Eye on Education

Safety Nets Provide Options To Prevent Dropouts

Tyree Stewart stars in the documentary Facing Forward, directed by Laura Paglin.

Brian Bull / Ideastream

Tyree Stewart stars in the documentary Facing Forward, directed by Laura Paglin on the right.

Nationally, 80 percent of students who make it to 9th grade graduate high school. But in some urban centers 40 percent or more dropout.

Tonight on WVIZ in Northeast Ohio, a PBS documentary called “Facing Forward” examines the safety net for at-risk students.

It includes the story of Tyree Stewart, a Cleveland area student who struggled at home and in school. Stewart faced “environmental’ challenges; he made some poor choices– and at one point got kicked out.

He’s a very driven personality though and eventually got back on track. And he says other students need to have options when they’re struggling.

“As a student, if you don’t have the grades, you don’t have the options.  And if a student is expelled from a high school and it can’t go to another high school, where’s the second chance?  People do change.”

Stewart is now at Kent State studying aeronautics.  He’s among the 60 percent of Cleveland-area kids who’ve attained a high school diploma–a low rate compared to Rocky River and Chagrin Falls, which both come to roughly 99 percent.

How to improve retention rates is a tough, complicated question, one a panel of guests discussed on WCPN’s The Sound of Ideas show this morning.  You can listen to the full show here.

Brian Williams is Coordinator of Alternative Programming at Cleveland Heights-University Heights High school and was one of the guests on the show.

“We want students to understand that the choices that they make each day, often determine their ultimate destiny,” Williams says.  ”So we want to create an environment that is nurturing, that allows them to dig deep in order for them to engage in their studies, in order for them to be successful.”

Mentoring, parental involvement, individualized attention, and helping students understand the ramifications of not graduating are among the practices educators are taking to improve the situation.




  • Maria Montesorri

    Wow, just saw this documentary and I was so impressed! Had to look up Tyree Stewart. As a retired Teacher of 23 years who has worked with all kinds of students, this story really touch my heart. I am so proud of Tyree and wish him the best! Tyree don’t forget to give back to your old school, by becoming a mentor to a student in need.
    P.S. So sad that after so many months I was the only one with a comment.
    Teachers are so SPECIAL, hug one today! P.C.

    • Sharon

      Tyree, we saw you in a documentary a couple of days ago an we were so impressed with how you overcame so many challenges that came against you. We just want you to know we are routing for you on the side lines and are expecting to here greater things from you in the future. They say persistence wins the prize and you are proving that to be true! You remain in our prayers. God bless!!!!!!

  • Laura

    I just saw this documentary tonight and like the other two posts I was blown away! What a great story and I had to look Tyree up as well. I am in my 14th year of teaching and I needed to see his story! It made me realize what an impact I truly have on my students. You have overcome so much and I am so proud of your accomplishments. When I read his update I wasn’t surprised that he was excelling. Good luck to you Tyree in all your future endeavors.
    P.S.- I would love to find you on social media. :)

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