Another Tarrant County dropout saved: Communities in Schools

Katelyn Stepp (right) says she was trying to get control of her life when Hannah Hughes (left), a social worker for Communities in Schools Greater Tarrant County stepped in.

Katelyn Stepp is another potential high school dropout whose future might have been saved by an intervention from the Communities in Schools program.

A Communities in Schools social worker based at Stepp’s high school, Brewer High School in White Settlement, stepped in several months ago at the beginning of the girl’s senior year. That was after Stepp’s troubled father visited the school and accused her and her sister of drug abuse.

The social worker, Hannah Hughes, determined the accusation was false. Months later, the girls have moved out of their father’s home, and Stepp is preparing to graduate and move onto college at the University of Texas at Arlington.

“I’m just really grateful for her to be in my school,” Stepp said in an interview before an annual luncheon in Fort Worth April 16 to highlight the national dropout program’s success locally. “The school can’t really do anything. The organization can help.”

- FWBP Digital Partners -

“I immediately knew this girl had it together,” Hughes, also at the lunch, said. Stepp told her, “I didn’t want to end up like my father.”

In the 2013-2014 school year, the nonprofit Communities in Schools Greater Tarrant County unit served 33,424 students in 46 schools, according to the nonprofit’s data. That’s up 8,666 students over the prior school year, with seven more schools participating.

Of the students, 3,981 – up 541 more than in 2012-2013 – received intensive case management.

Of the students receiving intensive case management, 80 percent improved their grades; 73 percent, attendance; 92 percent, behavior; and 93 percent, promotions to the next grade, CIS data shows. Ninety nine percent stayed in school. Ninety seven percent of high school seniors in the group graduated, and 81 percent of those moved on to post-secondary education.

- Advertisement -

“The data is very clear,” Daniel Cardinali, president of the national Communities in Schools organization, said in an interview in Fort Worth before the luncheon. “We lower dropout rates. We improve graduation rates.”

The program identifies students at risk, teams up with teachers and principals to intervene, and looks to eliminate non-economic barriers.

In Stepp’s case, Hughes – whose Brewer caseload this year is 92 students, out of the school’s 1,700 – first interviewed the two sisters and initiated a Child Protective Services case.

In January, after Stepp’s 18th birthday, Hughes helped Stepp move first into an apartment and subsequently in with an aunt and uncle. Stepp’s 16-year-old sister moved in with another family member.

- Advertisement -

Stepp wants to become a pediatric nurse or physician’s assistant.

“I always made As,” she said. “After it all calmed down, it got even better. My attitude is so much better. (Hughes) made me feel very confident.”