Due to an absence of educational resources, high school students in economically-disadvantaged areas often struggle to graduate and pursue post-secondary opportunities, which limit their potential. Those without a high school diploma face higher rates of incarceration and unemployment. Even when employed, they receive lower wages than those with college degrees. Overall, they experience a diminished quality of life.
To increase the options for this at-risk population, Embrace Relief, with its partner GERA, formulated GradPlus, an academic support program supported by numerous educational theories and studies, including those conducted by the U.S. Department of Education.
Studies have consistently proved that tutoring is one of the best means of improving grades and test scores, because it offers a more individualized approach than the traditional classroom setting. The U.S. Department of Education has found that tutoring leads to greater academic performance, self-confidence and motivation in students, but is only effective if the students involved are engaged. Since students voluntarily enroll in the program, GradPlus already has an advantage.
Research suggests that small tutoring groups will benefit at-risk students, such as those in the Paterson School District. A study found that students given 100 hours of tutoring in math had higher exam scores and fewer failures.
Aside from boosting graduation rates, GradPlus was designed to increase interest in post-secondary education pathways, whether the individual students intend to attend college or vocational training. To that end, the program will prepare students for the SAT or TABE tests in twice weekly, after-school sessions at the participating school.
Improving the outlook for at-risk students is a collaborative effort, requiring the close coordination of a number of diverse agencies and organizations. This is why GradPlus also offers students guidance from members of the FBI Newark Citizens Academy Alumni Association, Passaic County Sheriff’s Department, U.S. Department of Homeland Security, Paterson Police Department and the United Nations. These members serve as role models, reinforcing constructive behaviors and dedication to the program.
More than half of the world’s students do not meet minimum proficiency in reading and mathematics. As such, the UN notes that new, concentrated efforts must be made in order to realize the fourth of the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs): Quality Education. That is precisely the function of GradPlus, which is closely aligned with ensuring inclusive and equitable quality and promoting lifelong learning opportunities for all, as outlined by the SDGs.
Over 200 students have enrolled in GradPlus, demonstrating a clear desire to achieve brighter futures for themselves and their families. Provided the necessary skills as well as increased confidence, these students can excel in all areas of their development and a greater potential to succeed on their terms.