OSCEOLA COUNTY, Fla. – State graduation rates for 2017 are up across several districts in Central Florida. In Osceola County, graduation numbers are up 4.3 percentage points over the previous year, coming in at 86.3 percent and higher than the state average of 82.3 percent. Education leaders in Osceola say a multi-pronged approach is getting results.
"Using the dropout prevention retrieval program we have, the right kids are getting the extra help they need," Osceola Schools Superintendent Debra Pace said.
Dr. Pace also notes industry certification, career and technical education, AP program opportunities, and more chances to take the SAT early and often. St. Cloud high school Principal Nate Fancher says techniques like one lunch period at his school give students the advantage and flexibility to make up important work and get extra help.
"We care too much, you can't just not do an assignment and take a zero. We won't let that happen; we have time in the day to make sure they're being successful," Fancher said.
Students' hands-on opportunities in school are helping them develop a plan for life after graduation.
"Some of the opportunities I have with early childhood education, we get to work more with the children, work more toward a professional education," Ayoka Adegbile, St. Cloud high school senior said.
"My plans are to do nursing, but with this program, it's going to help me even more because after i graduate, I can go and have a job and at the same time be able to go to college and into my studies in the medical field," Adrian Melendez, St. Cloud high school senior, said.
Alumni from the district are also reaching back through efforts like the Valencia College ambassador program to encourage future grads to go to college.
We go all around Osceola County talking to high school kids, middle school kids, even elementary school kids about why going to school is important and the importance of higher education," Marc Aristide, Valencia College ambassador and St. Cloud High School alumnus said.
"It's just the beginning in the journey. We know that our students are going to need even more to be successful in today's workforce, whether that is building on the industry certification that they earned here in high school going on to college or the military, we want to make sure they've laid the groundwork," Pace said.
The central Florida leader in 2017 graduation rates was Seminole County with 88.6 percent. Orange county public schools had a rate of 84.7.