Local News

Program gives suspended students a chance to change

Posted October 16, 2008 8:47 a.m. EDT
Updated October 16, 2008 9:35 a.m. EDT

— School suspensions are a reality, but one local school has a plan to keep students on track and change the behavior that got them in trouble in the first place.

When Wakefield High School students get suspended, they can go to the nearby Wakefield Family Center for the Structured Day program for tutoring, community service and social skills training.

Structured Day is designed by Haven House, a non-profit for troubled youth. Wakefield High started the program last month.

“We wanted a consistency of academic work so when they came back, they were on track with academics they missed. But, we also wanted to add a mentoring piece so that whatever they did that got them suspended, we don’t want that to happen again,” said Principal Mark Savage.

Last school year, 59 percent of Wakefield students who failed ninth grade had been suspended from school at least once. Thirty percent who failed ninth grade had been suspended at least three times, according to school officials.

The program has no funding. Wakefield Family Church provides the space, and the adults are volunteers.

“Children are really my passion,” said volunteer Trent Wilson. “I think we’re losing a lot of our children to difficult circumstances, and I’m trying to be a voice for them.”

Students suspended for violent reasons cannot ride a school bus to the program. School officials said they hope to get funding for private transportation for some of those students.

Officials say the program is seeing results.

“It made me realize that what I did was not good and that I need to keep up with my grades,” said student Genesis Lopez.

Students suspended for severe violence issues, such as gang violence, are ineligible for the program, officials said.