Boxelder Job Corps Civilian Conservation Center

Boxelder Job Corps Addressing South Dakota Dropouts

February 1st, 2012

This news story was originally published by the Capital Journal, written by Justin Joiner.  The original article can be found at:

South Dakota is one step ahead of President Barack Obama’s proposal that all states raise the drop-out age to 18. 

In Tuesday’s State of the Union speech, Obama said students who are not allowed to drop out do better in school.

 “We also know that when students don’t walk away from their education, more of them walk the stage to get their diploma,” he said. “Tonight I am proposing that every state – every state – requires that all students stay in high school until they graduate or turn 18.”

South Dakota is two years ahead of him. The state’s law to change the drop-out age from 16 to 18 took effect during the 2009-2010 school year.

But one program in South Dakota, the Boxelder Jobs Corps Center in Nemo, has been addressing the issue of drop-outs for decades.

The federal program began in 1965 as a way for students who dropped out of school to get a second chance at an education. The program has a center in nearly every state.

During its tenure, the program has partnered with the Lead-Deadwood School District to offer students a chance at a high school diploma in addition to a GED and a technical skill.

“Our ultimate goal is to provide an education for these students so that when they leave here they can get a job,” Bonnie Fuller, principal at the center, said.

The program offers 10 technical options, including welding, painting and carpentry, for its dozens of students.

The number of students who participate in the program was not affected by the change in drop-out age, Fuller said. It is more influenced by how well the economy is doing — the worse the economy, the more students who come to the center.

Fuller said the program has seen success, but there are still a number of students who leave the program without completing it as the center does not require them to stay.

Since the students are required to live in dormitories on campus and the teaching is year-round with few breaks, it can be a hard program.

“It is difficult program. I cannot tell you how hard it is,” Fuller said.

Those students who drop out are reflected in the Lead-Deadwood School District’s numbers, Dan Leikvold, superintendent of the district, said.

In 2011, the Lead-Deadwood High School had a graduation rate of 89 percent, while the Jobs Corps Center had a graduation rate of about 18 percent.

Those low numbers have led to a higher drop-out rate on the district’s No Child Left Behind report card, but there have been few problems because of it.

The hit to the rate does not seem to bother Leikvold much.

“I think it is much more important that we do what is best for our students than we worry about meeting arbitrary standards and benchmarks set by federal government that really isn’t designed to address the needs of the Lead-Deadwood School District,” he said.

Fuller said the center is the epitome of not leaving children behind.

“I have been here for 17 years and I have seen students come and go and I have seen the impact that this program has had on their lives,” she said.

She said she appreciates the Lead-Deadwood School District and the state for their funding support. The program is funded by state and federal money.