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Community Engagement

Program Collaborates with Area Students to Strategize Solutions for Reducing Dropout Rate from Teen Pregnancy, Bullying

UAlbany High School students listen to options for dealing with high drop-out rates at a youth summit hosted by the School of Social Welfare. (Photo by Mark Schmidt)

ALBANY, N.Y. (February 5, 2013) -- The Liberty Partnerships Rising Stars Program (LPP) at the University at Albany’sSchool of Social Welfare(SSW) recently hosted a Youth Summit at UAlbany's downtown campus. The event was designed to engage high school students to strategize solutions to reduce high school drop-out rates caused by teen pregnancy and bullying. The LPP serves students in the Albany City School District who are at risk for dropping out of school due to risk factors they may face at home, in their neighborhood, peer groups, and school.

Three Liberty students from Albany High planned, produced and compiled footage for their videos and then presented their work to peers from the Albany City School District on the day of the summit. These pieces will be part of a national public media initiative funded by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting called American Graduate, which focuses on raising awareness about the high school dropout crisis. The Youth Summit is featured as a web-only broadcast on the WMHT American Graduate Youth Voices website.

"The Liberty Partnership Rising Stars Program is a showcase program for our School, truly making a difference in the lives of Albany youth by helping them to overcome barriers to reach their full potential," said School of Social Welfare Dean Katharine Briar-Lawson.

Sidra A. Chaudhary is director of LPP. “This WMHT project is important to the students in Liberty Partnerships because it is an opportunity for them to be empowered,” said Chaudhary. “There is nothing like the excitement in their eyes as they take charge and watch their ideas come to life, while acquiring critical skills necessary for both academic and workforce development.”

The short videos produced by the teens will be used as a catalyst for conversation with other youth groups as well as business community leaders.

“Student voices are often absent from our discussions of what to do about these issues, when they can and should be part of the solution,” said WMHT VP for Education Katherine P. Jetter.

At the Youth Summit, UAlbany sophomore and Brooklyn, N.Y., native Sotonye Douglas asked, “Does anyone know a teen who is pregnant or who had a baby?” Five out of six students in her small group discussion raised their hands. Every hand went up when Douglas inquired about bullying.

The statistics on teen pregnancy are sobering. Fewer than two percent of teen mothers earn a college degree by age 30. The students in the videos succeeded in communicating the facts in innovative ways to other students.

LPP is included in the New York State Education Department’s Statewide Plan for Higher Education as part of its strategy to maximize the successful transition of middle and high school students who are at risk of dropping out of school, into graduates who are fully prepared for the rigors of higher education and the competitive demands of the workplace.

The program strives to encourage students in grades five through 12 to achieve academic and personal excellence, obtain their high school diploma, pursue higher education, and prepare for the workforce. The program also encourages youth to build new relationships, self-esteem, and skills that enable them to become tomorrow’s leaders.

The Liberty Partnerships Program has been at the University at Albany for 21 years. Since 2009, LPP has been part of the UAlbany School of Social Welfare and recently received a five-year grant from the State Education Department. Co-principal investigators on the grant are School of Social Welfare professors Lani V. Jones and Heather Larkin.