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If you want to know why kids are dropping out of school, just listen to them. In fact not listening to them is one of the big reasons they do drop out.


"If they're having a rough time with students at school, and they're constantly, constantly asking for help, and they just feel like 'I'm done,'" said thirteen year-old student Essence. "They give up."


Thirteen year-old Jalen agreed.


"They struggle with class work, schoolwork, homework. They think they can't do it anymore."


It is 4:30 Wednesday afternoon, and the teens at Operation PEACE in Atlanta's Old Fourth Ward are finishing their schoolwork.


Real teachers are on hand to help the dozen or so gathered elbow to elbow around a large table. The time they spend here is critical beyond studying.


It is between the hours of 3:00 and 6:00 that many kids get in trouble. Those are the hours that, without the kind of structure Operation PEACE offers, many teens will "learn" to drop out by running with the wrong crowd or getting involved in drugs and crime.


"We need a wake-up call in our state," says Edna Moffett, the founder of the program.


Unlike many afterschool programs, Operation PEACE is free. That's only possible with a major private donation from Wingate Management, which runs many of the nearby apartment complexes.


Moffett believes that money from the Georgia Lottery need to be re-distributed to help keep kids in school. She believes that instead of concentrating on the extreme ends of the education spectrum like pre-K and college,more attention needs to be paid to the middle.


"I think it's very important in the middle grades," she said. "That's where we are losing many of our children, somewhere in the 8 9 10th grade."


Many believe that traditional intervention methods are failing and that much can be learned from grassroots programs like Operation PEACE.


"We are set up with a system of support that doesn't take into account all these other interfering variables that cause these kids to be unsuccessful in a lot of cases," said Neil Shorthouse, President of Communities in Schools in Georgia. "We have to have a support system built into the schools. It's no longer just teachers and principals that make things work."


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