Union to launch education program for at-risk students

'FULL PACKAGE' Union Superintendent Cathy Burden: "It really is the full package for helping children and their families get a quality education," she said. "It is the (community school concept) on steroids."

About 220 Union sixth-graders will be the first in the state to participate in a nationally renowned program aimed at breaking down economic and social barriers to a quality education.

First known as a pregnancy prevention initiative, the Carrera model confronts the issues that keep children from reaching their academic and life potential, said Union Superintendent Cathy Burden.

"It really is the full package for helping children and their families get a quality education," she said.

The intensive prevention program was developed in 1984 by Michael Carrera to educate children at an appropriate age about the consequences of sexual activity. It expanded to provide a full array of services, from tutors to mental health counselors and health care.

"We don't know what we're going to prevent in prevention programs because we don't know where kids fall out," said Alice Blue, director of the Community Service Council's Prevention Resource Center. "Some kids might fall out academically without supports. They might fall out because of mental health needs. It might be any number of things, drugs, violence. If the supports are there and it's holistic, then we will be curing a problem before there is a problem."

Burden said research has shown that students in the Carrera program thrive. They improve academically and learn to avoid situations that minimize their opportunities.

"It is the (community school concept) on steroids," she said.

In Tulsa, the pilot project will be a public-private partnership between the George Kaiser Family Foundation, the Community Service Council and Union Public Schools.

Students will receive the support through 12th grade and will continue to be tracked in college. Fifteen professionals will be hired to provide the support services.

The program is expected to launch in October with the initial 220 students and be expanded each year, Burden said. Students will be selected based on their so-called at-risk status, which the Carrera model refers to as "at promise" students.

"Kids are called at-risk all the time; I don't know a teenager who isn't," Blue said. "I also don't know too many teenagers that can't blossom with the right kind of supports."

She said all parties are determined to make the program sustainable.

And no school monies will be used in the effort, Burden said.

The three-year initiative will be funded by a federal grant, the Edna McConnell Clark Foundation and Tulsa's George Kaiser Family Foundation, which will provide half of the first year's $1 million funding.

The Children's Aid Society will direct the federal and Edna McConnell Clark Foundation grants to Tulsa.

"The winners chose Tulsa as a place for this program," Blue said. "We're excited that we won. What that means is a pretty nice size number of kids in Tulsa won."

Many children have parents who are able to provide various support and health care, Burden said. But for those children who don't, the Carrera model compensates for those things not available to them and their families.

Said Blue, "And it comes at a time where there's more and more families who can't afford those enrichments, so it's an especially good time for us to be launching this program."


Program highlights

  • Daily in-class education and support to teachers.

  • Weekly in-class Job Club where students start bank accounts, entrepreneurial efforts and internships.

  • Weekly in-class "power group" with licensed full-time mental health staff available throughout the day.

  • Weekly in-class family life and sexuality education, with a full-time sexuality educator available throughout the day.

  • Weekly lifetime individual sports in conjunction with the physical education schedule.

  • Weekly self-expression in conjunction with art and music programs offered at school.

  • Free comprehensive medical, dental and vision services on school premises or at an adolescent health services provider in the community.

Source: Children's Aid Society


Kim Archer 918-581-8315

kim.archer@tulsaworld.com SUBHEAD: The Carrera pilot program will work to enhance the education of 220 sixth-graders.

Original Print Headline: Union chosen for program

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