High School Workshops

Stories From Our School Workshops

Police Recover More Abducted Children, With Technology’s Help

Child abduction remains a problem in America although technological advances are helping police to recover children more quickly, experts say. According to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, 460,699 entries for missing children were logged into the FBI’s National Crime Information Center in 2015. The number represents reports of all missing children in the U.S. and was slightly lower than the 2014 data. In June 2016, the Office of Justice Programs’ Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention (OJJDP) reported in its monthly bulletin that the number of children kidnapped by strangers, or slight acquaintances, has remained constant, but that the number killed has declined. The research reviewed and compared data from 1997 and 2011.

Waterbury High School’s Graduation Rate Improves

Sylvester Curry dropped out of Kennedy High School in Waterbury in 2015 at age 17. Now he looks back and wishes that the school system had helped him succeed rather than holding him back two grades. “I dropped out because I became of age and wanted to just get my GED instead of staying in school for extra years,” Curry said. “The city could have helped me beforehand with improving my grades and [given] me more opportunity to stay on track instead of making me stay back.”

Curry is one of many Waterbury students who never crossed the stage at graduation. The school system had a 69.2 percent graduation rate in 2014-2015, compared to 75.3 in New Haven, according to Edsight.ct.gov, a state education database, and information provided by school officials.

Mass Shooting Rekindled Debate On Gun Laws

The latest mass shooting—in Orlando, Fla., on June 12—has reignited a fiery debate about the inadequacy of gun laws in the United States compared to other countries and what should be done about it. In comparison to other countries, America has the highest rate of gun violence and of gun ownership. According to a 2015 study by the University of California-Davis, there are more than 50 million gun owners in the United States alone. A report by the Congressional Research Office estimates that there are over 300 million guns owned in America, twice as many as there were per capita in 1968. Gun control advocates say that because American culture treasures and glorifies guns, it isn’t surprising that gun laws aren’t as strict compared to other countries.

Blacks, Latino Kids Diagnosed With Autism At Later Age Than Whites

African-American and Latino children are diagnosed with autism significantly later than their white counterparts, multiple studies show. A study that appeared in the Journal of Developmental and Behavioral Pediatrics in 2008 reports that white children who are on Medicaid on average tend to be diagnosed with an autism spectrum disorders (ASD) at 6.3 years of age. In comparison, African-American children are diagnosed at 7.9 years of age while Latinos are diagnosed at 8.8 years of age. “Many people still need to learn the signs and act early,” said Melissa Olive, head of Applied Behavioral Strategies in Woodbridge. Though signs of autism vary widely, parents should watch for difficulty with communication, difficulty with social interactions, obsessive interests and repetitive behaviors.

LGBTQ At Higher Risk For Mental Health Disorders

Lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer (LGBTQ) individuals are at higher risk of suffering from mental disorders and have less access to health care than straight and cisgender individuals, according to a 2015 Harvard study. Already having to face prejudice due to their sexuality and gender identity, LGBTQ individuals also have to deal with the social stigma surrounding mental disorders, health experts say. “They are balancing multiple oppressions,” said Robin McHaelen, founder of True Colors, a nonprofit organization that advocates for LGBT youth. “It makes their recovery much more challenging.”

These oppressions expose LGBTQ individuals to higher risks of depression and anxiety disorder, which contribute to suicidal thoughts and behavior. In 2015, Harvard Professor Sari Reisner conducted a study on the mental health of transgender youth and found transgender teenagers are up to three times more likely to suffer from mental disorders and suicidal ideation than cisgender teenagers.

Teen Births Decline, But Dropout Rate Remains High

After Carmen Cintron of New London gave birth to her son, William, when she was only 15, she ended up dropping out of high school due to absences. Now 21, she has earned her GED and is going to attend college this fall. Looking back, she regrets that her education had to wait. “Always having to put my son first, instead of myself,” was difficult, she said. While the rate of teen pregnancy has dropped 9 percent since 2013 nationally, it remains a major reason that girls drop out of high school.

Domestic Violence Has Lasting Affect On Kids

Children exposed to domestic violence are at risk of being affected negatively later in life, experts say. In the United States, three to four million children between the ages of 3 and 17 are at risk of exposure to domestic violence each year, authors Alison Cunningham and Linda Baker wrote in their book, “Little Eyes, Little Ears.” Many face the risk of being a victim or abuser later in life, they said. “(People) should be aware that their child is being exposed to this abuse,” said Doris Urteaga, director of the counseling department at the Domestic Violence Crisis Center in Stamford and Norwalk. “In the future, that child is likely going to become of two things: an abuser or a victim.”

Immediate reactions from children living in these situations include difficulty in completing schoolwork and lower verbal, motor and social skills, Cunningham and Baker wrote. They said children exposed to domestic violence may feel fear, confusion, guilt, anger, frustration, stomachaches and worry.

Girls Identify As Fat More Often Than Boys

Girls often see themselves as overweight when they are not, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Youth Risk Behavior Survey. The survey found that 30 percent of girls in Connecticut thought they were overweight, while only 14.1 percent of girls reported that they were actually overweight. For boys, the rates were 26.6 percent and 14.4 percent. Diamond Simmons, 16, who attends John F. Kennedy High School in Waterbury, said too many teens obsess about their weight. “To be fat means to be overweight, and to be overweight means to be fat.

Skin-Lightening Products Popular Despite FDA Warnings

For years, dermatologists and government agencies worldwide have been warning women not to use skin-bleaching products because many contain chemicals that pose serious health risks. Hydroquinine, mercury and steroids are often found in skin-whitening products. Long periods of exposure to these chemicals can produce adverse side effects including acne, burns, discoloration, skin thinning and can cause damage to the central nervous system and organ failure, according to health experts. In 1990, the Food and Drug Administration banned the use of mercury in skin-bleaching and lightening products and regularly updates its website with warnings about skin-lightening products containing mercury. Similar bans have been issued in Asia and African countries. For several years, the World Health Organization has issued warnings about the harmful effects of using these products.

Women Breaking The ‘Outer Space Ceiling’

On July 6, NASA astronaut Kate Rubins became the 60th woman to fly in space. Rubins has been on the International Space Station (ISS) now for several months, where she is a flight commander. Before becoming an astronaut, Rubins earned a degree in cancer biology and helped the U.S. Army create therapies for the Ebola and Lassa viruses. In 2009, Rubins was chosen from a group of 3,500 applicants to become an astronaut candidate. After seven years of training, she is finally in space.