At the beginning of last school year, I was able to visit two of the Open Doors Youth Reengagement schools run by the Behavioral Health and Prevention Services department at the Northwest Educational Service District 189 (NWESD). I learned they had made great strides in providing students pathways to success.
The Open Doors Youth Reengagement program serves students age 16 – 21, offering a flexible drop-in schedule at no cost and provides academic support for credit retrieval, diploma completion, GED, career counseling, guidance, and employment preparation. Students may be referred to the program through their school, community agency including juvenile justice, or may self-refer (a Choice Transfer may be necessary).
The Stanwood Open Doors site, in its first year, was able to graduate one student, with four other students completing their GED. Finishing their third year in operation, Marysville Open Doors graduated 13 students, with six completing their GED. Both locations have shown steady growth and progress throughout, and this upcoming school year is expected to bring in even more new students to the program. I spoke with some of the staff at these locations to get their perspective on how things were going with this innovative program, and found similar themes emerging.
Developing a relationship built on trust and respect is a common theme. Students often come in with a deep-seated bias and a sense of failure towards their education– big hurdles for any teacher or staff person to overcome. The staff recognizes that these students may be dealing with a high number of Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs) or a sense of failure that may feel almost impossible to conquer. The staff works hard to create an environment of trust and respect, and students soon learn that they can be open and honest about where they are, what they need, and what they hope for their future. This kind of communication allows both staff and student to begin building a solid foundation that enables the door to success to open.
This “second-chance” educational opportunity is meaningful to students who are struggling to fit in, have little confidence or who find it difficult to succeed in a standard school setting. The relationships and respect are important factors in determining how these students will respond and how hard they will push themselves to work past their own barriers. Allowing the student to set the pace keeps them from feeling as if they are in over their head, or over-burdened. Those initial successes and accomplishments encourage students and provide an incentive to go further.
Staff has found that when their students’ confidence improves, they begin to show up more – they no longer stick to the minimum requirements – they become motivated and committed to trying harder and doing more. Hence, the outstanding progress both of these sites have achieved with this program. The Behavioral Health and Prevention Services department will be working to expand this program throughout the region over the coming school year.
For more information this program please contact Jodie DesBiens, Principal, at 360-299-4010.