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Indie program success with potential drop-outs

Posted By: judy upjohn on December 14, 2002
Mr. Brong--

I founded a nonprofit organization to help my local public high school--Onteora High School in Boiceville, NY (20 miles west of Kingston)--keep at-risk kids in school, increase their attendance, and heighten their engagement and productivity. The program is called "Indie" and our success is such that the program expanded from 8 kids the first year to 50 the second, and over 100 this third year.

Initially, we offered only one mixed-age elective; now there are six different classes for kids in 9th through 12th grades, taught by eight regular Onteora teachers and facilitated by myself and my staff of three. This year, we run classes in Humanities (English + Social Studies) for 9th--12th graders. We work with the teachers to develop more suitable (progressive, best-practice) settings, groupings, interactions, assessments, etc.

The students are recommended to Indie by teachers, guidance counselors and school psychologists; they are kids who were bored, unengaged, disruptive, and/or working below potential. Our goal to increase attendance was met and sustained with ease. Now, the program also includes high-interest humanities (an honors program but with motivation as criteria for entrance rather than grades--some brilliant students look bad on paper) and Indie Alternate for kids who come out of rehab or residential or the alternative school. They are the most as-risk for dropping out, and we have had phenomenal success with them.

We do not use a punitive "consequence" model of discipline.

We also coordinate communication among various school departments and county and guardian groups who work with the kids in different ways, and deal with the bureaucracies to problem-solve.

Everyone from the board to the parents and students love Indie and the results have been remarkably positive. We have kept many kids in school, and their productive behavior and performance has climbed. It has been suggested that I write about this, or package it or take it to other schools, etc., Now that I am beginning to be certain of what works best and why, I want to spread the results in some way. Your project is intriguing for this reason.

I would love to have a chat with you and to find out more about your Dropout Prevention Specialist program. I look forward to your response.


Judy Upjohn
JU Culture and Media Studies, Inc.
a nonprofit organization dedicated to helping public schools engage the disengaged or at-risk adolescent
Indie at Onteora High School, Boiceville NY
845-679-6220 / 657-5100 / fax-6367

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