The Second Chance Project

Closing the Teach For America Blogging Gap
Jan 17 2011

Millions of Young Americans Deserve a Second Chance

Written by David Mitchell and Simon Wong

Americans are becoming more aware about K-12 education system reforms, from charter schools, value-added evaluation, pay-for-performance to Weighted Student Funding formula, there seems to be a lot of progress.

However, the issue of non-graduated high school adults seems to be overlooked from the discussion by the governmental officials, policy analysts, teachers and parent alike.

That’s it, Americans who are out of the K-12 system due to their older age yet they have not yet attained an educational background to be sufficiently and independently competing in today’s job market.

Here is what we’ve found.

In the United States every nine seconds a person drops out of high school.
More than 300 billion dollars are lost in the nation’s economy because of 5 million young Americans between ages 18 to 25 do not have a high school diploma.
Dropouts are 3.5 times as likely to be incarcerated as high school graduates.
In 2003 the average male dropout would earn $21,447 compared to $32,226 those with a high school degree.

In fact, the cost for high school dropouts is so significant that the National Association of Governors has called this the “nation dropout crisis.”

Given the state of “crisis”, someone or something should have step-up the plate to solve this problem, right?

Not quite. The dropout crisis, or in our term – an unseen achievement gap – is only getting worse.

From 1990 to 2000, high school completion rates fell in all but seven states. Only one half of former dropouts earn either a diploma or GED.

Translation? A large segment of the high school dropout will never get their high school diploma.

But this is not to say it is all bad news, there is also good news.

A one percent increase in attainment with high school diploma for all men ages 20-60 would save the United States an estimated $1.4 billion annually in reduced costs associated with crime.
Likewise, if all high school dropouts from 2004 who complete just one additional year of schooling would save our nation about $41.8 billion in health care costs.

So there lies a silver-lining opportunity to vitalize our nation’s economy and education level. The Second Chance Project (SCP) is an organization that will aim close the unseen academic achievement gap.

The Second Chance Project’s mission is to provide opportunities for non-graduated adults in this nation to become a highly educated and skilled workforce through attainment of high school and post-secondary degrees.

SCP will have a three-phase process to achieve the mission – recruitment, academic support and scholarship.

SCP will recruit non-graduated adults back into programs that accommodate adult learners. The primary target audiences are usually from low-income communities, inmates who have been recently released from jail, and the young homeless. Thus, SCP will perform appropriate recruitment methods to attract individuals to enroll in adult education programs. Further, SCP will collaborate with these adult education programs to make sure that they are at full capacity.

After students have enrolled in adult education programs, they will be provided support services to improve their chance of graduating. SCP will have a staff of tutors who will offer student’s additional help outside of their school hours. Every student will be matched with an adult mentor who will supply additional guidance to the student. Students will also have monthly seminars to prepare them for post graduation scenarios such as “how to successfully apply to college”, “how to write a resume”, “how to pay for post-secondary schooling”, and many others.

Finally, SCP will provide opportunities for students to compete for scholarships for post-secondary education. SCP will grant scholarships to students who are looking to complete a trade schools, associates or bachelors degrees. Scholarships will continue for students who can maintain satisfactory academic requirements.

We believe that the 5 million adults without a high school diploma deserve a second or even third chance. SCP will find ways to improve the lives of many individuals, while also saving governmental spending in light of the recent budget crisis.

The Second Chance Project is currently in the Teach for America Social Innovation Pitch Competition. Corps members and alumni are allowed to vote on ideas to help close this unseen achievement gap. Everyone is allowed three votes, and you may use all three votes on one idea. Here is the link to the Second Chance Project:

We encourage you to vote for us so that this unseen achievement gap will one day be closed.

David Mitchel is a Teach for America alumnus (JAC ’08) and is now a Learning Lab Teacher with Wichita Collegiate Middle School. He can be reached at

Simon Wong is a Teach For America alumnus (JAC ’08) and is now a Policy Analyst with the South Carolina Policy Council. He can be reach at or

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    Finding a way to help non-graduated adults

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