Last year, Raionna Temple was walking the plank academically. She was ditching classes at Grant High School and falling behind on credits.
But in November, she attended the Sacramento Youth Leadership Program that motivated her to turn her life around.
She took online courses on top of her regular class schedule to make up for missing credits. In half a school year, she made a comeback and graduated on time with the rest of her class.
"Without the camp I don't think I would have graduated on time, I don't think I would have been going to college," said Temple, 17, who will be attending Alabama A&M University in the fall.
On Thursday, Temple returned to the program at California State University, Sacramento, to help another class of students strive for academic and personal success.
More than 300 students who will be freshmen at eight south Sacramento high schools participated in the program over the past three days.
"We want to help support a school environment that is very positive for young people," said Sacramento City Councilman Jay Schenirer, founder of WayUp Sacramento, which hosted the program. "We thought this was the best way to do it, by taking a cohort at a time and letting that build as you go forward."
Staff members, camp alumni and personnel from the schools the students will attend led the incoming freshmen through leadership training, giving them the skills they will need to make the transition from high school to college.
Kids went through team-building exercises and participated in activities to develop strategic-thinking and problem-solving skills.
The camp had three themes: "Change Yourself" – make personal changes to be successful; "Design Your Future" – go to college, trade school or the military; and "Change Your Community" – have the tools to be leaders at school sites in the communities. The camp's initiative is to support kids who don't have role models or access to opportunities.
"My kids are very lucky. I've been able to provide for them whatever they need to go to college and be successful in life," Schenirer said. "I don't think that's the case for most kids when you look at our dropout rate, when you look at the number of kids getting suspended or expelled, the number of kids getting into trouble in any way, shape or form."
Data from the California Department of Education show that 13.2 percent of students who started high school in 2008 dropped out. Overall, however, the graduation rate for the 2012 senior class was up 1.4 percent from the previous year.
Temple said the camp helped her cope with troubles at home.
"I wasn't in the best space, I feel as if I was stuck in a rut because I couldn't move over some things," she said. "The camp helped me realize that in order to move on I would need to forgive, forget and let go."
Temple said she aspires to start her own business – and a nonprofit to give back to the community. She will study business at college.
Call The Bee's Kristopher Rivera, (916) 321-1101 Follow him on Twitter @kgrivera.