Part 3: Mentoring

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August 13th, 2010

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Omaha, NE – High school dropout rates in Nebraska have dropped to their lowest levels in more than 10 years. And the state has one of the highest graduation rates in the country according to several reports. But the state’s success is shared in vast disproportion across racial and ethnic lines. In fact, the Alliance for Excellent Education, a national education policy think tank based in Washington, reported the state’s graduation rate among whites for the 2005-2006 school year was 84 percent, but among African Americans it plummeted to 47 percent. Hispanics did not fare much better at 51 percent. The state department of education’s numbers are much more favorable, with Africans Americans topping 70% and Hispanics at about 75 for 2007-2008. It’s unclear which numbers are closer to the truth – reporting can vary widely between state and independent sources. But both show a significant disparity.

And the disparity is largely driven by inordinately high poverty rates among minorities. The Kaiser Foundation ranks Nebraska 11th from the bottom in poverty among African Americans, and 19th from the bottom for Hispanics. In contrast, the state is 11th from the top for poverty among whites.

But in Omaha, the community is stepping in to reverse those trends. Today you’ll meet a teen who grew up in a poor neighborhood in Los Angeles and came to Omaha for a better life. And, in many ways, he found one. In part three of the series, you’ll meet Melvin Ramirez.

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