WASHINGTON (WUSA9) — At some of D.C.’s toughest high schools, it can be a challenge for students to focus on classwork or even bigger aspirations like graduation, but a local non-profit is working to assist them.

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Access Youth is committed to helping students stay in school and graduate.

“These are students who face trauma every day that most of us can’t even understand,” said Jodi Ovca, the executive director of the organization.

Christopher Wells a junior at Anacostia High School, is one of those students.

Instead of going to class, he spent 40 days at a nearby library. Wells said after skipping a couple of times, he got too scared to go back to school and deal with all the work that was piling up.

When his mother found out he was cutting class, he knew he was in deep trouble.

“You know that look your parents give you,” Wells asked. “You know you messed up.”

That’s when Wells got hooked up with Access Youth.

“They helped me a lot. They got my head back in the game,” Wells said.

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Now, instead of cutting class, he arrives early, goes to every lesson and hasn’t had a single unexcused absence.

Instead of failing out of school, he’s now looking at colleges.

Access Youth addresses two specific problems in some of DC’s public schools: truancy and behavior problems.

Caring adults are teamed up with students to create a community that guides the students from ninth grade through graduation.

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The program said support has helped decrease suspensions for those in the program by 90 percent.

For many students, Access Youth is there as a cushion during a critical time. Some students who face suspension or expulsion end up facing arrest and prosecution.

“There’s a huge societal cost” when students don’t graduate because they don’t become part of the workforce,” Ovca said.

It costs about $1,000 a year to sponsor a student with this program.

“Your donation will help us provide programming for almost 800 students across D.C. public high schools and provide them with resources, support and the skills they need to graduate from high school and be successful adults,” said Ovca.

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