Over the last two decades, the state of Indiana has ranked in the top 10 states with the highest high school dropout rate and Lake County has the second highest dropout rate of all Indiana counties. One collaboration of nonprofits in Northwest Indiana found this unacceptable and developed a program to combat it.
Last year, three nonprofit programs came together to form the Bridging the Gap Program, or The Bridge. These organizations, Alternatives, Lisa’s Safe Haven and Tau Alpha Gamma, Inc. (TAG), are all based in East Chicago, IN and hope their program will have an impact on the students there. The program is funded by a grant from the Foundations of East Chicago, a nonprofit which issues grants to local programs using funding from the Ameristar Casino.
The Bridge provides after school and summer programs and activities for students considered to be ‘at risk’ of dropping out. These programs offer homework help, tutoring, field trips, volunteer work and counseling for students in grades 1 – 12.
The program for the elementary aged students is designed to prevent students from becoming dropouts before they get to high school. Two of the primary factors that cause students to drop out of high school are poor attendance and falling behind on grades. The Bridge works to teach elementary school students good study and attendance habits early so that they can carry them into high school.
The high school students involved in the program are given the time, space and resources to get their homework done. They also have access to certified tutors, if needed. The Bridge also has the high school participants mentor the elementary participants in educational and recreational activities. This gives the high school students a sense of purpose and drives home the idea that they matter.
While the program is only in its first year, collaborators say that, if it is successful, The Bridge will be around to assist East Chicago students for many years to come.