When Eddie entered 2nd grade at a Seattle-area school in 2008, he didn’t have any friends. He was social and wanted to meet people, but there was just one problem: he didn’t speak any English. Not a word. Having just moved to the area from his native Haiti with his family, he struggled to communicate at school. He desperately wanted to connect with classmates but couldn’t start a conversation with them. Second grade felt very lonely. Over the next year, Eddie learned enough learn English to talk to classmates, make friends and settle into his new life in America.
Fast forward to high school and Eddie encountered a different sort of struggle. He had friends but made bad choices with them.
“I ran into trouble my freshman year. My friends were stealing at an electronics store and took off but I got caught. The police put me in a diversion program for the summer but I got to stay in school and continue my studies.”
While the diversion program meant no juvenile record for Eddie, his troubles weren’t over. He struggled to stay motivated as a sophomore and returned to Haiti halfway through the school year.
“I was in Haiti where I saw family, but I wasn’t learning anything…my mom took me there to get me away from bad influences, but I didn’t pass sophomore year.”
Returning to school but realizing he wouldn’t graduate with his peers, Eddie enrolled in iGrad, a school which partners with United Way’s Reconnecting Youth program to support Eddie and some 14,000 other opportunity youth who have left high school without graduating.
While there are online high schools and educational programs, Reconnecting Youth is unique. It provides comprehensive, personalized support to make sure opportunity youth students earn their diploma or GED. Career navigation is also a program component so students can figure out next steps like trade school, community college or another career path. United Way also leverages public dollars to pay for more than half of the cost for each student-a young person reconnecting to their education and with support, on a path to succeed.
Eddie’s future might include more school to pursue his passion for film and screenwriting, but for now, he’s focused on goals iGrad can support. “The staff helps with tutors in science and math and they are here to help you in your personal life. The social supports are great,” he said. “I have a part time job so the flexible hours are really nice.”