Hynes announces graduation ceremony for program to help ‘at-risk’ youths

June 29, 2012 Brooklyn Eagle Staff
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Kings County District Attorney Charles J. Hynes today announced the graduation and moving-up ceremony for 14 graduates of his Back on Track ReStart program.

The middle-school students had difficulty in their previous schools, including truancy, and had been held back one or more times, so they were placed in this intensive educational program. They also received an array of services to help them overcome other problems they had been experiencing.

Classes take place at the Back on Track ReStart Academy located at 2318 Atlantic Ave. in Brownsville.

Hynes said, “Education is a key component in getting kids to lead a successful, law-abiding life. We have to reach them at an early age before negative influences lead them astray.”

Back on Track is a juvenile justice program aimed at steering at-risk youth away from criminal activity. It’s a one-stop shop for Brownsville residents, ages 7 to 21, who are chronically truant, involved with the criminal justice system or considered at risk for dropping out of school. A full-time social worker works with the participants and their families to make sure they get the help they need including parenting workshops, GED classes, computer and office skills training, vocational assistance, continuing education, and substance abuse treatment.

ReStart is the educational component of the Back on Track program. The students are between the ages of 13 and 16 and have been held back one or more times, and as a result are in the sixth, seventh and eighth grades. The Back on Track staff includes teachers provided by the Department of Education. The Brooklyn District Attorney’s office provides a full-time social worker who works directly with the students and their families to ensure they get the delivery of services they need.

Many of these students have had high rates of truancy that have affected their level of scholastic achievement; some are lacking parental motivation and support; there are court-involved youth, substance abusers and those at risk of substance abuse.

The average reported test score for the students was previously 50 percent. It is now 70 percent. The average attendance rate of the program's participants is 89 percent.

Of the 14 students who were in the program, all have completed it and are moving on to the next grade, including all nine eighth-graders, who passed their middle school exams and will be moving on to high school. Back on Track staff will continue to monitor their progress periodically for the next two years, which will include coordination with their high school guidance counselors and their parents.

Among the honorees is Rayshawn, who just graduated from the eighth grade and will be starting high school in the fall. Before ReStart, Rayshawn attended PS 298. He said, “The experience was really bad. The teachers can’t really get to you. The teachers don’t really care about what you do and how you act. You can do anything you want in the school and they won’t care.”

Rayshawn likes ReStart because “They teach you how to socialize with other people.” He explained that he likes the teachers because they explain everything so well and you understand the work, and they show him more attention.

Another honoree from ReStart is Chanell. She also attended PS 298 before joining ReStart. She said that in her old school, “we could do whatever we wanted to do. We didn’t have to go to any classes, that’s why we didn’t learn anything at all.” Since joining ReStart, Chanell attends classes regularly, has raised her grades and she is on the honor roll. She is happy to “finally get to the eighth grade” and is looking forward to eventually moving on to high school.

The scholastic curriculum is under the professional guidance of NYC Department of Education, District 79.

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