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Mayor Bloomberg Touts Success and Announces Expansion of Mentoring Program For Chronically Absent Students

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On Wednesday, November 9, Mayor Michael Bloomberg held a press conference at the High School for Teaching and the Professions to tout the success of City Hall’s mentorship program for chronically absent public school students. He also announced that the city-wide program, which started in 25 schools last year, will immediately expand to 25 more schools and over 4,000 students.

Eight of the original 25 are in the Bronx (including the High School for Teaching and the Professions), while eight of the new 25 are in the borough.

The program pairs adult mentors with chronically absent students from schools that have been found to have high rates of absenteeism. The mentors check in on their students throughout the day, call them in the morning to make sure they wake up in time. They also work with both families and community organiations to hold students accountable for their attendance records.

The program is part of the “Every Student, Every Day” anti-truancy campaign.

Bloomberg released statistics that compared 2009-10 and 2010-11 attendance records of chronically absent (20 or more days missed) and severely chronically absent (38 or more days missed) students with mentors, and those without. Students were seperated into elementary, middle school and high school.

About 450 students of the memtored students changed status as a reuslt of the program, according to the report.

“We think this program is the most ambitious of its kind in the nation,” Bloomberg said.

Mentors receive training and are expected to work with students for at least 15 hours a week. Each works with 15-20 students.

Teaching and the Professions principal Gary Prince said the program had a tangible impact on his school since it was implemented late last summer, reducing chronic absenteeism by 17.5 percent.

“This was more of a proactive approach,” Prince said. “We started these mentor relationships early on, and it really changed the culture of our school and how we deal with attendance.”

Elisa Cabrera works as a guidance counselor at Teaching and the Professions, and she was one of the school’s first mentors last year.

“What works about it is being socially connected with the students,” she said. “It’s like they’re looking for a mom and dad away from the house.”

Teaching and Professions senior Portia Taylor improved her attendance after being paired with Cabrera last year.

“I always used to come to school every day, but last year I kind of lost interest,” the Gun Hill Road resident said. “But this is definitely making me come to school more often, every time (Cabrera) sees me she asks where I’m going, about my grades.”

Bill Weisbrod can be reached via e-mail at wweisbrod@cnglocal.com or by phone at (718) 742-3394.

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