If Domonique Crosby has her way, she will graduate from high school this spring at age 20. To her, earning her diploma, even two years late, feels like something of a miracle.
Held back in the fourth grade, Crosby was 16 years old when she entered George Washington Carver High School in New Orleans. As a freshman, she constantly got into fights and spent long hours in a disciplinary classroom. As a sophomore, she worked six hours a night at a burger joint in a shopping mall. She became chronically absent and lethargic when she was in class
“I got home at 9 o’clock and I’d do homework. It was hard to get up in the morning and go to school,” she said. “I wanted to give up. I thought I should get a job. I felt like I was already behind and I was too old to still be in high school.”
Administrators at Carver say students who enter high school overage feel like they’re wearing a scarlet letter, regardless of why they were retained. “There’s so much shame attached to it. Students constantly tell me, ‘I want to be at my right grade,'” said Jerel Bryant, Carver’s principal. “It’s a huge thing.”