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City Year’s Jennie Johnson: 12 Who Made a Difference in RI in 2012

Wednesday, December 26, 2012


City Year's Jennie Johnson took student absenteeism on head-on in 2012.

As GoLocalProv reported last January, Providence Public Schools struggle with an alarming chronic absenteeism rate. Mayor Taveras’ Education and Opportunities Working Group had just released the Educate Providence report, which named chronic absence a key measure in assessing the work to improve public schools in the city.

As a result, the Providence Children and Youth Cabinet formed a working group to identify and implement strategies to improve school attendance. Jennie Johnson, Executive Director of City Year Rhode Island, was asked to co-chair the group, along with Rebecca Boxx, now the Executive Director of the Cabinet.

When Johnson was named Executive Director of City Year Rhode Island five years ago, the local AmeriCorps program, which has a 20 year history in the community, was just beginning to bring all of its resources into Providence schools and specifically address the high school dropout crisis.

Today, City Year’s 40 full-time AmeriCorps members provide targeted support to students to prevent course failure, disruptive behavior and chronic absenteeism, all indicators that a student may be at risk of dropping out of school. From Johnson’s perspective, tackling chronic absenteeism has to remain a high priority for her organization and the community. She has seen first hand that it is harder for City Year’s corps members to help students improve academic performance and behavior if they are never in school.

Along with City Year’s own work to keep students in school, Johnson has spent much of 2012 working with Children and Youth Cabinet leaders to coordinate representatives from the school district and community organizations, who were tasked with examining policies that influence attendance, developing a comprehensive communications strategy to increase awareness of the issue and emphasize the importance of regular attendance, and coordinating school-based attendance teams that will work to curb chronic absenteeism in their schools.


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