Better Graduation Rates: It's in the (Ballet) Shoes

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Perhaps the answer to increasing the percentage of students who graduate from high schools does not involve increased funding, decreased class sizes or a laptop in every locker.

Maybe, just maybe, the key is ballet shoes.

According to St. Joseph Ballet--the free, long-term, after-school academy based in Santa Ana that primarily serves low-income Latinos--all 21 of its seniors are not only graduating from high school, they all plan to attend college. This marks the fourth straight year that has happened.

Wellesley College, Northern Arizona University, California Institute of the Arts and UCLA are among the institutions awaiting St. Joseph Ballet students. Sixteen grads are receiving scholarships from the academy that will offset their college costs by between $1,000 and $2,500 annually. Senior Jessica Camacho is getting a full ride to Wellesley.

After attending their regular high school classes, St. Joseph enrollees arrive at 3:30 p.m. every day. It's a "long-term" program because the students can participate from age 8 through high school.

Okay, so it's not just the shoes. In addition to their dance training, students receive academic help from 12 on-site tutors, are taken on tours of college campuses and participate in intensive, 12-week SAT training that does not cost them a dime. St. Joseph Ballet's press release on the achievement follows...
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