Communities in Schools is helping to raise the graduation rates for high school students in the Midlands.

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Columbia, SC (WLTX) -- A Midlands program is helping to raise the graduation rates of high school seniors.

It's spread across nine schools where coaches and volunteers are making a difference.

"When i walk across that stage, that's when life begins," said Taylor Hicks, a soon-to-be-graduate and senior at C.A. Johnson High School in Columbia.

The 17-year-old is on the honor roll at the school, has already been accepted to college and maintains a part time job. She will be heading to South Carolina State University next school year and she credits the program with helping her realize that potential.

It's called "Communities in Schools," and last year, graduation rates for high school seniors involved hit 95 percent.

But it's about perspective for Hicks.

"I see how my mom is struggling and I know if she would have worked a little bit harder to further her education, that she wouldn't have so many issues (sic) that she has now,' Hicks said.

She started the program as a freshman.

"Our mission is to surround students with a community of support to achieve in school and in life," said Jordan Thie, the Director of Development for Communities in Schools of the Midlands, a non-profit organization.

"That's what I'm here for," said Justin Hopkins, the Sucess Coach at C.A. Johnson said.

With his help, he said, he's seen the kids he works with grow into leaders.

"If it takes me calling a student or their parent (to ask) 'why haven't you been in school the past 2 days,' that's what I do," He said.

The program is based around matching kids at each school with a coach with similar backgrounds.

"That means a whole lot; that gives me a little bit of hope that I can do it, too, because he did it," said Hicks, who said she was accepted to all five colleges she applied to.

She will carry one final lesson with her to South Carolina State University next year.

"Everything that you do depends on you," she said. "It no longer becomes your parents issues, nobody else issues, but yours.

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