Dropout summit Thursday

Rock Hill school officials note that dropouts aren't just a school district issue; they're a community issue. And that is one reason the entire community is invited to a summit Thursday to come up with ideas to solve the dropout problem.

The summit, which will be from 8 a.m. to noon Thursday in the Palmetto Room at 135 E. White St., will coincide with a similar summit in Columbia. This is the first time the state has engaged in such a wide-ranging effort to enlist residents in addressing the issue of dropouts.

This marks the launch of the statewide initiative "Graduation Matters," sponsored by the America's Promise Alliance, a child advocacy group started by former U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell. The Alliance is pushing for summits in all 50 states by 2010.

In South Carolina, an estimated 8,100 students quit school each year before graduating. In the 2006-2007 school year, Rock Hill schools lost 276 students, or 5.5 percent.

Some of those students eventually will return to school or earn their GEDs. But many won't, and chances are that most of them will become a drag on society.

Dropouts are more likely to be single parents, unemployed, involved with drugs, in jail or involved in criminal activity. That's why this is a community problem, not just an educational one.

The Rock Hill school district has invited a list of people to the summit, but anyone interested in attending can call 803-981-1045 to be added to the list. Those who attend will explore reasons that students leave schools, watch filmed interviews with dropouts, and discuss possible remedies.

This summit is no cure-all, but it is one step toward a greater community-wide commitment to addressing this serious problem.

The whole community is invited to participate in effort to reduce dropouts.