Tough road ahead for drop outs

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The percentage of public school ninth-graders who will complete high school on time with a regular diploma in Oklahoma remains stagnant at around 70 percent.

Oklahoma is ranked 34th in the nation for its high school graduation rate, according to the Education Week and the Editorial Projects in Education Research Center.

After Christina Benavidez, of Corpus Christi, Texas, got pregnant in high school, she dropped out. It is a decision she has regretted since.

Benavidez, 32, has struggled to find work since she left Roy Miller High School in 1995, holding only a few part time jobs for minimum wage every now and then. She said at one point she became so desperate for a job that she started writing on her applications that she had a high school diploma – it did not work.

“During the interview, they wanted to show copies, or they wanted the number that the G.E.D. diploma had on it,” she says.

Benavidez, who still lives at home with her mother and five children, has not worked in more than a decade which has caused her to turn to welfare.

“When I dropped out it was basically food stamps, Medicaid, all the government assistance you can find, and some more,” she says.

She left her last job as a retail clerk in 2002, and has only had a few interviews since.

According to the Texas Education Agency, more than 20,000 students drop out of high school each year. That number, however, has steadily fallen over the past several years.

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