By Beth McCullough, McKinney-Vento Homeless Liaison, Adrian Public Schools, MI

He had attended in five different high schools in two years.  He missed his whole freshman year because of homeschooling that resulted in no credit.  His chance of graduating on time?

“About 2%,” someone said in a meeting.  He needed to complete several online classes in record time.  He needed to pass classes he was failing.  We needed permission from administrators to allow him to obtain a diploma that required fewer credits.  We needed to find him stable housing, transportation, clothes, shoes, a phone, a bed…

With a lot of work, every single obstacle was overcome.  He did it all.  We did it all.  He is going to graduate and is now applying to colleges.

I love the possibilities that lie in the 2% chance of success.

She has been in high school for two years and has two credits.  She has been absent from over 200 class periods in the last three months.  With a change, we can get her back on track.  It means on-line credit recovery classes.  It means staying after school to get tutoring.

The chance of her getting any credits this year? “0 to 2%” someone said.

I’m up for working towards the possibilities of 2%.

Another student worked on her online course, but didn’t complete it.  She just failed all of her classes again.  When truancy is involved, she comes for a few days, but later returns to her old pattern.  Her family has been living in a very small motel room for the last six months.  She hates it there, but not as much as she hates it here.

When I work for the possibilities of 2% success, it doesn’t mean it always works. But I haven’t given up: she is being evaluated by the Michigan Department of Rehabilitation Services, and is taking two online classes, after experiencing success in her first online class.

Even second graders can be in the 2% club. This second grader didn’t want to change schools.  Her family was temporarily living two districts away.  We tried three different types of transportation, but it all meant a much longer time on the road. Where was the win-win?  What was the answer?  I don’t know how to make the distance shorter.

The family found housing in the district they had been living in temporarily.  Mom made an executive decision that her daughter would move schools because this was their new home.  Her daughter wailed that she loved her school.  “I will hate it there!” she declared.

“Now there must be at least a 2% chance you might like it,” her mother said.

There is something about that 2% challenge that energizes me.

“Remember it only takes 10 minutes on a bus,” I said.  “And you will meet the kids in your new neighborhood because they will be on the bus with you.  You can’t go knocking on all the doors in your complex and say, ‘Hey, do you have children here who can come out to play?’ “  She laughed at me acting out knocking on doors.  “But when you go to the bus stop, there they are!  And you will be sitting next to them in school, too.”  I gave her a new backpack for her new school and told her she could still come see me after school if she wanted.  “I can feel it.  It is going to be a great day tomorrow!  Can you feel it?  Can you feel it?” I put my hands over my heart.  “I can feel it.  Put your hands over your heart.”  She did.  “Do you feel it?  There is a chance–hmmmm, maybe a good chance–that you are going to like it there.”  She laughed.  Before she left my office she admitted that maybe, but not probably, she would like it.

She said goodbye to her old class, and her new class was waiting for her.  Her mother called after school the next day and put her on the phone.  She talked a mile a minute about her two new best friends and her teacher and how they have better desks than her old school.  She told me she was never ever going to leave this school or their apartment.  This is the way it was going to be forever.  I hope so.

“Hey, Beth,” one of the administrators caught me in the hallway.  “I want to bring you in on a situation.  We are at our wit’s end.  Maybe you can do something.  There might be a 2% chance for any hope here, but you seem to specialize in those cases, right?”  I laughed.

Yeah, he is probably right.  I love the 2%.  We are homeless student liaisons.  It is what we do.

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