Are you a force for positive change in your community? By Curtis Battles

{Time to read: 4:55 minutes} Today in Connecticut, there are many alternative education options for students who don’t fit the “mold” offered in the traditional school system. For these parents and students, there’s an array of charter schools and unique programs available.

For over 15 years, I have been involved with Domus Kids, a non-profit organization that serves disadvantaged and at-risk youth in Connecticut. The Domus’ vision is that “no child shall be denied hope, love or a fair chance in life.”

We help children who are being raised in difficult circumstances to overcome these problems and succeed academically and socially.

Domus operates group homes for young men in middle and high school, as well as 3 charter schools and the Chester Addison Community Center in Stamford, CT. These community programs help young people and their families reach their full potential.

Recently, Domus held a gathering for educators, politicians, parents and students to help the community better understand what a charter school does to close the “achievement gap.”

Some of the discussions included the range of charter school options and how Domus schools are different from other charters in the state. Domus schools have filled this gap and are really helping make a difference in these kids lives.

A common challenge is that most students enrolling in the Domus Charters are 3-6 grade levels behind where they should be in Reading, Science and Math. Often, these students are from households where there’s been physical, mental, or substance abuse.

Due to these circumstances, students became truant, disruptive and disengaged. It’s not that they’re bad kids – they’re just kids who need a different learning environment because of different learning styles.

Domus uses the family advocate model that assists families in removing ”roadblocks” along the pathway to achievement.

The goal is to end this cycle by removing the non-academic barriers to academic success that make it so difficult for the most disconnected, disengaged young people to get on the path to leading satisfying, productive lives. Such roadblocks include:

  • Language barriers;
  • Lack of transportation; and/or an
  • Unstable home environment.

In Domus, educators help students visualize the “big picture,” create goals and establish a timeline to keep them in school. A sample of some key successes in the charter schools are as follows:

In 2013, 100% of Stamford Academy high school graduates were accepted into post-secondary institutions, up from 93% in 2012 and 50% in 2010.

The number of Trailblazers Academy 8th graders proficient in Science on the CT standard testing increased by 57%, while the number of 7th graders proficient in Reading increased by 80%.

Domus faces numerous challenges, such as possible elimination of some critical funding from the local public school system. Another big challenge is attracting and keeping staff who are willing to work with at-risk students. Domus provides kids with educational opportunities to develop new skills that will help them succeed as young adults and beyond.

Clearly, it is imperative to engage with non-profit organizations and volunteer to lend a helping hand. How do you influence younger generations to become the leaders of tomorrow? As an entrepreneur or business owner, can you answer this: “Are you a force for positive change in your community?”

Curtis C. Battles