OKLAHOMA CITY -- Youth Services for Oklahoma County (YSOC) hosted a special ceremony Thursday in celebration of a group of metro-area students who have put themselves on track for high school graduation this May, despite living without the benefit of parental support.
The students participate in YSOC's Supporting Kids in Independent Living (SKIL) Program, which helps students who live without parental support finish high school. From food to toiletries, counseling to emergency financial assistance, the SKIL Program provides not only the resources students need to complete school, but also the daily necessities students living alone need to survive.
"These students live without parental guidance or encouragement, yet they accomplish great things," said YSOC CEO Debra Forshee. "For some of our kids, success is ranking at the top of their class and for others it's simply earning a high school diploma. For each of these kids, it's a daily struggle to earn an education as they make their own way in life. We are very proud of each of their accomplishments and in the role YSOC has been able to play in their successes."
Students from this year's SKIL Program class have earned numerous scholarships and awards, including a student expected to be his school's Valedictorian. The class also includes a Dell Scholar and students who have earned two academic scholarships and an athletic scholarship. Eighteen program students are planning to go on to higher education and two will serve our country in the military.
The SKIL Program includes students from 14 different metro high schools.
"Our SKIL students live on their own for reasons beyond their control," said Forshee. "Some are abandoned or abused by their parents, others have parents who are incarcerated, addicted or homeless themselves. Our SKIL students don't have the financial or emotional support so many students take for granted."
At the ceremony, the students were recognized for their achievements and presented with graduation gifts and living necessities. Tapestry Project Executive Director Amy Newberry served as the event's keynote speaker.
Also today, five SKIL students were awarded laptop computers donated by OG&E through the United Way. The five students were the winners of an essay contest in which entrants were asked to construct a persuasive argument as to why they were best suited to receive a computer.
According to a recent study, 4,800 students from the class of 2008 dropped out of Oklahoma City metro schools. Through its SKIL Program, YSOC is doing its part to prevent even more Oklahoma County students from joining that list. This year, all 36 SKIL students are on track to graduate from high school. This will mark the second consecutive year the program has achieved a 100 percent graduation success rate.
"These kids don't have someone who wakes them up for school," said Forshee. "They don't have someone to tell them to do their homework. These kids are self motivated. They want to succeed in school and in life. Our program is available to assist with many of their needs, but it's the students who deserve praise for their dedication, desire and perseverance."
In its 13 years, the SKIL Program has helped more than 1,300 students.
Established in 1972, YSOC provides professional counseling, behavioral and educational services designed to foster self-esteem and resiliency, to preserve and enrich family life and to instill a sense of community in a child, family and the community-at-large.