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9 city schools to receive $386,000 gift to stem dropouts

Nine Baltimore schools on Thursday will celebrate a gift of more than $386,000 for a program aimed at lowering student dropout rates in the city.

The gift, from AT&T, is funding "peer group connection programs" created by the Center for Supportive Schools, a dropout prevention institute at Princeton University. It comes as more city students are electing to stay in school: Dropout rates decreased from 23 percent in 2010 to 12 percent in 2013.

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The programs are in the form of a for-credit class for juniors and seniors, who each spend time each week with a pair of freshmen, counseling them and giving them "a sense of connectedness and belonging," said Margo Ross, the center's director of development.

The money was donated this summer and has either created or expanded programs at Academy for College and Career Exploration; Baltimore Leadership School for Young Women; Carver Vocational-Technical High School; Coppin Academy High School; Digital Harbor High School; Mergenthaler Vocational-Technical High School; Paul Laurence Dunbar High School; Patterson High School; and Reginald F. Lewis High School of Business & Law.

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Ross said the program helps keep students in school by developing that sense of school loyalty and by helping them build non-cognitive social and academic skills like goal-setting and communication.

Peer group connection students are "more likely to show up and attend school and achieve academically, and they're less likely to be involved in disciplinary issues," she said. "And they're more likely to graduate on time."

The gift will be presented in a ceremony with AT&T Mid Atlantic President J. Michael Schweder, AT&T Maryland President Denis Dunn, Center for Supportive Schools officials and city schools students and staff at 1 p.m. Thursday at Digital Harbor High School in Riverside.

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