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DYA teachers have special responsibilities

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It's not your typical school day, but the Department of Youth Affairs educates hundreds of children every year. "There's nothing similar to a regular day here," expressed June Taitano. "Every day is different."

For teachers at DYA, their days are anything but routine. "You have to understand that we are a multi-subject, multi-age, multi-abilities in a classroom," Taitano continued. "We can get anywhere from elementary to high school in one classroom."

Cathy Robinson, a longtime educator, added, "Even if you had all of them in pre-algebra, they would all be in a different chapter, so we do individualize. That's to their advantage, but it's really hard as a teacher."

Students are constantly transitioning in and out of court or in and out of DYA. "When you look out the school in the outside school, you see birds, you see trees and all that, but here when you look out the window, all you see are chain link, Constantine wire," said physical education instructor Joe Mafnas.

Liheng Famagu'on - or DYA's education system - is a part of the Department of Education. It tries to emulate regular school curriculum, a task that can sometimes seem impossible. Robinson said, "When I came three years ago, I had already had 25 years of experience, and it was still a shock to me how hard the teachers have to work here."

But despite the struggles, the days are also filled with little victories. "My first boy, 17 years old, who managed to finally get it, he sat in the back of the classroom and he went like this, 'yes'!," said Robinson.

Mafnas encourages students by telling them if they can do just 25 pushups, they will be ahead of 97% of the population. Some do as many as 200. "It's little victories like that that the kids really find their self-worth," he said.

Taitano, who is a program coordinator, said, "For the first time in the history of DYA and Liheng Famaguon, 100% of the kids in the dorm are now in the classroom. We don't have anyone in the dorm that's rotting away or sleeping." The program is also starting a new character program. And for those that remain in DYA, the smaller classes can help them get ahead.

"A lot of these kids not only have problems at home, problems at school and my opinion is they fell through the DOE cracks," Mafnas stated. Taitano added, "A student with a high school diploma is eight times less likely to reoffend. A and that's a lot of our problem - the recidivism rate."

These dedicated educators hope a high school diploma will help these students get back on the right track.

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