PEORIA - A Children's Home program is keeping students from Manual Academy in class and off the streets.
With a high school drop out rate of almost five percent, students at Manual face some tough challenges. That's why the Children's home started "Leaders of Tomorrow," also known as LOT.
"I question that sometimes if I wasn't in Leaders of Tomorrow, would I have finished high school?" asked Lateasha Jones.
Her freshman year at Manual Academy, Jones was selected to join the LOT. Program Director Anthony Rush said Jones is a prime example of the kids of kids they select.
"They have been targeted to say they wouldn't graduate high school without some kind of intervention," Rush said.
"A lot of my family members don't have their high school diploma, so I can say they encouraged me and kept me going," Jones said of her LOT experience.
Breaking that cycle, Jones graduated.
And so will Gabriel Teague, a current senior at Manual. He's in LOT right now, which might be the reason he's still in school.
"It's keeping us off the streets and out of jail," Teague said.
Gabriel gives all the credit to Rush, who's a tutor, counselor, mentor and role model. He said the program's objective is not just to encourage finishing high school, but to make kids think beyond graduation.
"I think what the program has done for Gabe was give him some guidance you know, he wasn't quite sure what he wanted to do," Rush said.
But now Gabriel has a plan.
"I'm going to do ICC for free for the two years then I'm trying to go to a trade in Minnesota," Teague said.
The program only has room for 20 students, but it's 20 students who go from high school drop out, to the possibility of college graduate, if you're like Jones, beyond.
"After that I want to go get my masters in social work and then work on my pharmacist, but I know I can do it," she said with a smile.
"I think it does change their lives," Rush said.
There's a monetary incentive too. Depending on how many hours they put into activities and community service, students can earn up to $4,000 by the time they graduate.
That money is put aside for things like textbooks and laptops for college. LOT is funded entirely by private donations.
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