Two men stand in front of a room full of people, speaking to them

Bill Bates and John Paise of the Kentucky Department of Education (KDE) Office of Career and Technical Education host a breakout session on engaging at-risk students through career and technical education during the 2024 Persistence to Graduation Summit. Photo by Joe Ragusa, Kentucky Department of Education, June 12, 2024

(LEXINGTON, KY) — The Kentucky Department of Education (KDE) hosted the 2024 Persistence to Graduation Summit in Lexington on June 11-12.

Educators, superintendents, administrators, counselors and other community leaders focused on ways to help students at all levels reach graduation, despite any challenges they face along the way.

“There’s a lot of different kinds of barriers,” said KDE Division of Student Success Director Christina Weeter. “And they don’t just start in high school. They start in earlier years as well, and they can be cumulative.”

The Persistence to Graduation Summit is an annual two-day event with an emphasis on dropout prevention and student reengagement. Session topics ranged from strategies on dropout prevention, alternative education pathways, student engagement and how to provide safe and supportive learning environments.

Interim Commissioner of Education Robin Fields Kinney said the conference highlights what is being done in Kentucky schools to address issues that affect students’ journeys to graduation, such as chronic absenteeism.

“Having kids in the classroom, ready to go and focused on their education, is key to their success,” said Kinney. “Strategies like the ones discussed at the Persistence to Graduation Summit improve outcomes for our children and can serve as inspiration for what schools across the Commonwealth can do in their communities to address the unique challenges kids may face on the way to their diplomas.”

On the second day of the summit, keynote speaker Glenda Wright, of Wright and Hunter Consulting LLC, led a student panel to discuss the challenges at-risk youths face while trying to complete their education.

“I believe that education is the pivoting point for a lot of people with disparities and (those) with not as much support in their upbringing and in their home life,” said Wright. “So, if we do not give them that pathway of success and opportunity, who will?”

Cindy Damron, director of pupil personnel for Russell County Schools, said her school district has been working for several years on multiple programs designed to help at-risk students, keeping the district’s dropout rate low. She said she values the perspectives she heard during the Persistence to Graduation Summit.

“I love this. This has always been one of my favorite conferences because these are the people who love my kind of kids and my kind of families and the ones that just need that extra support,” she said.

More resources for educators can be found on the Dropout Prevention and Persistence to Graduation webpage.