(Host) Every school has its students who – for whatever reasons – are out of step with the rhythms of academic life. They miss classes, fall behind and in many cases quit before they graduate.
The Twilight Program at Bennington’s Mount Anthony Union High School poses one alternative to that scenario.
VPR’s Susan Keese has more.
(Bell, lockers bang)
(Keese) At Mount Anthony Union High, school’s out when the bell rings at a little after two.
But for students in the school’s Twilight Program, the academic day begins at 2:30.
(Door Slams) (Boy) Right on time
Ten students – all male — sign a time card saying when they arrived. For 16 year old Dylan, getting to school on time is a novelty:
(Dylan) Last year in school, I was late to first block almost every day. Before I just said screw it and just slept in and now, I take responsibility. I just have smartened up is what I did.
(Keese) 16-year-old Corey says he’d rather be outdoors working for his father’s excavating company than sitting in school.
(Corey) For me, this was a last resort. I was going to drop out and one of my teachers said why don’t you try to get in this program and so I did and I got in and I really like it here.
(Keese) The students say it’s easier to learn in very small classes, without the social distractions of the normal school day. Classes are shorter and more concentrated – school’s out at six pm.
(Honsinger) All right guys we’re gong to get started and tonight we’re going to do the normal first block classes, so English Science and math
(Keese). Meg Honsinger is Twilight Program’s administrator. She says Mount Anthony Union started the program last year, in part to address a troubling dropout rate.
The original hope was that local industries would take the students on. They’d spend the first part of the day learning job skills that were locally in demand. Then they’d go to school.
But the program started just as jobs were being cut. And there was another issue too.
John Camelio is an employment specialist with the Twilight program.
(Camelio) When we went to the local companies they were very much interested in our program. However they had certain basic skills they wanted. Showing up period, showing up on time, and being able to work as a team. And those were exactly the skills that these students didn’t have.
(Keese) Then a Bennington trailer park owner stepped forward. He needed a crew to rehab a mobile home. Camelio says it was the perfect job to teach the students punctuality and team work, not to mention roofing, sheet rocking and wiring.
(Camelio) So it went from this dilapidated mobile home to, you would think somebody just brought it in from the factory, that’s how good it looked.
(Corey) It’s pretty cool to see that a bunch of kids did that.
(Shawn) That trailer was pretty horrible. And now, it looks like, real nice. I understand somebody’s living there now.
(Keese) The students also seem proud of their accomplishments in the class room. There’s a n easy back and forth with the teachers that for these students is something new.
(Teacher) Vocab, we’re on Unit two. All right Corey, you take vitamins and they’re supposed to blank your bones?
(Cory) Fortify. (big laughs)
(Teacher) Fortify, yes.
(Keese) The program is small – just ten students, out of one of the biggest school populations in the state. High School Principal Sue Maguire says it’s not a magic bullet but part of an arsenal of strategies that will benefit not just the students, but the community over the long haul.
For VPR News, I’m Susan Keese.