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Pacific Beach High School in San Luis Obispo recognized

Connecting students with mentors and focusing on individuals’ needs are some of the things that staff at Pacific Beach High School are doing right.

The San Luis Obispo school is one of 27 Model Continuation High Schools named by the state Education Department — a distinction that it will carry for three years.

The alternative high school for the San Luis Coastal Unified School District serves students ages 16 to 18 who, for various reasons, have not succeeded in traditional high schools and are at risk of not graduating.

Each year, more than 100 students cycle through Pacific Beach to complete the credits they need to gain their high school diploma.

“The school is an option for students who are looking for another type of experience,” Principal Chris Dowler said. “For many of our students, something didn’t hook them in traditional high school, and now they are looking for some type of engagement.”

Student progress is tracked from the moment they are enrolled, Dowler said. And because of the fast pace of the six-week classes, interventions are in place for students who might be struggling.“It is not possible for a kid to fall through the cracks here,” Dowler said.

A focus on forming relationships with the students, even if they are only at the school for a brief time, is what makes it successful, Dowler said.

Students are paired with an adviser who helps guide them through the high school.

“The more points of positive contact, the more likely they are to succeed,” Dowler said. “At any given time, we have 60 different students with 60 different stories. There is no universal solution to success; it is about connecting with them on an individual level.”

At the end of both the morning and afternoon sessions, students and staff gather in a central room to connect one last time before going their separate ways.

It is there that students are told of upcoming events and given important school reminders. And for some, it is the last time during the day that an adult mentor will encourage them to continue on.

Dowler said he is most proud of that daily connection.

“A lot of people believe that at-risk students can’t academically achieve,” Dowler said. “Every day, we are building a school culture that shows that they can.”

Reach AnnMarie Cornejo at 781-7939. Stay updated by following @a_cornejo on Twitter.

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