One of Schenectady’s unlikeliest 2012 grads is coming back to inspire other students.
Ashante Davis has joined the Undroppable campaign to persuade teens to stay in school. The national campaign consists of a series of videos made by students who explain their hurdles to graduation — and how they beat the odds. In Schenectady, Davis’ video will be shown Monday to kick off the local campaign, followed shortly by videos from other students and alumni.
Principal Diane Wilkinson said she wanted to get Schenectady into the campaign to “change the culture” at the high school.
“To focus on graduation,” she said. “To continue to have hope. Even if there’s times that are challenging, never give up.”
Current students can make a video if they “commit to being undroppable,” she added. “You’ve committed to graduation regardless of the challenges you’ve faced.”
She hopes teenagers will listen to the advice offered by their peers. Each speaker will explain his or her keys to success.
“Whether it’s connecting with teachers or coming in really early or picking up a couple extra credits,” she said. “Summer school or night school or tutors or mentors. Whatever it takes to make sure you’re walking across that stage.”
For Davis, the key was “all of the above.” He connected with a teacher, who offered to let him work in the high school music studio if he focused on his classes. He took double classes and night school, cramming four years of high school into two.
It all came down to one last test. He had to pass the U.S. History Regents exam.
The grade came in the day before graduation.
It was a 71. He had succeeded.
Other students will describe the victories they had earlier in their career that make them certain they will graduate. Wilkinson thinks those videos will serve a dual role: inspiration and mentorship.
“Maybe those will encourage them to have personal conversations,” Wilkinson said.
Teachers aren’t exempt. They will make videos, too, to serve as an example of a successful person who once nearly didn’t make it.
“We’re trying to model some examples,” Wilkinson said.
The videos will be played on screens around the school, including a large screen in the cafeteria. Later, they will also go on the national campaign’s website, undroppable.com.
“As we’re with Chicago, we’re with Philadelphia, now we can direct our entire school community to this website, to see our own community,” Wilkinson said. “We want to put Schenectady on the map as a district that commits to its kids.”