CFF_2017_09.21_Branden Marshall

On September 19, Broncos Linebacker Brandon Marshall helped Swansea Elementary kick off their second annual attendance challenge. In his talk to the second-, third, and fourth graders, the Super Bowl Champion motivated the students to go to school and to be their best. “I try my best on the field just like you guys try your best in school,” he said.

I hope Marshall made a good impression on the students, and that they’ll step up to the challenge. Marshall made so great an impact at last year’s challenge, that attendance at Swansea increased for the first time in several years.

School is important

Lessons in accountability need to start young, and children need to know that they need to attend school to get an education.  It’s important that teachers be notified about student absences so they can help them stay on track with their lessons.  A chronic absence is known as missing an extended amount of time in school, but a chronic truancy is an unexcused absence. Even children attending cyber school need to be held accountable.

Truancy is defined as having three consecutive unexcused absences, having any five unexcused absences in a semester or seven unexcused absences in a school year. Truancy is also defined as being absent for “all or a significant part of a school day without a valid excuse.”


Millions of students miss school every year

According to a report on absenteeism, about 5 to 7.5 million U.S. students miss about a month of school every year. They could be out for due to a family illness, or they’re afraid of being bullied.

Children also may not want to go to school school because they’re seeking free time from studying. They also cut school for reasons such as:

  • They may be struggling to learn
  • They may think it’s cool to cut school
  • They may have friends who are cutting school
  • They may have mental health issues

In 2016, the federal government released its first report on nationwide chronic absenteeism. The report tracked students who were absent 15 or more days in a year for any reason and  found that over 6 million students missed 15 or more days of school in 2013-14, or 14 percent of the student population.

It’s important for children to get an education. Students who are absent fall behind in class and are at high risk for dropping out later. But what’s worse is that they end up being reported to state welfare officials. They along with their parents could end up having to go to court.

Some officials don’t think that being in involved with state welfare motivates children to stay in school. Nor does being fined change the habit of absenteeism.


Parents, leaders and community members need to work together

According to the National Center for Student Engagement, schools are most effective in achieving high attendance rates when parents, school leaders and community members work together to focus on reducing absences and truancy, and keeping kids in schools.

A study released from the Kaiser Family Foundation report stated that many children say they find motivation by following well-known athletes. More than 90 percent said that they learned that excelling in sports takes hard work and dedication. Athletes train hard and play hard because they’re trying to win.  Nearly all of the children surveyed said that athletes have inspired them to pursue their dreams and win in life.

Students are more likely to succeed in academics when they attend school consistently.  Children can also learn life lessons from athletes who take their professional sport seriously.

Resources are available to teachers for monitoring, understanding, and addressing chronic absence beginning in the early grades. Schools can work with parents of children who are truant to help them avoid falling behind in class. Schools shouldn’t always have to look toward athletes to help boost student attendance, but their presence does make a difference.

Aeneas Hawkins is a bright high school student with prospects of attending college on an athletic scholarship.

Aeneas received scholarship offers from Alabama, Clemson, Florida State, Georgia, and Ohio State, and many others.

His decision to pick the best overall school should be simple. But it’s not. That’s because Aeneas was unfortunate enough to be raised in a football family.

His father, Artrell Hawkins, would proudly like him to go to his alma mater, the University of Cincinnati.  Artrell Hawkins played in the NFL career with the Bengals, Panthers, and Patriots.

His uncle, Andrew Hawkins, wants him to go to his alma mater, the University of Toledo. Andrew Hawkins played six seasons in the NFL and the Canadian Football League.

Another uncle, Wayne Jones, doesn’t want him to agree to any other school than the University of Pittsburgh. While his other uncle, Wallace Gilberry, is rooting for him to go to Alabama.

Cincinnati, Toledo, Pittsburgh and Alabama are great schools. But there’s also Penn State, Ohio State, Clemson, and Notre Dame.  Aeneas is caught between wanting to please his family, and wanting to follow his heart.

Fortunately (or unfortunately) Gary Owen is with him to help put his mind at ease.


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