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Colandra Taylor's office at Newton High School is peppered with college information pamphlets and testing guides.

Originally Taylor earned degrees in the field of social work, but she knew she wanted to offer her services in schools.

"I wanted to identify students having a hard time in the classroom and identify factors that kept them from being successful," Taylor said.

Two years working as a school social worker and two years teaching made her a perfect candidate for the position of graduation coach - a position mandated by the state for all schools starting in the 2006-2007 school year.

Taylor works with students at risk of dropping out or not graduating on time to create "individual target action plans" to place them back on the path toward a diploma.

Through her experiences Taylor has learned to identify factors of a student at risk of not graduating on time or at all. Indicators include poor attendance, failure of a portion of the Georgia High School Graduation Test failure of a course, overall poor academic performance, disciplinary issues or students who are learning English as a second language.

The most prevalent factors are failure of the GHSGT and poor attendance.

"If you are not here, you can only miss so many days before you fail a class."

Most at-risk students have a mixture of one, two or several of the factors.

Because Newton High has the highest enrollment numbers in the county, Taylor has quite a case load. She currently works with 150 to 200 students.

She also goes into classrooms and speaks with students who are not in danger of not graduating about things such as the difference in salaries between high school drop-outs, high school graduates, those with some college education and college graduates.

Also, before the state added graduation coaches in middle schools this year, Taylor visited eighth graders to try to prepare them for what they should expect in high school.

"A lot of them mess up in their ninth grade year," Taylor said.

She added many of the students she works with are still trying to gain credits they missed when they failed a class their freshman year.

One of her biggest challenges is trying to meet the needs of the many students at Newton High who are on her at-risk list, are referred by a teacher or who personally seek her aid.

Some students she sees do not even have their basic needs met such as adequate food to eat or adequate parental supervision.

"I just try to help as many students as possible," Taylor said, "cover as much ground in the time I have."

Small and large successes are wonderful to Taylor, who has achieved much even in her first year as a graduation coach.

A girl she worked with last year, who is now enrolled in college out of state, recently returned to Newton to see her.

"She wanted to thank me," Taylor said.

Student success is not only her position's main concern, but her greatest professional reward.

"The best part of my job is being able to see students make it to the finish line," Taylor said, "and giving them inspiration to think they can do it."