Check & Connect
In our second academic year at Norwalk High School, we have deepened and strengthened our excellent program. As Check and Connect has become further integrated into the fabric of the school, we are seen as important partners in supporting students at risk. Check and Connect, a dropout prevention program, has helped students to improve their chances of success, as they develop skills of problem solving, goal setting and persistence.
Our mentors have made excellent progress in establishing relationships with their students, families and the school, to establish new paths for the students’ success. We have worked hard to find additional mentors, since the need is so great. Because our mentors must be skilled in partnering with the families and the schools, as well as interacting with the students, we are highly selective in our process. During the year, we enlisted assistance from the Check and Connect national headquarters, at the University of Minnesota, to train our mentors. Staff came to Norwalk to educate our mentors on the model, and facilitate their implementation of the program. Mentors receive certification for their participation.
We are glad to report that we have identified new mentors (school staff) to join our team in the fall. We will be training them in the summer, in the check and connect model.
Mentors collect data from the online student information site, PowerSchool. This allows them to be current on the students’ attendance and academics, in real time. They file reports to us monthly.
Sixteen high school students were served in the program, during the course of the year. One student discontinued participation, believing, with her family’s support that she had achieved sufficient progress to function well independent of the program. Another school student declined to engage with another mentor, when his mentor (with whom he had established a strong relationship) re-located out of state. One student re-located out of the district.
This year we developed a parent survey, the results of which showed overwhelming support for the work mentors are doing. Mentors are in regular communication with parents, helping them to support the students’ work, and to begin stronger partners in their children’s education. For example, mentors have helped some parents become comfortable with PowerSchool, emphasizing how important it is for the family to review their students’ grades, attendance and assignments.
We garnered great publicity in our local paper, The Hour, which highlighted some of our success stories. The students are rightly proud of the achievements.
One of our young men was directionless, not planning to graduate from high school or pursue post-graduate education; his mentor began working with him last year, in his junior year. In June, he graduated from Norwalk high school, and will begin Norwalk Community College in the fall.
Another young women with great potential was struggling with inconsistent performance and attendance. She continued to improve during the year, with her mentors’ support, and earn high honors in the last market period.
One of our young men is a member of ROTC, and has struggled with shyness and family and emotional difficulties in seeking a leadership role. His mentor has helped him recognize the value of quiet leadership, and how we can use his natural manner to his advantage.
Several of the students are talented artistically, but were not organized or structured to produce work timely. Their mentors helped them to recognize the importance of a strong work ethic. The students added the attribute of being “accountable” to their other skills.
The mentors also use sports as a carrot to improve the grades and attendance of their students. Dreams of being on school teams were replaced by the rigor and responsibility of being part of a team, once their grades improved sufficiently to play high school sports.
And our program focuses not just on attendance and academics, since we recognize that a holistic approach is essential to helping these young people become productive members of our society. Mentors have worked diligently, including with mental health staff, to encourage their students to avail themselves of the mental health services offered by the Robert Appleby Health Center at the school, when necessary.
With support and help navigating the system, the students have made summer plans. They have earned positions including at the Maritime Center, Police Headquarters, and as counselors at summer camps. Mentors worked with their students on interviewing and presentation skills, to help them gain these positions. Students also participated in volunteer activities during the school year, giving back to the community.
We are continuing to improve our program as we progress, and look forward to further success with our students.
Ongoing data was collected in grades and attendance. Mentors completed monthly reports, detailing contacts with students, families, and school.
75% of the students who participated in the program more than a year improved in their academic performance.
90% of the students who participated in the program for more than a year improved in their attendance.