Students calling for change to boost grad rates

Posted at 6:07 PM, Mar 30, 2016
and last updated 2016-03-31 00:19:13-04
Students are calling for change in Pinellas and Hillsborough County schools. They say they want to see more seniors graduate, and they have their own ideas about what needs to be done.
Right now, the Hillsborough County School graduation rate is about 76 percent. In Pinellas County Schools, it's 78.3 percent.
Wednesday, inside a crowded room at the Hilton Bayfront in St. Petersburg, nearly 200 students called for action.
"We need to help our students just talk more with each other, more communicating," one student told the crowd of educators and community leaders.
Students from Hillsborough and Pinellas County Schools had the ear of community and school leaders about the barriers students face before being able to walk across the stage at graduation.
"Coming from a single-parent home or not feeling like they have support inside or outside of school to make it," said Jabari Russ, a Middleton High School senior.
They want more parents to be involved in their school Parent Teacher Associations and homework.
'We need a lot more parent support," Russ said. We need more than just 10 parents out of population of 1,500."
"It's going to affect their self worth and how they view themselves," said Estee Garraway, a Middleton High School senior.
Students also said they need more school spirit to feel connected their fellow students and teachers.
"It brings a sense of unity," Garraway said. "If you feel like you are a part of a group, you are going to be more motivated."
"We got some work to do there, and thanks to the students voices, we're going to listen to them and we're going to do some things about that," said Jeff Eakins, Hillsborough County Superintendent.
Pinellas Schools learned about the need for more exploration out of the classroom. They feel it will make students more interested and, therefore, more likely to graduate.
"I think it would help more with the understanding and the appreciation of the stuff that's going on," said Tayshia Coburn, a Clearwater High School senior.
The district's top leaders were listening.
"That builds stronger relationships then between the students and the teacher, and the students and the school," said Dr. Michael Grego, Pinellas County superintendent: 
While there's still work to be done, these students say they are on the right path.