Nearly 200 fewer Jeffco students dropped out of school this year thanks to the support of a Jeffco Schools program known as Brady Bridge.
Brady Bridge, a specialized program through Brady High School in Lakewood, seeks out students who have dropped out of high school and provides the bridge program as a way to get back on track for a high school diploma.
In 2017-18, the Bridge program served 199 students who would have otherwise dropped out, said Diana Wilson, Jeffco Schools chief communications officer. As a result, Jeffco’s dropout numbers for the year were about 25 percent lower than they would be without the program.
Brady Bridge offers students creative solutions
Brady Bridge teachers examine the individual needs of a student and offer creative solutions for that student to earn a high school diploma, explained Troy Braley, Brady High School principal.
When students enter the Brady Bridge program, Brady staff craft solutions that meet students’ specific needs, and each graduation plan is customized for the student. There is never a “cookie cutter” approach to getting a student through school, he said.
“If there is a kid whose mother has cancer and they want to spend every morning with their mom while she is in chemo treatment, we allow for that,” Braley said. “We will find a way to make sure that a student can both graduate and take care of their family.”
Options to earn credits include Edgenuity, an online program to earn missing class credits, internships, on-the job experience or a hands-on, self-paced classroom experience. The Brady Bridge program also focuses on real-life skills to prepare students for the world.
Wraparound supports are also key to Brady Bridge
The population they work with isn’t an easy demographic to get through school, Braley said. Students who come to Brady Bridge often have many challenges, including hunger, homelessness and family issues.
“We have kids who are homeless, suffer abuse and have problems with drug addiction. We have kids who sleep in abandoned cars and under bridges,” Braley said.
Brady provides a variety of supports. Wraparound services include an on-site addiction counselor, guidance counselors who closely monitor every student’s grade in every class, and an after-hours living room that allows students a safe space to stay in the evenings. The school also has an on-site washing machine, dryer and shower to help homeless students.
The challenge for Brady Bridge is overcoming obstacles to serve the unique needs of students who dropped out.
“Transportation and getting kids to the building is our biggest obstacle,” Braley said.
Although the Brady Bridge serves students throughout Jefferson County, no bus service is offered because Brady is an option school. Students who do not have transportation available and who do not live within walking distance take RTD buses.
“Most kids don’t have their own cars,” Braley said. It can take some kids two to three hours to get to school on public transportation, he added.
The second biggest problem?
“Funding,” he said. “We can’t rely solely on the district funding. I spend a lot of time writing for grant money.”
Nearly 250 dropouts prevented in two years
Despite the challenges, the program is making a significant difference. Brady Bridge had a notable impact during its first year in 2016-17 when it put 54 students back on track for a high school diploma. As a result, the number of students who dropped out was reduced from 729 to 675.
In 2017-18 Brady Bridge reduced the number of dropouts from 854 to 655 students — the lowest number of dropouts that Jeffco has seen since 2014-15.