The Dropout Crisis

Washington, DC
The Dropout Crisis
Dates Of Project: 
S.T.E.P. Up DC, DC Alliance of Youth Advocates, Sasha Bruce Youth-Led, Spingarn STAY Senior High School, Ballou Senior High School, Youth Action Research Group

Nearly 50% of DC students do not graduate from high school. Only 9% get a college degree within five years of leaving high school. Critical Exposure has sought to provide the DC community and policymakers with a unique youth perspective on the causes, consequences, and solutions to the city’s graduation crisis.

In 2009-2010, Critical Exposure worked with students in different programs around the city, such as Spingarn STAY Senior High School, an alternative night school for returned dropouts. Students “pictured education” by photographing their reasons for leaving the school system and motivations for returning.

Critical Exposure and the DC Alliance of Youth Advocates also co-founded a youth education organizing campaign, S.T.E.P. Up DC (Success Through Educational Progress). High school students from across the District work to ensure all DC students have the opportunity to graduate prepared for higher education and meaningful employment, with support from adults from youth-serving organizations.

Through weekly after-school meetings, youth leaders in the S.T.E.P. Up DC campaign are using photography to document the causes and consequences of dropping out, as well as surveying their peers and developing an agenda of potential policy solutions. In addition, the youth are organizing fellow students from DC traditional public and public charter schools, GED programs, and after-school organizations to create the youth power and public will to implement these policy solutions.