East St. Louis High School graduation
By Courtney Gousman
East St. Louis, IL (KSDK) - Graduation night is a time to brag, and at one local high school, they have reason more than most. In just four years, the graduation rate at East St. Louis Senior High School went from 40 percent to more than 90 percent.
The secret to the students' success? A little TLC.
It's a day 12 years in the making. On Wednesday night, the seniors of East St. Louis Senior High School accepted their diplomas.
"I'm proud of myself that I stuck school out for 12 years and let nothing get in my way," said graduate Dierre Littleton.
Things looked a bit bleak when this graduating class came through the doors four years ago.
"It was a call from the district for the faith community to come out and help because of the graduation rates was low. At that time four years ago, some tragic things had happened," said Bishop Geoffrey Dudley of New Life in Christ Church in O'Fallon, Illinois.
Bishop Dudley says in 2007, the graduation rate at the high school was a mere 40 percent, so his congregation decided to step in, offering four years of mentorship to help the Class of 2011 beat the odds.
"They instilled in us that they were going to be here until we graduated and they gave us their word," said graduate Andre Johnson.
In the end, 358 students were a part of the Class of 2011. School administrators say this mentor program definitely helped.
"The church did help, but then also it was the administration and the faculty of the high school that we encourage our young people to do well. This rate has increased over the years and we hope that the rate will continue to increase," said Deborah Carter, Assistant Principal at East St. Louis Senior High School.
The church says over the years, 150 mentors have participated in the program, which had financial backing from the United Way.
Carter says the graduation rate has been steadily rising over the past few years, jumping from 83 percent in 2010.