Dropouts become inmates - WALB.com, South Georgia News, Weather, Sports

Dropouts become inmates

Albany jail Albany jail

By Jennifer Emert - bio | email

ALBANY, GA (WALB) -   Albany's high crime rate is directly related to the number of high school drop outs, and the District Attorney says the community must look to education to combat crime.

Greg Edwards wants students to stay in school.

He says the South Georgia Regional Achievement Center can help, but only if it gets the community's support.

Greg Edwards says, not every drop out is a criminal and not every criminal is a drop out, but the fact is as many as 90 percent of the inmates here at the Dougherty County Jail are dropouts and Edwards says that has to change.

Matthew Cox and Cartonia Chatmon are in class, busy with school work, but that's not always been the case. In the last year both had dropped out.

"I struggled a lot with fitting in and finding the right group and it was just too much for me," said Cartonia.

 "The window of opportunities that I would have had if I would have stayed out of school was very, very limited," Matthew said.

Guidance from counselors led them here to the South Georgia Regional Achievement Center and the Performance Learning Center.

"There's no set limit to how many classes you can get done in a semester. It's all up to you and your ability," Matthew said.

"It's smaller, which gives you the chance to have more one on one time with the teacher," Cartonia said.

Teenagers who are teetering on dropping out because of pregnancy, family issues, or poor academic achievement can get support and it's in the community's best interest.

"It helps reduce crime, it helps produce citizens that able to have careers," said Greg Edwards, Dougherty District Attorney.

It gives students a taste of success and that can go a long way.

"Some of these kids are 18 in the ninth grade, 19 in the yeah, in the 11th, so they don't feel good about themselves in a traditional setting," said Dr. John Davis of the Performance Learning Center.

For them the clock is ticking, students must graduate before reaching 21, that's why they're asking for both financial help and mentorship from the community.

 "Support us, be there for us, hire our students, hire our former students," said Dr. Kimberly Ingram of the Performance Learning Center.

For those who've dropped out and returned their message is stay in school.

"Most jobs today, even to work at Burger King or McDonald's, you need a high school diploma," said Cartonia Chatmon.

"It really depends on their situation, but really high school is the best choice. If you have a diploma there are so many more opportunities for you in life," Matthew Cox said.

Opportunities that lead away from a life of crime. 

The two students we talked to likely won't end up here, they've got big plans after graduation. Cartonia wants to go into nursing or be a counselor, and Matthew is pursuing the Airforce Academy to be a pilot.

125 students are enrolled at the South Georgia Regional Achievement Center. In the last five years, they've gone from graduating six students to a graduation class of 50+ students this year.

If you want to contact the center: Susan Haynes, Executive Director

Email: shaynes@cisad.org

Telephone: 229 888-0999 x307

FAX: 229 888-2664


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