Elk Hill hosts a graduation and awards ceremony at the end of each school year. High school seniors walk across the stage to shake hands with our Executive Director and receive their diploma. Some are smiling, others look serious, and all of them feel a combination of pride and accomplishment.
Before arriving at Elk Hill, these teens were locked in a cycle of failure. Many of them failed classes and had given up on school. Elk Hill gives these kids a safe place to find the courage to succeed. At our graduation ceremony we recognize their achievements. For us, each child who graduates, returns home, or goes on to live a productive and successful life is our most significant achievement. Each parent who creates a safe and loving home thanks to our intervention exemplifies our excellence. And every young child who stays in school and circumvents foster-care demonstrates our success.
Elk Hill has operated day schools in Goochland and Henrico Counties since 1975. Unlike most facilities for at-risk youth in these areas, our schools focus on providing students with an individualized education, vocational training, and a continuum of counseling and therapeutic services.
In Virginia, 14.1 % of all adults do not have a high school diploma, often because of reading difficulty. When teens come to us reading at low levels our reading specialist gives them individualized attention that increases their ability by an annual average of 1.5 grade levels. As their reading improves, their academic achievements grow and a pathway to gainful employment and success becomes clear.
In February 2009 the national unemployment rate for those without a high school diploma was 4.3 % higher than those with one. At Elk Hill, students explore various career options while working towards their high school diploma or GED. We train them in a variety of vocational fields and connect them to resources and mentors in the community.
However, attending school or going to work is not easy when life at home is difficult. Elk Hill’s Community Services program gets to the root of this problem. Our trained professional counselors and licensed therapists work with kids and their parents in school and at home, helping them develop positive coping and communication skills. They also support students transitioning into or on the verge of dropping out of public school, working with them in and outside the classroom. Our goal is to keep kids in school and have them become successful, contributing members of our community.