School welcomes a new coordinator for program

Seeks to focus on building relationships with academically at risk students

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School welcomes a new coordinator for program

Skye McDonald

Skye McDonald

Skye McDonald

Dhani Srinivasan, Staff Reporter

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In a school where teachers and counselors are swamped with students, it’s easy to feel ignored and unsupported. Even though many resources are available, such as the Teen Health Center and the tutoring program, there is still a sizeable portion of students that are in academic danger.

That’s what Dale Griffith is trying to rectify in his new role as coordinator for the Graduation Assistance Identifying the Needs of Students (GAINS) program. The program seeks to identify and work with students that are at risk of dropping out or falling behind in school.

Griffith is trying to give support to these students by fostering positive relationships between them, their teachers, and their families.

“A lot of the students that I am working with now are having a tough time finding that support system in the building and just being able to relate with teachers in the classroom,” Griffith said. “As a result, they are likely to skip class, not attend school, and come to school for more of the social aspect of things as opposed to the academic portion.”

The program focuses on small portions of students within each class. Griffith works with sophomores and half of the freshman class.

“I often see my sophomore class spending a lot of time at the school, attending sporting events and so I think that plays a lot into the structure in the house,” Griffith said. “They come here for the community aspect, they feel super connected, but there’s a disconnect with them going to class on a day-to-day.”

The program tends to focus on one-on-one support between students and coordinators. The regularity of meetings depends on students and their willingness to utilize the GAINS program. Some come by Griffith’s office every day, others weekly, and some not at all.

And there’s more work that goes into bridging the gap between parents and kids. Griffith tries to limit phone calls home due to the negative stigma around them but does maintain contact to ensure that the families are aware of what is being offered.

The program has already seen success within the school through jumps in GPA and attendance.

“These are students that were literally going to one class and now maybe they are going to three or four classes,” Griffith said. “A kid that hadn’t opened up his textbook the whole semester is now talking to his history teacher and has really shown signs of improvement.”

Students that are struggling academically are largely recommended for the program by teachers but others directly seek out Griffith for a support system.

“Although we do have a caseload, we are responsible for so many students,” said Griffith. “There are other students within the building that also come into my office on a day to day basis whether that’s to debrief or to take a break.”

Griffith’s position has allowed him to access other resources in the school in order to create a safe space for students.

“I’ve partnered up with the Teen Health Center and they have a food program where the Ballard Food Bank has donated food to the school and students have the ability to come and get a black bag, food for them to take home to their families to eat over the weekend. Those can be picked up on Thursday.”

The program doesn’t just focus on high school academics but also on what comes next to show students that in the future, anything is possible.

“We have gone on field trips, we have done some college visits, we’ve even gone to Microsoft, just exposing them to real-life career opportunities,” Griffith said. “High school comes and goes rather quickly and so we want to prepare them for what’s next to come.”
The school, while already boosting a high graduation rate, is still responsible for providing support for those at risk academically.

“It’s a gradual process but I think we are well on our way, and the GAINS program has definitely allowed these students that opportunity to feel appreciated, to feel loved, and supported, and that’s huge,” Griffith said.

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