Over the past 5 years in La Crosse, 134 high school students dropped out, over 90% of which were only a year away from graduation. Thanks to a $15,000 donation from AT&T Wednesday morning, the Boys and Girls Club of Greater La Crosse is looking to reduce that number.
High school can be a stressful time for students and unfortunately, not everyone makes it through.
"It is easy for kids to get sidetracked," said Executive Director Jake Erickson. "The goal of this program is to help them stay on track but also give them the confidence that they need."
It's called Be Great: Graduate. Beginning in the 2017-2018 school year, 25 juniors and seniors will pair up with mentors on a weekly, one-on-one basis.
"So our mentors will be checking in with the students here," said Erickson. "[They] could be calling them, could be sending them a quick email and just kind of some constant check-ins."
Mentors then work with the school district on a monthly basis to monitor progress and identify areas in need of improvement.
Congressman Ron Kind grew up on La Crosse's north side, and was a former member of the Boys and Girls Club.
"It was certainly a very positive powerful influence in my life," Kind said.
Kind said programs like Be Great: Graduate are what make the Boys and Girls Club crucial in some young lives.
"It's kind of been the history of this club, a lot of the students who graduated and came through this program went on to do good things."
The program targets vulnerable youth who are most at risk of dropping out by giving them a safe place to work and learn outside of any toxic pressures with a positive guiding hand.
"It's tough to be a kid growing up these days with all the social pressures around you and what's happening in the community," Kind said. "Therefore having a place, an anchor in your life like a Boys and Girls Club where you can come and get quality instruction, hang out with their friends in a safe environment... it's very important."
According to the US Census Bureau, those who end up dropping out of high school are twice as likely to live in poverty and 63 times more likely to end up incarcerated versus those who were able to graduate and go on to college.