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Beware high school Summer Melt

Updated: July 18, 2014 6:13AM



The last thing Nia Abdullah wants this summer is melting.

Melting? Isn’t that something that happens as winter turns to spring?

The Summer Melt is a term educators are all too familiar with, and Abdullah, the principal at Bowen High School, is working hard not to have it happen at her Southeast Side school.

Summer Melt refers to what happens often in high schools, especially those with low-income students. Graduating seniors who have been accepted to colleges and look forward to going find that they are unable to attend, for this reason or that, when the time comes around. It has nothing to do with desire, and often it’s a small — but to them, insurmountable — roadblock in the way.

And though Abdullah’s seniors already have graduated, their futures are very much on her mind and part of her every day.

“It’s our task to get them there that first year,” she said during a recent phone interview. “It’s our responsibility to make sure there are no barriers.”

At Bowen, which has an enrollment of about 500, some 60 graduated seniors who have been accepted into colleges, both city and four-year institutions. The Bowen grads have been accepted to state schools, private universities and colleges out of state. And Abdullah and her team are determined to get them there.

She has set up a GoFundMe campaign, Bowen Goes to College (http://www.gofundme.com/858jkg). It is seeking donations — the goal is $8,000 — to meet the high school grads’ needs. More than 90 percent of the school’s students come from low-income homes, and so costs that might not seem a lot to you or me can be a real deal-breaker for them when it comes to attending college. The majority of the students are going to be the first person in their families to attend college, so their parents — who sometimes are hesitant to have their child go away anyway — often don’t know how to guide their child if something goes awry.

Sometimes it’s a room deposit fee, or a bus ticket to get there. Or the student doesn’t own a suitcase or have bedding.

“Some of these obstacles can seem tremendous if you don’t have the guidance,” Abdullah said.

Abdullah, who previously was the school’s assistant principal, has been working with getting the school’s grads into colleges for the last few years. The GoFundMe campaign, like a Wal-Mart Wish List on Walmart.com that pays for supplies the students may need, is the latest innovation to get students to continue their educations.

She and her team have been working one-on-one with students “so everybody has a good plan,” she said, and going to the homes to talk with parents. “We explain to them, here’s how [attending college] can be a benefit to the whole family,” she said.

I graduated from Bowen and credit the school with putting me on the road to success. It holds a special place in my heart. Abdullah knows I’m not the only alum who feels that way and has received much support from alumni. There also is a lot of outreach to alums through social media.

Since these students are graduates, technically Abdullah and the school have done their job. Nope, not done yet, she said. Abdullah and her team are committed to seeing this through. “We will do whatever it takes to make sure they get into the college they were accepted into,” she said.

Email: sontiveros@suntimes.com

Twitter: @SueOntiveros



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