Program’s services take aim at 35K+ Permian Basin students ‘at risk’ of dropping out

Published: Aug. 9, 2023 at 6:53 PM CDT
Email This Link
Share on Pinterest
Share on LinkedIn

MIDLAND, Texas (KOSA) - About 35,000 kids are considered at risk of dropping out in ECISD and MISD alone.

That’s according to Communities in Schools of the Permian Basin.

While all the buzz this week may be about kids returning to school, for some, it’s more about keeping them there.

“The number of at-risk students has continued to grow, especially post-COVID in Midland ISD and Ector ISD and really all of the school districts in the Permian Basin,” said Eliseo Elizondo, executive director of Communities in Schools of the Permian Basin.

About half of MISD students were considered at risk of dropping out before the pandemic, and that number rose to 54% in 2022, according to CISPB. At-risk ECISD students rose from 58% to nearly 63% over the same time period.

What makes a kid at risk varies. It can range from being held back to facing expulsion, experiencing homelessness or becoming a teen parent.

“Now they don’t all need our services,” Elizondo said. “They don’t all need our help, but we don’t know that until we start identifying these actually one by one. Literally. And so we anticipate a lot more work this year.”

CISPB managed a record 2,100 cases last year. By expanding from 23 schools to 30 this year, it hopes to manage 3,000. Elizondo says the demand outweighs their bandwidth, so they plan to see more growth.

They have a full time staffer in each school, who can help kids with everything from basic needs to therapy services.

“Their job is to act as the catalyst, the hub, to bring all those services directly to the student and to the family at school,” Elizondo said. “So they don’t have to go out and search for it.”

Youth across the U.S. are facing mental health challenges, which the program saw in the Permian Basin last year, according to Jessi Morgan, the program’s manager of mental health support.

“Social anxiety was up on the rise and then, of course, school safety is a huge issue and topic right now for our students,” Morgan said.

Some challenges facing the Permian Basin include a high cost of living and the temptation to begin working in the oil and gas industry prior to graduation.

No matter the case, to help at-risk kids, it takes a whole community, said Andra Jones, executive director of the Boys and Girls Club of the Permian Basin.

“It truly does take a village,” Jones said. “I do not believe that a single adult that is a parent raises a kid successfully in isolation. So really banding together and show kids support.”

CISPB also wants to remind everyone to show empathy to all people this year. Staff said there’s always more to the story and additional ways to help.