Our school is full of success. Students regularly share how excited they are to finally be passing all classes or to have made their first 'A'. Many students say that they would have dropped out if it wasn't for our school, and they also now believe that they can be successful in some kind of post-secondary education whether it's a four year university, community college or trade school. They simply needed a non-traditional environment to bring out their best, and many find it at our school.
Of course there are students with the same above situations all over the country who are able to rise above it and do just fine in traditional high schools, but it doesn't mean that they are not at-risk for not graduating, engaging in risky behavior, getting pregnant, etc. Every one is an individual, and some people are just more self-motivated than others. It is no coincidence that small schools like ours are popping up all over the country.
I use the statement as a qualifier about my school - as a way to indicate what our student population is like - because it is not like most 'traditional' high schools. We have small classes and a small school in general where students cannot get lost in the shuffle and have stronger relationships with teachers and counselors. There is a great deal of research showing this model is successful in providing successful teaching, learning and graduating.
Whether it's a label or not, the term 'at-risk' means something in the world of education, and while all students are likely at-risk of something, our school serves students whose circumstances are greater than that of the average student. My students are just my students, but I do use the term 'at-risk' to help others understand that I'm not teaching at what is considered a 'regular' or 'traditional' high school. Any of my kids would agree.