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Montana education summits held at MSU

By Colin Cashin, KTVM Reporter, ccashin@ktvm.com
Published On: Jun 17 2014 06:26:04 PM MDT
Updated On: Jun 17 2014 08:28:34 PM MDT
BOZEMAN, Mont. -

More than 1,000 teachers, school administrators and law enforcement officers from across state are at Montana State University for the Montana Behavioral Insitute summit.

The summit addresses student success, suicide prevention, bullying and drop-out rates.

Coordinator Susan Bailey-Anderson says everyone at the summit is working toward a common goal.

"That we all work together, we all see the need for out kids and work together, that we have safe schools and successful kids," Bailey-Anderson explained.

A second summit for educators took place at Montana State University Tuesday. The Office of Public Instruction's annual Graduation Matters Montana summit.

Graduation Matters Montana is a state initiative to ensure students graduate high school ready for college and the workforce.

Since the program started in 2011, state drop out rates dropped from 4.3 percent to 3.6 percent.

State Superintendent of Public Instruction Denise Juneau says that amounts to more than 772 students graduating in 2013 than in 2009.

Teachers, school officials, and students from all over Montana gathered at MSU Tuesday to address a question asked by State Superintendent of Public Instruction Denise Juneau -- "How can we better all work together to make sure we're supporting students through graduation and on to the next step in their lives?"

Juneau holds the summit to allow different communities to share ideas and successes toward keeping students in school.

Lynette Evanson teaches at Park High School in Livingston. She told us, "We've been able to hold on to students that definitely would have dropped out."

Evanson attributes her school's success to programs developed through Graduation Matters Montana, like putting more emphasis on giving the students a voice and even visiting freshmen at home.

"Relationships are a very, very important part of student success," said Evanson.

It's a sentiment echoed by Bozeman High student Naquan Williams. Williams spoke at the summit's "Gradtalks," a series of presentations by educators and students impacted by Graduation Matters.

"I'm just here to share my story," said Williams, "and just, hopefully, to inspire people. And I'm excited I get that opportunity."

Williams moved to Bozeman from Chicago and spoke about his experiences being mentored by an MSU professor.

Williams tells NBC Montana that Graduation Matters programs like mentorship can have a real impact. "They help you stay on the right track. Like, if you might be down and out, and might maybe want to give up school, mentors will help you."

Juneau says the summit celebrates the work Montana schools have done for the state's youth.

Juneau said, "To meet their aspirations and dreams and it's really been a tremendous success. But again, it's all due to the hard work going on in those communities."