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'The Wire' Actor, Mom of NBA Star Join Chancellor Henderson to Highlight City's Collaborative Efforts to Support Expectant, Parenting Students

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

'The Wire' Actor, Mom of NBA Star Join Chancellor Henderson to Highlight City's Collaborative Efforts to Support Expectant, Parenting Students

Television actor Tray Chaney of "The Wire" and Wanda Pratt, mother of NBA star Kevin Durant, joined District of Columbia Public Schools (DCPS) Chancellor Kaya Henderson today at the fourth-annual New Heights Summit in an effort to promote the collaborative efforts city agencies have implemented to support expectant and parenting students in the completion of their high school education.
 
"Raising a child is challenging enough. For expectant and parenting teens, the stress and responsibilities associated with being expectant and/or parenting while completing school work can be overwhelming," Chancellor Henderson said. "Programs such as New Heights provide the supports students need to stay in school, graduate and work toward a better life for themselves and their families."
 
At the summit, held at Columbia Heights Educational Campus, Pratt spoke to New Heights participants about her experience as a parent at age 18, how she sacrificed her aspirations in support of her children, and, ultimately, why she has dedicated her adult life to inspiring single mothers to pursue their dreams and goals in life. Chaney, who is also a singer/songwriter, shared his experience in creating music and videos with positive messages about family and fatherhood.  
 
The New Heights program is a school-based initiative that engages expectant and parenting students in 13 DCPS high schools. The program seeks to improve the attendance and graduation rates of these students and prepare them for higher education and the workforce. By collaborating with community-based organizations, each New Heights site is able to host life-skills workshops for the participants about topics such as financial literacy, employment, healthy eating and parenting skills.
 
For more than 15 years, New Heights programs at Anacostia High School and Cardozo Education Campus have been supported by the Department of Human Services (DHS) through federal Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) funds. DCPS currently receives $400,000 annually for these two programs.
 
In spring 2010, DCPS led a community engagement process to determine whether and how to expand New Heights' services. Stakeholders expressed an interest in expanding the model and provided feedback on essential program components, which were incorporated into a DCPS plan to expand New Heights.
 
Using the New Heights expansion plan as a model, and in partnership with other city agencies and partners, DHS applied for and was awarded a three-year grant by the U.S. Health and Human Services Office of Adolescent Health (HHS-OAH), at $1.5 million for each year. When the grant expired in 2013, DCPS continued funding the program.
 
New Heights has served 1,007 students since its expansion in 2011. The majority of those students have either graduated (370) or remained with the program (253); of those who dropped out of high school before graduation, the majority reenrolled in alternative education programs such as the DCPS STAY programs.