1999 Crystal Star Award Recipients

1999  National Dropout Prevention Network Crystal Star Awards of Excellence Program Winners

Jobs for New Hampshire Graduates
New Hampshire

Jobs for New Hampshire Graduates is a school-to-career program which serves students at risk of dropping out of school. The program is currently in operation at 22 high schools. Academic assistance, job search instruction, and service learning are three major components of this program, which has served thousands of New Hampshire students over the past 12 years. In order to compete the program, students must master 37 different competencies covering areas such as basic academics, career awareness, job seeking skills, job survival, leadership development, and personal life skill training. In addition, representatives from the business community visit the classroom and give a brief overview of their line of work. Students are introduced to different career fields through field trips to local companies and through research conducted at the library. Jobs for New Hampshire Graduates provides students with the skills which benefit them in the classroom, on the job and in life.

Saint Paul Area Learning Center
St. Paul, MN

Minnesota created Area Learning Centers (ALCs) to reduce the dropout rate and to help learners succeed in school and earn their high school diploma. The Saint Paul Area Learning Center provides many K-12 alternative education programs and is part of the Saint Paul Public Schools. For the 1997-98 school year, the Saint Paul ALC served a total of 13, 723 learners. Each Saint Paul ALC secondary program serves a specific target population and structures their services to meet their students’ needs. One of these great programs is Project LEAD. Project LEAD is for students who prefer a team setting with expeditions and experiential learning opportunities. Students are offered:

Four, twelve day expeditions to various sites across the U.S. like the Appalachain Trail, Big Bend National Park, and Washington, D.C.

Leadership and small group experiences

Vocational goal planning

Rigorous performance based academics

Project LEAD is clearly a successful program that the St. Paul Area Learning Center is proud to sponsor.

Spring Branch School of Choice
Houston, TX

The Spring Branch School of Choice, Houston, Texas, is one of the most successful, highly recognized, dropout prevention programs anywhere, maintained by one of the most dedicated and talented staffs under the direction of a very supportive administration. This program offers a guidance program that includes career guidance, self-esteem development, class placement, reinforcement of curriculum, and college entrance support. In addition, the program has formed an alliance with Junior Achievement. Through this alliance, four Junior Achievement volunteers visit the program once a week to discuss topics such as workplace policies, interpersonal effectiveness, teamwork, resumes, career planning, and job search skills. The program also ensures that school planning teams receive training in strategies to help parents become active and informed supporters of their children’s education and partners in pursuing their educational goals. Parents are involved in workshops and meeting to gain the necessary skills. Furthermore, the program offers motivation programs that support student’s academic and career goals, and provides them with leadership experiences. The program also promotes and implements individualized instruction and peer mediation as well as mentoring and tutoring. The program has been highly successful in meeting the needs of a diverse student population. The graduation rate is currently ninety-two percent and its dropout rate is given as two percent.

1999 National Dropout Prevention Network Crystal Star Awards of Excellence Individual Winners

Melissa Catechis
Genesis Program at Rockledge High School, FL

Melissa Catechis is program coordinator of the Genesis Program at Rockledge High School in Rockledge, Florida. The Genesis Program is a dropout prevention program and student retrieval program in Bevard County. Through Melissa’s strong leadership and the positive learning environment she creates, she allows students to overcome their individual and personal problems so they can become productive citizens for society. She has implemented a career development program and developed Career Orientation Day where local businesses come and conduct interviews with students. In addition, Melissa has involved students in the community by arranging for service learning projects such as collecting books for the younger grades and making up food baskets for the Salvation Army during the holidays. Furthermore, Melissa has developed a tutoring program for the HCST and GED-two tests students need to pass in order to graduate. Melissa ensures that those students who do not pass the tests the first time receive the remediation they need. Melissa is well respected by the students, parents, and teachers as her hard work, motivation, and positive attitude shine through in her work.

Lea Ann Lockard
Spring Branch School of Choice, Houston, TX

Lea Ann Lockard is the director of the Spring Branch School of Choice in Houston, Texas. According to her co-workers, “She is a dedicated professional who adheres to the highest standard of professionalism imaginable and evokes the same qualities in those who work with her.” She is well respected and looked to for advice and support by students, parents, and teachers. Among her many contributions to Spring Branch School is the development of student portfolios. Lea Ann is always searching for ways for students to increase their self-esteem, and by building a portfolio, students have a better portrait of themselves as able, talented, productive people. In addition, Lea Ann insures that everyone involved in educating students in the program, including the students themselves, has a voice, and guarantees that voice is heard by means of surveys, suggestion boxes, and committees. Furthermore, Lea Ann works to develop and initiate parental involvement in the school. When Lea Ann accepted her position as director, there was no parent involvement program, but she quickly “got the ball rolling” by instituting an orientation night for parents, and organized monthly evening parent meetings in order for parents to feel they were an active force in what happened at school. Lea Ann has also worked to develop and implement tutoring programs. She constantly looks for ways to help students individually as well as in large groups. She has achieved success in doing so by instituting one-on-one tutoring volunteers, promoting a testing/evaluation diagnostic series, establishing regularly scheduled TAAS tutorial classes, mobilizing novaNET tutorial classes, and forming a partnership with Junior Achievement. Lea Ann provides leadership and serves as a role model. She is a vital, energetic force, which helps motivate staff and students.

Cynthia Fischer
Peoria Alternative High School, IL

Dr. Cynthia Fischer is an administrator at Peoria Alternative High School – District 150 in Peoria, Illinois. Dr. Fischer realizes the importance of parents in the educational process and is proactive in encouraging parental involvement. Both students and parents are interviewed before being admitted to the program and are involved in the development of individual educational plans for their child. Cynthia strongly believes in communication between the school and parents. Parents are notified if a student is absent or experiencing difficulties in school or on the job. Monthly newsletters are sent to parents to keep them informed about school happenings. Cynthia was instrumental in the establishment of a parent support group which meets once a month and allows parents to discuss issues and express concerns they may have. In continuing with her belief in the importance of parental involvement, Cynthia has also implemented a program for teen mothers to help develop their parenting skills. Yet another of Cynthia’s contributions to the program is the partnership she has formed with IBM, which allows students to shadow a professional for a day in a career area of his/her choice. She has worked diligently to bring technology to the school and enrich the curriculum. She has secured twelve new Internet networked computers for the computer lab and has gotten all classrooms wired and Internet-ready. Cynthia is ready and willing to take on whatever measures necessary to improve the program for the sake of the students.

1999 Crystal Star Award of Excellence Distinguished Leadership and Service

Mary Jo Butler
Florida Department of Education

Mary Jo Butler is Director of Intervention and Prevention Services at the Florida Department of Education in Tallahassee, Florida. She is a National Dropout Prevention Network member of ten years and has presented at and hosted a network event. According to her co-workers, “Mary Jo Butler is the epitome of an outstanding NDPN member. Her daily routine is a constant reflection of the mission of the National Dropout Prevention Network.” She ensures that she stays up-to-date with any initiatives which impact at-risk students by utilizing the many resources provided by the NDPN including the FOCUS database and Dropout Prevention On-Line. In addition, Mary Jo has sponsored numerous workshops and statewide conferences which offered a variety of sessions designed to assist teachers, administrators, and district level personnel with alternative strategies to keep students from dropping our of school. She annually assists districts with their dropout prevention reporting data, helps to promulgate that data, and then is an integral part of the writing and publishing team for the Dropout Prevention Annual Report. Mary Jo performs all of her responsibilities with dignity, pride, and professionalism. She is a true leader and advocate for at-risk children in the state of Florida.

1999 Crystal Star Award for Special Service

Honorable Gonzalo Barrientos

Senator Gonzalo Barrientos is Texas State Senator of District 14. He is best known and respected for his more than two dozen pieces of legislation designed to decrease the school dropout rate. His efforts have led to a reduction of the school dropout rate across the state of Texas. The Senator has worked tirelessly dedicating most of his life to ensure that children and families, low income, minorities, special education and the elderly are awarded every possible opportunity to succeed. Two particular pieces of legislation written and sponsored by the Senator are the Communities in Schools program, and the Pregnancy Education and Parenting Program. His support of the legislation provided the funding for both of these programs that provide services to at-risk youth for the purpose of decreasing the dropout rate in Texas. As has been proven, Senator Barrientos has a genuine concern for at-risk youth. He believes that the dropout problem is not a school problem, but a community problem, and that it takes everyone working together to make a difference for youth.

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