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|Chamber to host third 'drop out' conference|
The West Monroe-West Ouachita Chamber of Commerce will host its third conference focusing on at-risk students and the drop-out problem facing the region.
The event will be held Monday, Oct. 12, at the West Monroe Convention Center.
The West Monroe-West Ouachita Chamber of Commerce partnered with Ouachita Parish Schools, Entergy and Community Trust Bank to develop programs to address the region's high drop out rate.
Chamber president Mary Ann Newton said the project has been in development for about eight months. It goes hand-in-hand with the program the chamber and Ouachita Parish Schools began roughly two years ago to help teachers better assist at-risk students.
About 15 school districts across northeast Louisiana informed the chamber that representatives from those school districts would be in attendance at Monday's conference, Newton said.
Ouachita Parish Schools Superintendent Dr. Bob Webber invited other superintendents throughout northeast Louisiana to the conference.
Speakers will include Rep. Frank Hoffmann, R-West Monroe; Sen. Bob Kostelka, R-Monroe; and Stephen Moret, secretary of Louisiana Economic Development Corp.
Jim Littlejohn of AHA Inc. will facilitate the session.
"They are the premier leaders in addressing poverty and the drop out issue," Newton said of AHA Inc.
"Mr. Littleton will present everything from the causes of drop outs to the effect it has on a region, economy and society," she said. "We also will discuss remedies and solutions and he'll talk about the psychological issues that cause kids to drop out of school."
Newton said there are various reasons students drop out of school. Some students drop out to seek employment to help take care of their family, Newton said. Others grow bored with school and see no relevancy in it, she said.
A recent study by Clemson University found that dropout indicators were pretty much the same for each state. They include problems at home, poverty and health of students and the feeling by many students that classes being taught did not have any relevancy to what they wanted to do with their lives.
According to Newton, there are many misconceptions about drop outs. Many people think students who drop out of school are juvenile delinquents. However, she said many of them face abuse and neglect and various other issues that result in them dropping out.
"Hopefully this will give us some direction and planning to establish programs to prevent these issues," Newton said. "Our chamber is working closely with the Ouachita Parish School Board to have more involvement in the programming they've already started. We hope to make this a catalyst to begin additional programming to enhance that which we already have in place."
Newton also hopes other school systems that currently do not have drop out prevention programs will be able to establish some following this conference.
Newton said some people believe the drop out issue should be tackled by school systems, not the chamber of commerce.
Volunteer and faith-based organizations as well as business and community leaders should all "lend a hand to solve this problem," Newton said.
"We want to bring people in our community to our schools to show these kids that there are people here who want them to succeed," Newton continued. "We can't just sit around and wait for parental involvement. We have to help, too. And, if there's anyone out there who doesn't want to help a child, well, they apparently have some issues."