David Naff gave a powerful talk about his work combating educational inequity and dropout prevention for at-risk teens in a high school with a socioeconomically diverse student body. Oftentimes, these at-risk students live at, or below, the poverty level. In his year working as a counselor, the school’s graduation rate rose from 86 percent to 94 percent.

David says the key to his work was seeing each student as individual and special. Some people are adamant that schools and teachers should treat all students the same way, or treat uninterested students one way: “let them fail.”

David says we can and should do more than this. Acknowledgment encourages these students to achieve. When students did not have the resources they needed, David was quick to provide the necessary materials and stand as a spoke in the student’s support network. David argues that we can increase the graduation rate across America by implementing two major changes to our education system:

  1. Socioeconomic Integration; the schools with the highest rates of low-income families also have the highest drop-out rates. By changing the biased circumstances that create demographically unbalanced school districts, and providing the resources that all students need, we can end the “out of sight, out of mind” mentality that so prevalent in our most troubled educational and social systems.
  2. Notice these students; miss them when they are absent, greet them when they are present, congratulate them for their triumphs, and listen to them when they feel they have been treated unfairly.

When students were tasked with writing the most important and inspiring thing that had been said to them by an influential figure, one quote stuck out to David most: “I see you.”

#ISeeYou

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