First Presenter's Institution

One Degree Hire

First Presenter’s Email Address

First Presenter's Brief Biography

As a community builder, social justice champion, change agent, and lifelong learner, Nichole is committed to equity and giving back to her community. She received her undergraduate degree from Tuskegee University. After working in the medical field for several years, Nichole enrolled in graduate school at the University of Georgia. She earned a Master’s in Educational Psychology and a Doctorate in Social Foundations of Education. Nichole has taught in traditional and nontraditional education settings, including a youth correctional facility, the University of Georgia, and a non-profit organization for youth experiencing homelessness. For over ten years, she has researched, written, and presented on homelessness, race, and education. Currently, Nichole is the Education Director for a national non-profit where she implements school-based anti-bias and bully prevention programs. Nichole is also the founder of One Degree Hire, an equity-centered coaching and consulting firm dedicated to enhancing academic stability, reducing barriers, and holistically supporting children and youth from vulnerable communities.

Second Presenter's Institution

One Degree Hire

Second Presenter’s Email Address

Second Presenter's Brief Biography

A transnational Chicana and proud mother of two, Blanca Torres is a seasoned human services professional, college instructor, and social researcher who is passionate about serving, advocating for, and educating about, unaccompanied immigrant children using culturally responsive, strengths-based, and trauma informed service delivery, teaching, and research frameworks. Blanca Torres has an extensive trajectory in the social service/non-profit sector working with children in foster care, unaccompanied immigrant minors, and youth experiencing homelessness. In addition, since 2016, she has worked as an adjunct lecturer of Anthropology at Kennesaw State University, teaching a variety of courses addressing diversity, equity, and inclusion from an anthropological perspective. Currently, Blanca Torres serves as a Regional Supervisor for the Unaccompanied Immigrant Children Home Study and Post Release Services Program at Church World Service, an international non-profit organization.


Session Nine Breakouts (Vernon)

Strand #1

Head: Academic Achievement & Leadership

Strand #2

Head: Academic Achievement & Leadership


One of the dire consequences of the achievement gap is students leaving school before earning a diploma or high school credential. For students facing housing instability, dropping out of school decreases their earning power and their chance for self-sufficiency. Therefore, this proposal discusses ways to reconnect students to education programs and provides culturally responsive strategies to help support students as they earn post-secondary credentials. The proposal goes in-depth on transforming schools and education programs into spaces that embrace student culture. By valuing students who drop out lived experiences, we can increase outreach initiatives to connect students to education programs. Because if we truly want to leave no child behind, that means reaching for students who drop out and finding ways to support them to post-secondary completion.

Brief Program Description

How do we reconnect students who have dropped out of school to educational programs? In this interactive workshop, we examine some reasons why students who are homeless drop out of school and how to link them back to education programs by using culturally responsive initiatives. Furthermore, we will discuss optimizing support services to help students earn their post-secondary credentials.


Are students that drop out of high school really “disconnected,” or has school severed the ties with them? When discussing why students drop out of school, most scrutiny and blame is placed on the student and family. Subsequently, most high school dropout prevention and intervention programs focus on motivating and improving students. This approach does little to address the bigger issue - the issue of education inequity. Focusing only on the student, we fail to critically examine how inequities and disparities in the school system often create and contribute to the high school dropout rate.

Moreover, it is students from the lowest income that have the highest dropout rates, which in turn, limits their social and economic mobility. Students that lack basic needs, such as inadequate or housing stability, face tremendous challenges that can make it difficult to focus on school. And while educational credentials are imperative for social and economic mobility, economic pressures, bullies, and even incarceration can contribute to students experiencing homelessness being pushed, pulled, or even banned from high school.

So how do we transform schools and dropout intervention programs to reconnect students experiencing homelessness to education programs? In this interactive workshop session, we will discuss why students experiencing homelessness may drop out of school and the difference between being pushed, pulled, or falling out of school. Then we will cover the meaning of culturally responsive teaching/approaches, how practitioners can apply it to link out-of-school students back to education programs, and its importance in education spaces. And lastly, we will share six practical, culturally relevant strategies to reengage students who have dropped out of school and create action plans on how to support students earning post-secondary credential completion.


Despite the status dropout rates decreasing over the last ten years, 2 million young people between the ages of 16 to 24 have left high school without receiving any school credentials (National Center for Education Statistics, 2022). Lacking the basic education requirements puts these youth at a higher disadvantage for entering the labor force and making sustainable earnings. Also, it makes them more susceptible to future health issues (Pleis, Ward, and Lucas, 2010) and being placed in government institutions (McFarland, Cui, Holmes, & Wang, 2019).

A close examination of high school dropout rates shows disparities between different groups (i.e. racial, gender, citizenship, and disability) and reveals the inequities in the education system (Mireles-Rios, Rios, Reyes, 2020). While there are several general dropout education program types, few have discussed the importance of incorporating culturally responsive practices. However, other studies from PK-12 show that students from marginalized backgrounds perform better and are more engaged when education practices are paired with culturally responsive pedagogy. Conceptualized by Gay (2000; 2002; 2010), Gloria Ladson-Billings (2009) maintains that culturally responsive teaching is “a pedagogy that empowers students intellectually, socially, emotionally, and politically [because it uses] cultural referents to impart knowledge, skills, and attitudes (p.20)”

The workshop material is taken from using qualitative data from our dissertation work that included in-depth interviews and participatory observations, as well as our experience as education and social service practitioners. In addition, inspired by the work of Gay and Gloria Ladson-Billings, the culturally responsive strategies presented were applied to a homeless organization education approach to bridge the gap between education programs and youth who had dropped out of school. Within two years of implementing the strategies, the number of youth who entered and completed post-secondary education programs more than quadrupled, with many students continuing to higher education programs.

Gay, G. 2010. Culturally responsive teaching: theory, research, and practice. 2nd ed. New York: Teachers College Press.

Gay, G. 2002. Preparing for culturally responsive teaching. Journal of Teacher Education 53. 106–116.

Gay, G. 2000. Culturally responsive teaching: theory, research, and practice. New York: Teachers College Press.

Ladson-Billings, G. (2009). The Dreamkeepers: Successful Teachers of African American Children, 2nd ed.; Jossey-Bass: San Francisco, CA.

McFarland, J., Cui, J., Holmes, J., and Wang, X. (2019). Trends in High School Dropout and Completion Rates in the United States: 2019 (NCES 2020-117). U.S. Department of Education. Washington, DC: National Center for Education Statistics. Retrieved [date] from

Mireles-Rios, R, Rios, V, M. and Reyes, A. (2020). Pushed out for missing school: The role of social disparities and school truancy in dropping out. Education Sciences, 10(108). doi:10.3390/educsci10040108

National Center for Education Statistics. (2022). Status Dropout Rates. Condition of Education. U.S. Department of Education, Institute of Education Sciences. Retrieved [date], from

Pleis, J.R., Ward, B.W., and Lucas, J.W. (2010). Summary Health Statistics for U.S. Adults: National Health Interview Survey, 2009. Vital Health Stat 10(249). U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, National Center for Health Statistics. Washington, DC: US Government Printing Office.

Learning Objective 1

Participants will be able to identify reasons students leave school without credentials

Learning Objective 2

Participants will be able to differentiate the different dropout frameworks.

Learning Objective 3

Participants will be able to apply culturally responsive approaches to drop out intervention initiatives

Keyword Descriptors

High school dropout, homelessness, cultural responsive pedagogy, high school credentials, GED, high school diploma, culturally responsive practices, post-secondary credentials

Presentation Year


Start Date

3-8-2023 11:15 AM

End Date

3-8-2023 12:30 PM

Mar 8th, 11:15 AM Mar 8th, 12:30 PM

Reconnecting the Disconnected: Using culture to redefine education for students who drop out of school

Session Nine Breakouts (Vernon)

How do we reconnect students who have dropped out of school to educational programs? In this interactive workshop, we examine some reasons why students who are homeless drop out of school and how to link them back to education programs by using culturally responsive initiatives. Furthermore, we will discuss optimizing support services to help students earn their post-secondary credentials.