Every Head Counts
Idea Leader: DeUndriah Berry
Location: Dallas, TX
Partner Organization: AGAPE Provisions Food Bank
Project Summary: DeUandriah Berry, 17, became concerned that many students were not passing the state required exit assessment. She partnered with a local barber/salon to offer the incentive of free haircuts and styles for students who attend afterschool tutoring programs at local apartment complexes.
Dallas Teen Organizes Tutoring Program to Reduce Dropout Rate
Deundriah Berry, an upper classman at W.W. Samuel High School, became concerned about the growing amount of her classmates that were dropping out of school due to not passing the state required exit assessment known as the TAKS test. Along with this alarming factor, her high school was at risk of closing down altogether due to unacceptable TAKS scores as a whole. After expressing her concerns with a group of tutors at school whom shared the same concerns, she decided to enter the AT&T America’s Promise My Idea Grant competition to fund the after school tutoring program “Every Head Counts.”
In June of 2010, Deundriah put an action plan together in an effort to reduce the fact that each year, more than 130,000 Texas students who enter high school as 9th-graders do not graduate with their class. She quickly put together a teen advisory board which consisted of five students to launch ideas for the program. She immediately chose to partner with the Agape Provisions Food Bank and the owners of Fuller Image Barber and Beauty to come up with the afterschool tutoring incentive program using free haircuts and styles as a unique drawing tool for teens. Over the next several months, a total of three sites were established (most of them within local apartment complexes) and one headquarters site where the 30 students went for their tutorial sessions.
In these sessions, adult volunteers, as well as Deundriah herself, motivated students toward their goals, provided a fun, welcoming atmosphere for students, assisted with academic problem areas, and stimulated academic curiosity by focusing on the importance of each particular subject in dealing with everyday life. At the end of each six weeks, the students were awarded free haircuts and styles as an incentive for them to improve their grades and citizenship performance at their particular school.
On April 9, 2011 the official Every Head Counts Recovery Program Showcase was hosted by the Agape Provisions Food Bank in Mesquite, Texas which featured Judge Tonya Parker of the 116th Civil District in Dallas County, Texas as the keynote speaker. Many of the youth whom were involved of the program attended the showcase and a few were brought to tears by the encouraging words of Judge Parker who is a supporter of lowering the Dallas dropout rate.
The last incentive day was held on April 23, 2011 at the Glenshire Villas location which is actually the host site for the Every Head Counts Recovery Program. After receiving their free haircuts and styles, the students were celebrated by the volunteers and tutors of each separate site. To show their appreciation to each student’s dedication, the staff honored them with a pizza party, games, an appreciation ceremony, and a special farewell cake was presented to the senior student in the program who would go on to graduate high school the next month.
“The impact that we as adults have on young people is so powerful, I didn’t realize that until I began working with EHC,” said site director Rhonda Rutledge. “These kids have the best opportunity before them and they are taking advantage of it.”
Overall there was a great improvement rate in the student’s grades since first entering Every Head Counts. Also, by the end of the program students had obtained a more of clear and positive view of their college plans and have recommended EHC to many of their classmates. Miss Berry will be a senior in the upcoming 2011-2012 school year and has already devoted her time to continue the program. The Vice President of the youth board has graduated and is moving on to college. Upon much integrity has this program been established and with a supportive, close knit staff, the Every Head Counts Recovery Program is sure to go nowhere but forward into its called purpose.