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'They got my head back in the game'| DC program helps students stay in school, graduate

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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If you’d like to make a difference for families in our area and contribute to Impact: Give Back, join WUSA9 and the United Way of the National Capital Area's Do More 24 event by donating here. Do More 24 brings the National Capital community together to focus on giving and building the strength of nonprofits.

To give, type the organization’s name in the “Find Your Cause” search bar. When your organization appears in the results, click on their profile and donate on their page.

Your donation is scheduled to be processed on May 17, during our 24 hours of giving. You will receive an emailed gift receipt when your credit card is actually charged.

What is Impact?

We report on problems all the time, but we’ve heard from you, that’s not enough.  That’s why our WUSA9 Impact team is committed to bringing you solutions.  

From May 1 until May 18, we’ll be bringing you the stories of the local non-profits in the District, Maryland and Virginia who work nonstop to make our community a better place to live.

“Impact: Give Back” is a partnership with the United Way of the National Capital Area to help raise money, so these groups can keep doing their good work.

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