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The latest news from every corner of the state, including policy emerging from Missouri's capitol.

Graduation Rates: Putting MO Teens, Young Adults On the Right Path

Education, teaching, learning concept. High school students or classmates group tutor in library studying and reading with helps friend doing homework and lesson practice preparing for exam.
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Young adults can benefit from mentoring in career development, and sometimes that one-on-one relationship is just the push they need to help them succeed.

Understanding future success is closely linked to educational outcomes, organizations in Missouri are helping teens and young adults meet their academic and career goals.

The latest Kids Count data showed about 92% of Missouri high schoolers graduate on time, although the percentage is lower in some areas.

Robin Hammond, executive director of the St. Joseph Youth Alliance, which serves the city and surrounding Buchanan County, said high school graduation rates in the county fell from nearly 95% in 2016, to 82% in 2020. She explained students who do not graduate are valuable community members, who just need help getting onto the right path.

"They didn't drop out of school because they weren't smart, or they didn't have talents," Hammond pointed out. "Sometimes there's a bit of stigma attached to someone that finds themself in that situation. We want to make sure that everyone understands that they have skills and talents that we all need."

She noted the Youth Alliance offers programming for people 17-24 years old to finish their high school equivalency, and connect them with adult basic education, work readiness skills, service opportunities, and career mentoring. It also works with community partners to provide transportation, food, and other basic needs.

Hammond emphasized for teens and young adults, the pathway to success is often based on relationships, and their participants work closely with a specific case manager to meet their goals.

"That is their coach and cheerleader. We are the ones that have their backs, so to speak, when they're dealing with difficult life challenges," Hammond stressed. "And we're here to support them and help them to overcome whatever barriers that they may be facing."

St. Joseph Youth Alliance is one of the 20 community partners of the Missouri Family and Community Trust - Missouri's Kids Count partner. Hammond said Kids Count research informs their work and the strategies they design to meet the needs of people in their community.

"When you see that plan come to life, and you see someone make lifelong changes for the better -- and you see how happy and excited they are when they believe they can do anything that they set their mind out to do -- it's really an amazing thing," Hammond remarked.

Part two of our series tomorrow looks at efforts in Missouri to address infant mortality rates and foster child development.

Missouri Public News Service is a partner with KRCU Public Radio.

Mary'Schuermann' Kuhlman is an Ohio-based broadcast journalist who joined the Public News Service team in 2008. Previous experience includes radio news reporting and anchoring for WHIO-AM in Dayton and WTAM 1100 in Cleveland. She’s produced hundreds of stories across the country for PNS over the years, served as an assignment editor and helped launch the PNS Daily Newscast in 2012. Mary currently covers beats in Ohio and other Midwestern states, and co-anchors 2021Talks, a PNS newscast tracking politics and elections.