Rochester, NY

5:06 PM

I went to the law offices of Nixon Peabody this morning to interview their head of human resources for my next project. As I waited for him to come and get me the Rochester, NY paper was there. A headline from the front page jumped out at me. “City’s 39% grad rate is worst in NY’s big 4.” Bill came to get me before I could read it.

Well, now I have. All I can say is wow. I also have a few expletives one would say when getting a staggering statistic, but I’ll write wow instead of those. The Rochester City School District’s high school graduation rate is 39%. I repeat, for every 10 high school students, 6 of them will not graduate. That is gross. That is sickening. That is sad.

Maybe it was watching Freedom Writers that makes this hit home, but what in the world are these kids going to do? Jim Gueydan, one of my interviewees, told me the key to our democracy is an educated electorate. Well, it looks like something is wrong with that equation.

My high school senior class graduated maybe 300 people. If I was part of this district, it would mean that 180 of my other classmates would not be graduating. Staggering.

I know how grateful I am for my education. I wasn’t a great student in high school, but I went on to college and grad school. What happens to these kids? The stereotypical Republican says, “Will I have to support these dropouts?” The stereotypical Democrat says, “Yes.” I say, what can be done so that these questions don’t have to get asked in the first place? What can we do to educate? To graduate? To make them feel like they can contribute? I take that back. Not feel like they can contribute, but actually contribute to a family, to a community, and to a society?

I know these are a lot of questions with not a lot of answers, but that number really got to me.