By Erin Delmore
“These kids have found guidance and the necessary support within the school system to get them back on track,” said Rashan Prailow, Woodrow Wilson High School graduate and former White House associate.
An all-too-often overlooked achievement, Camden educators are celebrating their most improved students.
“A lot of times in the educational setting, we highlight, you know, honor roll and perfect attendance, but we don’t really talk about students who started at a low point and started making improvements so this event today is wonderful for those kind of kids,” said Preston Brown Sr., dean of culture and climate and head football coach at Woodrow Wilson High School.
The first ever “Back on Track” student luncheon honored nearly two dozen students from Woodrow Wilson High School and Camden High School who’ve worked to overcome attendance, academic or behavior issues.
“Obviously a lot of students have to work. Many students have to take their younger siblings to or from school. Some of our students have children of their own. And when a large percentage of our student body is living below the poverty level, that poses a lot of difficulties. Some kids don’t eat all the time. Some kids don’t have the uniform to come to school so they’re embarrassed,” Brown said.
Seventeen-year-old Kiara Welch is one of the honorees.
“It all started with my attendance, because, just, working at a young age and getting up and going straight to school, especially on a cold day, it’s kind of hard. With [teachers] on my back about it and their support, it made like, hey, I need to get up. There’s a lot out there for me,” she said.
The schools’ drop out prevention officers and deans of climate and culture chose the honorees to attend a luncheon sponsored by the Rotary Club on the 100th day of school.
“I got to see so many people from my community. If they made it, I know I can make it. So I’m just trying to follow in their footsteps and be the next big thing out here to my city and do what I can do to push forward in life, to succeed,” said Tahmeek Faulk.
Keynote speaker Prailow talked about overcoming his academic struggles and run-ins with the law, getting back on track and landing a job in the Obama White House.
“Oftentimes, people feel neglected or people can feel like their hard work or their turnaround isn’t being recognized. And I think it’s important to catch people at the early stages of their turnaround so that way we can build confidence and let them know that they’re supported as they continue to travel the right path,” he said.
The nearly two dozen students honored were given a certificate, a Rutgers swag bag and a message educators hope will stay with them for years to come: don’t let past failure define you and the progress doesn’t stop here.