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William Fleming graduate dropped out of school before getting help

United Way RYSE program helped connect him to resources

ROANOKE – Roanoke City seniors graduated Friday but one of those graduates may not have made it without the help of the community. and the United Way RYSE program that many people donated to over the last year. The program has helped 14 families and 42 children who may have otherwise been homeless.

"I dropped out several times and tried to get back in," said Kennethe Canales, a William Fleming High School senior. who missed most of the fall semester.

Kennethe missed weeks of school in the fall and had to make up classes.

Canales was living on his own at 17 because of what he says was a bad family situation. He was working three jobs, had trouble paying his bills and was staying at friends houses.  School counselors at William Fleming High School could see he was struggling and connected him with United Way.

"The school brought us Kennethe as a special case and said they had a young man who was greatly in need of services and he was falling into a gap," said Kristin Adkins, United Way director of youth development strategies.

The Rehousing Youth for Success in Education program --- RYSE --- filled the gap.

"We had a family that offered to accept Kennethe into their home and give him a loving, stable, kind of a host family type of situation. That has given Kennethe a lot of support that he needs in order to be a student and finish his schooling out in the context that most kids get to succeed in school which is in the context of a family," said Adkins.

"Before RYSE I didn't have a life. I was always working. I didn't enjoy my life.," said Canales.

Now., he has people who care and after making up many classes is graduating this year.

"It's a feeling I've never felt before. It's really awesome," said Canales. "Now I can focus on my study."

"I think in Kennethe's case we have changed the trajectory of his life. He could have ended up homeless at 18. He could have ended up dropping out and not having a diploma," said Adkins.

Canales is headed to Virginia Western in the fall and is interested in engineering, a future he never thought was possible until now.