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SMALL LEARNING COMMUNITIES PAY OFF IN HOUSTON: Greater Personal Attention Leads to a Student’s Success

"I recognized that I had come too far to stop. I came back to school."

A recent article by Allan Turner in the Houston Chronicle tells the often turbulent, but ultimately inspiring story of Justin Pineset, a Lee High School student who overcame gangs, drugs, and life on the streets to become president of his senior class and a member of the Houston school district’s student advisory committee. According to Turner, Pineset’s story is a tribute to the small learning communities program of the Houston Independent School District (HISD), which “provides students with adult advocates and personalizes instruction in small classroom settings.”

When a student stops coming to school, his adult advocates from the program step in and provide continuing support. Two months ago, Pineset became homeless and stopped coming to school. That is when Mary Kennedy, an English teacher and Pineset’s adult advocate, Jonathan Davis, the school’s basketball coach, Associate Principal Mary Stevens, and others convinced Pineset to return to high school. “I kind of understood that I was letting people down,” he said. “I recognized that I had come too far to stop. I came back to school.”

More recently, Pineset was featured as a speaker at HISD’s “state of the schools” session. He spoke in front of eighteen hundred community leaders and stressed how education “can make a difference in students’ lives.” After his speech, representatives from several area institutions made a point of shaking his hand and giving him their business cards.

Pineset now sees himself as a “regular teen,” but also as a mentor to other students. “The way I see myself is helping other students, trying to keep them away from the negative. I do have some rough associates. I tell them I know you’re struggling, but you can make it just like myself.”

Read the complete article at

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