by Alex Nnabue ‘18
My internship at the Montgomery County State’s Attorney’s Office has enabled me to assist in a variety of county-wide programs, but my favorite one has been the Truancy Prevention Program (TPP). I intern for a prosecuting attorney who is the head of the office’s community outreach team and serves as a TPP facilitator at various middle schools.
TPP is a voluntary 10-week early intervention program for middle school students with attendance issues that aims to discover the causes of truancy and provide the students and families with plausible solutions. TPP keeps families out of court by working with students to address academic, personal, and family-related factors that prohibit them from attending school daily or on time.
TPP is semester-long and held once a week in 18 middle schools throughout the county. During my first day, it was interesting watching the students enter the room one by one to discuss their truancy and academic issues. Many of them were intimidated at first, as the room they entered was full of two lawyers, myself, and two counselors with their progress reports and attendance records. Some students originally had a difficult time opening up while others were more talkative and interested in addressing their academic struggles and absence issues.
Some students come from families with financial hardships while others are not fluent in English and need a translator in the room. Each individual is dedicated on improving their attendance and academic success. The participants gain special attention from mentors and a supportive environment.
We converse with the students about their attendance and weekly goals; afterwards, their counselors read the students their teacher’s weekly evaluations and grade reports. If the student has made improvement, they can select a snack and another incentive, such as an iPhone case or drawstring backpack.
Week after week, as each five minute session progressed, a change was evident in all students. I have witnessed one sixth grader, who missed approximately 40 days of school last year and received failing grades, grow into a candidate for student government with a 4.0 GPA and perfect attendance. A seventh grader, who was shy during the first session, now recites an original corny joke for us every week.
Students who were at first uninterested in their classes and teachers now tell us about the topics they are excited about learning in science class, the excitement they had when they finally participated in class, and how pleased they are with TPP. As the semester progresses, every student becomes increasingly goal oriented, dedicated, and motivated.
During the 2016-2017 school year, over 245 students were involved with TPP and 175 graduated, after reducing their truancy by 60 percent or more. TPP graduates are honored by State Attorney John McCarthy at the Montgomery County Circuit Court. I am grateful for my experience because it exposes me to the diversity of the field of law and the importance of public service.