Brooklyn outreach program helps teens succeed

October 19, 2012 1:40:00 PM PDT
The vast majority of people who live in Red Hook, Brooklyn live in public housing. Unemployment is high; high school graduation rates are low. But the Red Hook Initiative is trying to give young people hope.

Finding out what's possible is at the heart of the GED class being taught at the Red Hook Initiative (RHI). Students who couldn't finish high at a traditional high school are being given the extra attention to take the next step in life, like 20-year-old Earl Miranda.

"I want to go furter in life and I know there are some things I have to get done, so this is one of them," said Miranda, a Red Hook resident.

The Red Hook Initiative series is a safe haven for young people trying to break the cycle of poverty. Its outreach programs range from education and employment to counseling.

"I think this place gives them the opportunity to grow, and like I said, just to understand the potential that they have that maybe they don't see because of their everyday circumstances," said Sandy Brockwell of Red Hook Initiative operations.

RHI is seeing positive results, of the former RHI students who reported to a recent survey. It found while the average Red Hook High School graduation rate was 45%, students who were supported by the initiative had an 85% graduation rate.

Adding to the challenge for young people in Red Hook, the only local high school serving this community closed its doors in 2008 because of poor performance.

That's what makes Frances Medina so impressive. A product of the Red Hook Institute, she graduated from the University of Michigan last August with a degree in sociology and has returned to RHI as a counselor.

"When I came here and I had the chance to experience it, I was like, wow this is something that resonates with me and my family. I have to be able to find a way to do that for the rest of my life," Medina said.

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