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My Students Are Not Dropouts

I have had the privilege of working with dropouts and at-risk students for 12 years at Sunnyslope High School in Phoenix, Arizona.

 I say the privilege because I have worked with children that have overcome diversity and challenges often beyond their control.

I run and teach a program called the New Concepts Program, which focuses on helping high school students mainstream back into traditional school or graduate.

Often these students face crises at home, homelessness, or medical issues or tragedies. Incarceration, counselors, and shelters are second nature to many of my students by their mid-teens. But throughout all this, they recognize the importance of an education and relish in the safety of our small community in the classroom.  

Do I believe that there is one cure-all for dropouts? After 12 years, no. Unfortunately, society's ills often make education take second place for these children.

But I do know this, when opportunities and means of assistance are provided, these students rise to the occasion and develop resiliency beyond most people's comprehension. These are our survivors who will go forth to make our country a stronger, better place.

Johnson says she would never pass up the opportunity to work with what many like to call "dropouts" -"I like to think of them as the Comeback Kids!"

About the Author

Darlene Johnson's career has included six years in the U.S. Army, six years with the Maricopa County Sheriff's Office, and twelve years of teaching high school. Her teaching years have been spent in alternative education in the New Concepts Program at Sunnyslope High School in the Glendale Union High School District in Phoenix, Arizona.

At age 29 with two small children, she became the widow of a Phoenix police officer. She decided then that she wanted to insure that fewer teenagers were placed in handcuffs and that many of the ones she had seen incarcerated would receive an education that would change their worlds.


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