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Students need support to prepare for college
1 in 3 college freshmen drop out in their first year
Portal Middle High School teacher Vicki Lewis gives daughter Nia, a senior at Statesboro High, a hug after Nia shared a positive comment from her teacher on a writing assignment while working on homework. The elder Lewis has helped Nia establish a pattern of coming home from school, having a snack, doing homework and studying before having fun. - photo by SCOTT BRYANT/staff

Editor’s Note: One of the most difficult transitions in a person’s academic life is from high school to college. The Statesboro Herald recently spent time with a high school guidance counselor, a graduating high school senior and some instructors and underclassmen at Georgia Southern University to see how local schools on both sides of the equation help students make the adjustment.
Today: Statesboro High School senior Nia Lewis gets ready for college with help from her guidance counselor and her mother, who is also a teacher.
Wednesday: Georgia Southern professors explain what areas underclassmen need to work on most.
Friday: Georgia Southern underclassmen explain how they had to adjust to college life.

First of three parts
Nia Lewis, a senior at Statesboro High School, has a keen sense of who she is and where she’s going after she graduates this month.
Hoping to avoid the fate of more than a third of incoming freshmen, who drop out in their first year of college, Lewis has been encouraged by her mother, high school counselors, teachers and others to “stay the course.”
Her desire is to become a speech pathologist. She has several scholarship offers but feels certain she will Howard University in Washington, D.C.
During high school, Lewis has been actively involved in academics and sports, and is currently co-captain of the varsity cheerleading squad.
"She is admired by her peers and seems to have her head in the right place," said her high school counselor, Linda Evans.
Lewis’ mother, a teacher at Portal Middle High School, has been a key motivator with constant encouragement and support. Time management, discipline and study have been key ingredients taught to Lewis by her mom and school personnel during high school.
While peer pressure to party and hang out has always been there, Lewis has made those tough choices of sticking to her goals and plans for the future.
“I’m not saying that I don’t have fears and questions about college, but I think others have prepared me for the journey,” she said. “A lot of kids I know look at college as a time to party and have a good time away from home, but I try to look at college as a means of achieving my goals.”
One of Lewis’ biggest supporters since ninth grade has been Linda Evans, a 12th-grade counselor at Statesboro High.
Evans said a good work ethic has to be instilled early for a student to succeed in college and life.
“One of the reasons kids are failing today is the lack of maturity,” Evans said. “We must, as a system, hold our students more accountable and demand they learn how to navigate through the difficult process of education.
“Students today have a hard time articulating who they are and what they want to do with their lives,” she continued. “They allow peers and societal pressures to dictate choices, leading to sure failure once they enter college. Kids are so connected to our media world today that they seldom stop to consider the challenges ahead. They are then thrust into college life without knowing what to do or how to respond to the challenges they face.”
Statesboro High has undertaken recent initiatives during the past few years to help better prepare their students for the life after high school, including postsecondary education or the workforce.
Students are assessed in the ninth grade to try to discern where they are and where they need to be by graduation. The Bulloch County school system, according to Evans, is one of the top-rated in Georgia based on improvements in its four-year graduation rate and on state test scores.
"We have found ways to close the gaps in achievement between blacks, whites and Hispanics by offering more technical training, academics with purpose, and leadership skills,” Evans said. “As a result, SHS graduation rates have increased steadily in the past five years.
“We offer each student our CTA program, which stands for Career, Technical and Agricultural training in the areas of a student’s interest,” she continued. “Approximately 10-15 percent of our seniors are also involved in college-level classes, preparing them for the next step beyond high school.”
Evans said that despite all the support systems schools have in place, students ultimately need support from their parents to succeed academically and in life.
“The problem still comes back to a student’s home life, receiving the needed support and guidance from parents to help a student navigate through the difficult paths toward success and to prepare them for the future,” she said. “Our system can only do so much to encourage and train students, but it still needs dedicated and faithful parents urging their kids daily in order for them to succeed in the ‘real world.’”
Evans said she is confident that Nia Lewis will succeed in whatever career she chooses and in whichever college she enters because of people in the school system and at home who have invested time, effort and energy into her overall educational process.
"It truly takes both," she said.

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