Collinwood teens prove "Love" can take them to graduation
Local business and civic leaders saluted 51 teenage girls from Collinwood High School on Wednesday, June 20 for doing what the odds said the girls would likely not do: get their diploma.
But the girls proved that a little love can go a long way in turning an at-risk teen into a high-school grad.
And that’s what the 51 girls are now, thanks to “Believe to Achieve,” a pilot program that Project Love, a nonprofit, brought to the Cleveland Metropolitan School District five years ago.
With substantial funding from Alcoa Inc., Project Love’s "Believe to Achieve" set out to turn around the achievement gap of teenage girls. It succeeded.
In 2008, the program identified 72 eighth-grade girls who were at risk of dropping out in the ninth grade. Of that total, 71 of the girls entered Believe to Achieve, which provided the teenagers the training, skills and nurturing they needed to stay in school.
Of the 71 girls who entered the program as ninth-graders, 51 received a diploma this month. Their 71 percent graduation rate is higher than the District’s average of 62.8 percent.
From the remaining total, seven girls are expected to complete the Ohio Graduation Test.
Many of the graduates will attend college. Even more remarkable, eight of the top 11 academic achievers honored at Collinwood’s commencement were “Believe to Achieve” participants.
"These young women were transformed from underachievers into super-achievers with this program as the only major factor changing in their lives," said Ratanjit Sondhe, Project Love chairman.
Sondhe said Project Love is now seeking money to expand the program next year to 12 District high schools.