Closing the Achievement Gap in Maple Heights means encouraging high school graduation

MAPLE HTS, Ohio - Tyler Williams just finished his first year at Maple Heights High School, but he already knows where he's headed after graduation.

"An art institute for music," he said.

Williams is a "Student of Promise" enrolled in the new Closing the Achievement Gap program at his school. 

The achievement gap is the disparity in academic performance between students of color and their white peers.  For example, the 2012 graduation rate in Ohio was 81.3 percent. but less than 68 percent for Hispanics, 61.4 percent for African Americans, and 86.4 percent for White students. 

The Closing the Achievement Gap program provides extra guidance for at-risk students helping them navigate their way through high school to graduation. There are mentors, counselors, whatever it takes to increase academic achievement and school attendance, reduce negative behaviors, and expand their horizons through field trips and college tours.

"Just being able to expand our students beyond their six block radius of awareness they can be able to have the life experiences to identify and be able to associate things academically because they now have a life experience they can relate to," said Bob Ivory, project manager.

The Maple Heights program is only three weeks old and already the high school principal is noticing a difference in some of the students.

"The way they carry themselves," Aaron Newman said. "The way they interact with each other."

WEB EXTRA: Students of Promise Patrick Lanum and Tyler Williams recite the Students of Promise Pledge. Watch the video in the player above. 

Williams says he enjoys learning about team building on the basketball court but he's also learning to make better choices.

"If somebody talks about me I'll just ignore them," he said, "and if somebody tries to fight me I'll just walk away."

The program is funded by Cuyahoga County and is in partnership with Family and Children First Council, Starting Point, Ameri-I-Can, OhioGuidestone, Golden Ciphers, Reading Ramm, and Murtis Taylor.

Programs are also being launched in Garfield, Warrensville and Cleveland Heights.

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