CLEMSON, SC — The National Dropout Prevention Center/Network (NDPC/N) recognized the first two graduates of its National Dropout Prevention Specialist (NDPS) certification program during its recent network conference in San Antonio, Tx. These first two program completers are Dr. Charlene Hampton, GEAR Project Director for Upson, Jones and Greene county schools; and Ms. Melinda Faye Williams, Director of the Upson-Lee Learning Academy in Thomaston, Ga.
The NDPS certification program was announced in November 2014 at NDPC/N’s national network conference in Louisville, Ky., and inaugurated at NDPC/N’s February 2015 At-Risk Youth National Forum in Myrtle Beach, SC. The NDPS certification verifies participant knowledge and expertise in at-risk youth issues and strategies for increasing graduation rates. The certification program is open to all professionals who work with or on behalf of students, including educators, counselors, school administrators, at-risk youth workers, and board of education members.
“It was our honor to recognize Dr. Hampton and Ms. Williams as the first of our certified dropout prevention specialists, and to personally present them with their certificates,” said Dr. Sandy Addis, Director of the NDPC/N. “The certification program is among the most important initiatives our organization provides, and helps to ensure that those who are engaged in educating students are informed, current, and connected to the most effective, research-based strategies for decreasing the nation’s dropout rates.”
As NDPS certification program participants, Dr. Hampton and Ms. Williams attended professional development workshops at the 2015 At-Risk Youth National Forum and the organization’s September 2015 Diploma Planning Institute in Biloxi, MS. All sessions and workshops required for the certification are based on the NDPC/N’s 15 Effective Strategies for Dropout Prevention framework, which is comprised of 15 recommendations in the categories of School and Community Perspective; Early Interventions; Basic Core Strategies; and Making the Most of Instruction.
To secure their certification, participants are also required to submit to the NDPC/N Model Program Database or provide a field project report detailing an effective dropout prevention initiative in which they are involved or which they designed. Dr. Hampton and Ms. Williams both work with Upson-Lee Learning Academy’s GEAR (Gateway to Education Achievement and Reengagement) program and thus submitted a joint field project report on dropout prevention and intervention efforts through that program. GEAR is the local title of a program funded through the U.S. Department of Education’s High School Graduation Initiative operating in Jones, Greene, and Upson counties.
“It is my calling to assist students in improving their lives academically,” said Ms. Williams. “The NDPS certification will enhance my ability to intervene on behalf of students who are in danger of, or considering, dropping out. Many of our students need encouragement, direction, and information on the alternatives available to them so that they can earn their high school diploma.”
Dr. Hampton stated, “The certification program validates the work I’ve done over the past two decades with at-risk students. I enrolled so that I could benefit from the valuable strategies provided that will help struggling students, as well as parents and fellow teachers who want educational success for their children and students.”
Both graduates will add their NDPS certification to impressive educational backgrounds. Ms. Williams holds an EdS degree in educational leadership and an MS in education, both from Troy State University in Phoenix City, Ala.; and a BA in human services from Mercer University, in Macon, Ga. Dr. Hampton earned her EdS and EdD in educational leadership from Argosy University in Sarasota, Fla.; an MS in education administration and supervision from Albany State University in Albany, Ga; and a BS in home economics education from Fort Valley State University in Fort Valley, Ga.
“Currently, we have close to 200 practitioners enrolled in our National Dropout Prevention Specialist certification program, with more enrolling every month,” said Dr. Addis. “It is our goal and mission to continue to increase the number of foot soldiers nationwide who are engaged in providing students, districts, and agencies with up-to-date, effective interventions that support students as they work to obtain their high school diplomas.”