New Haven school program draws attention from presidential cabinet

NEW HAVEN, Conn. (WTNH)–Fed-up with seeing young people lost to the cycle of street life, New Haven city officials created a program to fight back. They said it’s working and that a visit from U.S. Secretary of Education John King, Jr., Monday is proof.

It’s called Youthstat. A program developed with the help of New Haven schools to identify those students considered at-risk of overall failure, and provide support to help reel them in. Jahi Brooks is one of those students, who testified how those efforts saved him and how exposure opened his mind to new opportunities.

“(I) got placed at a hospital, Yale Hospital, as a student intern,” Brooks said. “I started seeing a lot of successful people in the same room as me, same atmosphere. I was stunned at what knowledge could actually do for somebody’s life.”

Brooks is now an honors student at Wilbur Cross.

“It really requires a substantial shift in thinking, a paradigm shift, for folks to begin to understand that we can in fact re-engage these students,” said Gemma Joseph Lumpkin, Youth, Family and Community Engagement director for New Haven schools. “We can make them productive students.”

About 650 students have been identified so far in New Haven. They use a trio of indicators including chronic absenteeism, behavioral issues and failing grades.

“I think that’s where a lot of cities have fallen short,” said Jason Bartlett, director of New Haven Youth Services. “We talk about disengaged youth but we haven’t identified them. And that’s what we’ve done uniquely in New Haven, is identifying them and then working together as a community to re-engage them.”

Joseph Albarran is one of those rescued before it was too late. Youthstat identified him after he was kicked out of school. He announced Monday that he’s just been accepted to Mitchell College.

“(All you hear is) the stereotypes of New Haven,” Albarran said. “You don’t hear about all the good things that we have to offer. You only hear about people getting shot or the bad crimes that happen.”

Youthstat meets every Thursday and Friday to go over the most recent information affecting those at-risk students.

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