BALTIMORE, Dec. 3, 2012 /PRNewswire/ -- Baltimore Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake today joined officials from AT&T, the University of Baltimore (UB) and the UB Foundation, and other local guests to announce a $300,000 AT&T Aspire contribution to the UB Foundation to support the UB School of Law's Center for Families, Children and the Courts and its Truancy Court Program.
The announcement was made at the University of Baltimore's John and Frances Angelos Law Center.
The AT&T Aspire contribution will be used to help develop, implement and analyze the Truancy Court Program in four Baltimore City schools that serve eighth and/or ninth graders. As a result of this contribution, the program will include enhanced case management; training on how to intervene if a student is truant; and school assemblies, small group discussions, and mentoring sessions that focus on attendance issues for all students at participating schools.
The UB Foundation is one of 47 contribution recipients nationwide that together shared more than $10 million under AT&T Aspire this year, one of the largest corporate commitments in the United States focused on helping more students graduate from high school ready for college and careers. AT&T announced an additional quarter-billion-dollar expansion to the program earlier this year, bringing the total commitment to $350 million since the program's 2008 launch.
"The Truancy Court Program is a unique project that is designed to keep students in school and out of the justice system," said J. Michael Schweder, president of AT&T Mid Atlantic. "Programs like this, coupled with Mayor Rawlings-Blake's efforts to promote education and public safety in the city, will help put students on a path to future success."
Schweder added that through Aspire, AT&T has supported other dropout-prevention initiatives in Maryland since 2008. The company has made contributions to the Center for Social Organization of Schools at Johns Hopkins University and to America's Promise in support of the 2009 statewide dropout-prevention summit. In collaboration with Junior Achievement, hundreds of students across Maryland also have participated in job-shadowing events at AT&T facilities in the state, giving students a chance to make the connection between school and the workplace.
Aspire applicants were evaluated based on their accomplishments in serving students at risk of dropping out of high school and on their ability to use data in demonstrating the effectiveness of their work. After a rigorous and competitive process, the Truancy Court Program was identified as making a real difference in Baltimore by intervening early and often into the lives of truant students, reducing the number of their unexcused absences by two-thirds and strengthening the attachments among the student, the parents and the school.
"In the past few years, our students have made tremendous progress: the graduation rate is up, and the dropout rate is half what it was in 2007. But more can and must be done," said Mayor Rawlings-Blake. "Partnerships like the one between the University of Baltimore and AT&T will help our great city keep up the momentum—and create brighter futures for our children."
According to University of Baltimore President Robert L. Bogomolny, truancy can be the first step to a lifetime of problems. The Truancy Court Program is based on a therapeutic, holistic and nonpunitive model.
"Since it began in 2005, the Truancy Court Program has improved the lives of more than 1,000 Baltimore City students and families," Bogomolny said. "Even after they finish the program, they stay connected and keep learning. I'm pleased to have AT&T as our partner in expanding and strengthening the program. Together, we can support those students for whom school attendance is less than a sure thing. By improving those odds, we make Baltimore's future significantly brighter."
The program consists of 10 weekly in-school sessions with a Baltimore City judge, a team of school representatives, a center staff person, a University of Baltimore School of Law student, the child and the child's family. The team identifies the reasons underlying a student's truant behavior and then develops and implements a plan to engage or re-engage the student and the family with the school. The program also includes a mentor program and a volunteer initiative that bring mentors and tutors to each participating school.
University of Baltimore School of Law students who have been involved in the Truancy Court Program have seen how the legal system can impact education in the Baltimore.
"My participation in the Truancy Court Program as a CFCC Student Fellow dramatically affected my view of the legal system's impact on our communities," said Catherine Jackson, a recent graduate of the University of Baltimore School of Law. "I saw firsthand how judges, sitting side by side with school administrators, teachers, parents and children, were able to identify and address the problems underlying truant behavior. I learned how much more effective we, as lawyers, could be when using a holistic and therapeutic approach."
Established in 2000, the Center for Families, Children and the Courts is a center of excellence within the University of Baltimore School of Law and is a national leader in promoting family justice-system reform. The center's mission is to create, foster and support local, state and national movements to integrate communities, families and the justice system in order to improve the lives of families and the health of the community.
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