"If I miss just one day of school, it can't really make a difference, right?"
Before you know it, one day becomes just two or three, and then you have to do your makeup work for the days missed -- not to mention keeping up with the regular workload -- while also balancing a sport or job or anything else that might eat away at your time. Repeat this process a few more times, and you are too far behind on schoolwork to possibly catch up. Chronic absenteeism may not seem like a particularly devastating problem from the surface, but in reality, its ramifications project far beyond the immediate future. However, the solution does not just involve students; in fact, it involves everyone in the greater Anchorage community.
Ideally, we would like all of our students to graduate, but how can they be expected to graduate if they do not even make it to school? There are many factors that may contribute to absenteeism, including not sufficiently valuing classroom learning or a high school diploma. In order for students from any background to realize the worth of a high school education, a community that fully understands its importance must be a catalyst in creating a solid support system that will help motivate students to attend school.
If a student's high school attendance rate is low, how do we know whether the negative trends will continue throughout his or her professional career? Anchorage students may become your future employees or colleagues, so it is imperative that our community emphasizes the significance of practicing good attendance habits while in secondary school. We need to let students know that this absenteeism will not be tolerated by employers in the "real world." High school is a rare time in life when adolescents can develop routines that will be used throughout the remainder of their lives; therefore we must make sure that every student begins forming these regimens now.
Nowadays, most sustainable careers require at least a high school diploma, and truancies do not contribute positively to that accomplishment. In order to avoid the ripple effect that chronic absenteeism initiates, it is critical that the community collectively supports every Anchorage School District student. This may not happen overnight, but hopefully the conversation surrounding attendance will.
Now is not the time for complacency; more than ever before, students need adult role models, mentors, and advocates for education and particularly attendance. If we want to reach and surpass the ASD and United Way of Anchorage-partnered Destination 2020 goals of 90 percent attendance and graduation rates districtwide, parents, teachers, and community members need to set positive examples for students. From my experience, having positive role models throughout the course of my life has helped me fully understand the importance of education and has encouraged me to give back to society and help promote this positive message. We cannot afford to let a single student slip through our fingers: our community must unite for students now so that they can serve their community in the future.
To learn more about 90 percent by 2020, visit www.90by2020.org.
Tasha Boyer is a senior at Chugiak High School, where she is student body president. She also is president of the Student Advisory Board, student representative to the Anchorage School Board and the student representative to the 90 percent by 2020 Leadership Team, which aims for a 90 percent graduation rate in Anchorage schools in five years.
The views expressed here are the writer's own and are not necessarily endorsed by Alaska Dispatch News, which welcomes a broad range of viewpoints. To submit a piece for consideration, email commentary(at)alaskadispatch.com.
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