Suspended Miami-Dade Students Will Go to Special Program

The era of getting into trouble at school and then being rewarded with a week off at home is over in Miami-Dade's public schools. Perhaps inspired by Broward Schools' very similar Promise program, Miami-Dade has set up what they call Success Centers.

"With this they're not sent home, they're with us, their educational progress does not stop, they continue it here," explains Luis Diaz, who heads the program for Miami-Dade Public Schools.

The nine Success Centers teach academics along with one-on-one counseling and a heavy does of values and motivation.

"We want the kids to think about the consequences, why they're here, what options they should have taken in order to not be here and to focus on those character-building characteristics so they return to their schools a better child," Diaz said.

The Success Centers and the Promise program each take a holistic approach, partnering with community social work programs to help the whole family, parents included, nip a child's behavioral problems in the bud. Does this approach make a difference?

"I think it's working, I think the students really are embracing the core values," said Chantal Osborne of Miami-Dade Public Schools.

The Success Centers started last year as a pilot program with five sites. Out of 1,400 students who came through the program, less than one percent got into trouble again. Broward's Promise program has been running for three years. In the first year, 2,128 students participated, and 92% did not re-offend. Both counties have come to the conclusion that old-fashioned home suspensions don't accomplish anything positive, and an intervention approach is a better idea.

"They com e out a better person," Diaz said.

Eighth-grader Ralph Zilma would've undoubtedly ended up in a Success Center if had followed the path he was one. Suspended numerous times in 6th and 7th grade at North Miami Middle School, Ralph doesn't get into trouble any more.

"It's not the same student, it's a major transformation," said principal Patrick Lacouty.

Ralph turned things around after he joined the North Miami Police Explorers, and feels like he's an example for troubled kids to follow.

"Before you do something, you have to think about what you're doing, you have to think about the consequences that are going to happen to you in the future," Zilma said.

Great advice, and exactly what they're teaching at the Success Centers.

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