CHAC's New North County Program Helps At-Risk Students Stay In School

September 25, 2014


MOUNTAIN VIEW – When Santa Clara County students started school this year, one local nonprofit was already working to make sure they have what they need to finish it. Mountain View-based Community Health Awareness Council (CHAC) is launching a new effort to find students most at risk of dropping out and give them the services and support that will help them stay in school.

The program was championed by County Supervisor Joe Simitian during the County’s budget process earlier this year.

CHAC’s new program is called “School First.” The organization is launching it in three North County schools with higher-than-average dropout risk factors: Castro Elementary and Crittenden Middle in Mountain View, and Alta Vista High School, the continuation school serving the Mountain View-Los Altos High School District.

The work starts with identifying students at those schools who have the highest risk of dropping out, based on school days missed and other factors. CHAC then steps in to provide an array of support services tailored to each student’s needs: individual and group counseling, teacher training and support, life skills and peer leadership training, and in many cases, family counseling.

“Counseling looks different across the different age groups, but family involvement is important at any age,” said CHAC Executive Director Monique Kane. “We want to get these kids back on track, which means reaching out to the families to try and get the whole support system working.”

School First is supported with funding from the Santa Clara County government. CHAC first applied for funding for the program through Measure A, the eighth-cent sales tax passed by County voters in 2012. When that was unsuccessful, the organization worked with Supervisor Joe Simitian, who represents the North County area served by CHAC, to secure funding through the County’s mental health budget.

“Without the County’s support, this wouldn’t have happened,” said CHAC’s Kane.

To Simitian, the program seemed not only worthy, it made financial sense. "CHAC's model leverages County funds through the use of professional interns, so it’s cost-effective in the short term,” he said. “And over the long term, we know that keeping these kids in school and helping them get to graduation represents a tremendous financial benefit, both to them and to the general public."

The County support – $150,000 per year over the next two years – gives the program the capacity to work with up to 60 students at Castro Elementary, 140 at Crittenden Middle, and 20 at-risk students at Alta Vista Continuation School. In addition, the funding allows CHAC to work with up to 20 pregnant students at Alta Vista, to help them not only stay in school but also to manage the difficult job of being a young parent.

“We also plan to follow students through the program for several years,” said Monique Kane, “to monitor their progress and keep them on track. This is a real investment in their future.”

Simitian agrees. "Our bottom-line goal is to keep these kids in school,” he said. “Every time we lose a kid, we lose a future. CHAC’s work with School First prevents that loss of potential.”


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