The number of high school dropouts at Ashe County High School has decreased over the past three years thanks to a dropout prevention system that incorporates a graduation coach into the school’s faculty.
Larry Dix, the high school’s graduation coach, has been working hard to reduce the number of students who drop out of high school.
“I really enjoy being a resource and possible change agent for one of our most prized resources: our young people,” said Dix.
Ashe County High School Principal Jason Krider also acknowledged the impact of the program, saying “it’s been very effective so far.”
“With so many kids at risk, we needed someone to focus on them full-time,” said Krider.
Dix defined his primary responsibilities when attempting to steer students away from dropping out.
“The primary responsibility of the graduation coach is to identify high school students who are at risk of not graduating due to academic reasons, lack of attendance, personal, family or medical circumstances, or behavioral issues,” said Dix.
After identifying which students are at risk, Dix formulates plans for at risk students to get back on track and to motivate them towards graduating.
Part of this responsibility requires Dix to meet with parents, teachers, administration and community leaders to find solutions.
Dix said “one of the most consistent things I do as graduation coach is role model expected behavior for our students. That is one reason I wear suits every day.”
The first year of the program, Dix focused his attention on the seniors to ensure they graduated. Over time, the program has expanded and Dix focuses on all high school grade levels to help students stay in school.
The number of dropouts at the high school has consistently dropped in the last three years since Dix joined the school’s faculty.
The first year Dix arrived at the high school, there were 55 dropouts. One year after the programs implementation, the number of high school dropouts decreased to 48 students, and then 35 students the year after that.
Also, since the programs implementation, graduation rates have increased from 77.8 percent in 2009-2010 to 80.7 percent in 2010-2011, and 80.1 percent in 2011-2012.
Dix had a history of working with juveniles and their families prior to becoming Ashe County’s graduation coach. Dix worked at the Department of Juvenile Justice in Raleigh, as a juvenile counselor and later as the department’s deputy secretary.
According to Krider, these experiences are reasons why Dix was an attractive choice to become the high school’s first graduation coach.
Dix has received positive feedback from many faculty members, including the high school’s teachers and his fellow counselors.
An anonymous note from a teacher said “I had a student in my class that wouldn’t have graduated if not for Mr. Dix’s help.” This was one of several feedback notes from the faculty, all giving similar responses.
Annette Bednosky, Ashe County High School counselor, was also among the program’s supporters.
Bednosky said “the bottom line is we’re grateful to have Larry. He does a good job with students who are on the bubble.”
Principal Krider is optimistic about the program’s future. “Hopefully, the fruits of our labor will continue to show,” said Krider.