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Students tell their stories: From dropping out to aspiring to a media career

This article was originally published in The Notebook. In August 2020, The Notebook became Chalkbeat Philadelphia. In researching our edition on "boosting graduation rates for all," the Notebook interviewed young people who had dropped out and were now reengaging in school. We asked why they left, why they returned, and what obstacles they face. Some described heartbreaking personal situations and herculean struggles. But all displayed hope and optimism about their futures. They were all eager to tell their stories.

Omar Durham, 18, moved from New Jersey to Benjamin Franklin High School. The school, he said, was chaotic, and peer pressure worked against him.

"I didn’t feel like me applying myself was really going to make a difference at that time," he said.

He stopped going to school entirely, until his brother told him about YES Philly, where he was especially drawn to the media arts program. "I felt like I would fit in," he said. Durham is on track to graduate in August.

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