Our Voice: New Horizons helps kids get on the road to success

April 3, 2013 

Pasco School District's alternative school, New Horizons, caught the attention of a national TV program about at-risk teens last week.

Public TV host Travis Smiley said his reporting showed a lot of problems with how disruptive teens are handled, creating a "school-to-prison pipeline."

The New Horizons program is different. They look at the "why" behind the "what" kids are doing. They offer programs for dropout prevention and teen parents. Two words that can fairly be used to describe the New Horizons' approach are "flexible" and "innovative."

It's noteworthy that the state of Washington made the same observation when it recognized New Horizons as a School of Innovation last year.

We also want to point out that just because someone attends an alternative high school, he or she should not automatically be labeled as a "disruptive teen." In fact, it would be beneficial to our society if we could get away from labels all together.

In the case of New Horizons, some of the students are there for credit recovery. Maybe they've been unsuccessful in a traditional classroom.

But the program that was highlighted on TV engaged a panel of teen parents from New Horizons.

Yes, it would be ideal if students graduated from high school -- and even college -- before they start having babies.

But that doesn't always happen. The next best scenario is to help parents finish their education, even if it's after the baby is born.

It's difficult to provide for a family with only a high school diploma; it's almost impossible to do so without one.

Educating young parents helps bring the family out of poverty and give future generations a better start. New Horizons has caught that vision.

Does that mean our truancy problems are solved? No. Does it mean graduation rates are rising are solid and family-wage jobs are abundant? No.

But it does mean that there are options for students who struggle. "Disruptive" students don't have to be in the pipeline to prison.

Innovative schools -- partnered with parents and juvenile justice officials -- can, and do, make a difference in kids' lives. For the sake of the students involved and their children and our communities, the investment is worth the effort.

Turning a misguided teenager around is a daunting task, but it beats incarcerating adults.

Graduation is just around the corner. Thousands of students will turn their tassels in a few short months. For some, school has come easy; for others, it has been a struggle. We salute all those who stick with it.

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