever, initiatives like the Hoosier Youth ChalleNGe Academy (HYCA) are key to turning around the lives of Indiana's dropouts. Established in 2007, this nearly 18-month, no-cost program sponsored by the Indiana National Guard provides a second chance for children ages 16 to 18 who struggled with academics in high school. HYCA shares similarities to a military training academy, but does not require any service commitments. It offers dropouts, expellees and students deficient in credits a two-phase program, during which they earn their General Education Diplomas (GEDs) while focusing on eight ìCore Componentsî: Leadership and followership; Responsible citizenship; Academic excellence; Job skills; Life-coping skills; Health and hygiene; Community service; and Physical fitness. After the first five and one-half months phase and earning their GEDs, ìcadetsî get assistance from a mentor for 12 months, while continuing their education at a college, trade or technical school. I was very pleased to have the opportunity on Saturday, June 11, to attend HYCAís eighth graduation ceremony, a momentous event in the lives of the 68 cadets finishing phase one of the program. These students received unique opportunities they never had before ó and possibly would never have seen, even in a traditional high school. Several $1,000 Bo Conaway Scholarships were given to deserving students who aspire to be craftsmen, while the Alumni Association of the Indiana Soldiers' and Sailors' Childrenís Home granted one $500 award. To top it off, guest speaker and president of Ivy Tech Community College Thomas J. Snyder awarded all remaining cadets with scholarships for one class at Ivy Tech, worth $330 each. I couldn't have been happier to see these young Hoosiers get what may have been their first taste of success. The joy shared by the graduates, parents and friends at the ceremony was obvious. Thereís no doubt this program is a great opportunity serving Indiana children by getting them back on track with their education ó and, best of all, meeting them where they are. I encourage Hoosiers who know a student that might be eligible to contact HYCA by toll-free phone call at 877-860-0003 or U.S. mail at 1092 N. State Road 140, Knightstown, IN 46148