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JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- The sounds of summer are now replaced with the zipping of backpacks and the sounds of bells in the hallway. Many students are eager for the fresh start while others are nervous or less enthusiastic about getting back to the classroom.

While some students face obstacles to graduate, one program is working to help students get their diploma in the Spring. Communities in Schools is a Duval County program that uses specialized programs to get struggling students back on track.

Seventh grader Lydell Lewis says he was on the path to drop out of school until his mentor, Mr. Dan with Communities in Schools, stepped in.

"I was lacking maturity," said Lewis. "That's what it was. I wanted to do everything that I wanted to do."

Now, CIS is hoping to change the attitudes and grades for thousands of other Duval County students. They are hoping to increase the graduation rate, which now stands at 72.1 percent. In school year 2008-2009, the rate was the lowest ever at 55.8 percent.

"We have poverty in our community, we have violence in our community," said CIS Director Brian Hodges. "We have all seen the uptick in violence over the summer and this isn't just something these kids see on the news, this isn't something abstract, this is the lives of these children and prevents then from getting to school on-time."

Hodges offers some advice for parents who are struggling to get their children to graduate.

He says, "What they need to do is immediately, in the first week of school, is get their kids in the habit of getting to school on-time, everyday. Also, get their homework done and be deliberate about making sure their child is engaged."

Lydell says he won't become another statistic.

"I am determined to get good grades," said Lydell. "I know that it's important to do it so that my goals will happen. And, they will happen."

To contact Communities in Schools: CLICK HERE

Communities In Schools of Jacksonville
One Riverside Avenue
Suite 400
Jacksonville, FL 32202 Phone: (904) 366-6350 Fax: (904) 366-6360

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