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Kelly Smith, Published October 07 2009

Local leaders learn at summit that 400-plus area students dropout a year

FARGO – While North Dakota has one of the highest graduation rates in the country, Franklin Schargel aimed to “wake up” community leaders and educators to the fact that high school dropouts are still a reality here.

“We are all in this game together,” the nationally known author told more than a 100 community leaders this morning. “If you think that you move over a border, you move to a Fargo and you escape … dropouts? I don’t think so.”

Between Moorhead, West Fargo and Fargo, about 440 kids drop out of school per year.

As part of United Way of Cass-Clay’s graduation rates workshop, Schargel – a speaker and author of several books about drop-out prevention – brought his message to the community.

“We are in a unique opportunity to connect leaders … and that’s what we do,” United Way President Judy Green said. “We need to bring people together to say, ‘What can we do now? Now that we know, what can we do to change the tide and increase the graduation rates in the Cass-Clay (Counties) community?’”

Community leaders such as North Dakota legislators, representatives from the Cass County Sheriff’s Office and school district leaders from Moorhead, Fargo and West Fargo learned about the graduation rates for area schools and how those who fall through the cracks impact the rest of society.

“It’s not children who are at risk,” said Schargel, a former teacher. “It is our way of living that’s at risk.”

He meets this afternoon with teachers and school staff to discuss the “epidemic” of high school dropouts and what needs to be done in the community.

For more information, read Thursday’s Forum