New charter school targets dropouts

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The latest charter school looking to open in Youngstown is taking a different approach by focusing on young people who have dropped out and now want to go back and get their diploma.

For years, Youngstown has been plagued with a disappointing high school graduation rate that is well below 50 percent and those looking to open the new charter school are hoping to turn that around.

Although remodeling work still needs to begin, a sign sits out in front of what would be the new Academy for Urban Scholars, which will be taking the first floor of the Cobbin office building on Fifth Avenue, just north of Park Vista near Wick Park.

Administrators said the program will target those between the ages of 16 and 21 who, for whatever reason, never graduated from high school and have come to realize real success requires a diploma.

“All the jobs that you used to be able to get without a high school diploma are now gone. And the jobs that are left either has a high school diploma or you end up working at Tim Horton’s all your life. And so what we try to do is present the reality,” said Academy for Urban Scholars founder John Gregory.

Gregory, a Youngstown native, found the academy in Columbus three years ago after discovering many applying for construction jobs couldn’t be hired because they had never received their diplomas.

“And it is my belief really it relates to the African-American community. Unless people get educated, we can nullify the conversation about reducing crime and violence because education really is the thing that will get people out of crime and violence,” Gregory said.

Gregory said the real key to success for inner city young people starts when they receive their diploma. He said the academy will focus on what he calls the “three e’s,” which are employment, enlistment or enrollment.

“We either want them to get a job, enroll in college or enlist in the military,” Gregory said.

The Youngstown school is in the process of interviewing instructors and is set to open Sept. 30.

Ron Miller will be the school’s administrator. Until 2005, Miller served as director for the local Urban League offices.

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