California Educator

November / December 2016

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Page 37 of 59

THE 'COME BACK KIDS' Come Back Kids charter schools, Riverside County T h ere w ere h ard ships th at pre - vented Jazzmin Cortez from doing well in traditional high school. She had health problems. Her parents lost their jobs, and she was homeless at times. Her grades slipped. As graduation neared, she was 45 credits behind. To avoid dropping out, she enrolled in Come Back Kids (CBK), a charter school that offers students a second chance. Run by the Riverside County Office of Education, CBK has 23 sites staffed by Riverside County Office Teachers Association members. Students range in age from 16 to 23. Most are dropouts or have nearly dropped out. ey include foster children, young parents, and those who could not succeed in regu- lar school. Some work full time to support their families. CBK offers a combination of small-group instruction, independent study, and online credit recover y with f lexible scheduling. e vibe is friendly. Staff pride themselves on fostering strong personal connections with students — and creating a community where everyone fits in. "When I came to this program, it felt like home," says Cortez. "It felt like a safe place." She earned her diploma in July and is now a student at Riverside Community College. Success stories such as these are why science teacher Tony Howell loves his job. Table Mountain history teacher Roger Joliff, above, and Scott Bailey, special education instructor who oversees a blog by incarcerated youth. S p e c i a l e d u c a t i o n i n s t r u c t o r Scott Bailey oversees The Writing E xchange, a blog w h ere incarcer - ated youth from five counties blog anonymously. The stories are pow- erful and personal . (To view, visit " I t 's a n o p p o r t u n i t y t o v e n t , p u rge a n d p r o c e ss t h e i r h i st o r y," s a y s B a i l e y. " T h e y a l s o d i s c o v e r th e y a re n o t a l o n e ." S tu d e n t s a re encouraged to ent er lo cal writing a n d p o e t r y c o n t e s t s , a n d o f t e n place among the winners. Those who stay for longer periods can venture beyond the locked doors by earning trust. Some attend Butte Community College or work during the day, returning after ward. They can work in a garden and sell pro- duce outside the school in a farmer's market. Students also interact with public officials at meetings, perform community service, and foster res- cue dogs and socialize them so they are adoptable. "We helped clean Comanche Creek and remove invading plant species," recalls Adrian, 17. "It felt good to help the town." During chance encounters in the local community years later, former students often thank Table Mountain staff and say that the support given to them during their incarceration made a big impression. " It 's l i k e p l a n t i n g s e e d s ," s a y s Cri spin . " S om etim es we don't see results until years later. We can only hope that down the road they remem- ber what we taught them so they can make better choices in life." 36 Feature

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