HALEV was established as part of the Dropout Prevention Center, located in the “Beit Dani” Community Center in the Hatikvah neighborhood of Tel Aviv. Established in 1992, the Center’s goal is to improve the scholastic performance of at-risk pupils in one of the most disadvantaged neighborhoods in Israel. It currently provides academic assistance, scholarships, counseling, parental support groups, and family contact. At any given time, the Center provides services and social activities for 200 high school students, and tracks the progress of an additional 100 students so that intervention can be provided if necessary.
The main thrust of all of the services for the students is to prepare them for the Bagrut (high school matriculation) examinations. Before the Center was established, very few pupils in this neighborhood had the skills necessary to achieve good performance on the Bagrut exams. The Center’s programs have helped create a remarkable improvement: in 1992, only 4 Hatikvah students completed the Bagrut exams, in contract to the 2003 results in which 56 pupils were successful. Because of its record of success with at-risk adolescents and the positive role model it provides, the Center provides the ideal environment for HALEV. In addition, location in the Center allows HALEV to take advantage of the existing framework of an established agency in its outreach, counseling, and administrative activities.
Program participants also benefit from the relationship between the Center and HALEV. The Center becomes a supportive home for them – a nurturing, understanding place in which they feel welcome. It is a place in which so many of their intellectual, cultural, educational, emotional, social, and vocational needs can be addressed with sensitivity and professionalism.
HALEV field workers are true role models for the young adults participating in the program. They are institutional care alumni who have completed high school, the army, and even academic studies. These field workers understand the target population and their underlying issues better than anyone else possibly could. To encourage a stable, ongoing relationship, each of the youngsters is assigned to one field worker. These field workers may be artists, social leaders, or professionals, each serving as a role model, dedicated to mentoring their HALEV students.
Every graduate from Tel Aviv’s children’s homes, as well as Tel Aviv residents that are placed in institutional care outside of Tel Aviv are offered the opportunity to participate in HALEV. They may be back with their families and attending school, still in institutional placements (rare for children over 14), in the army or living on their own. They may be school dropouts, barely getting by, and even homeless. Those who are functioning reasonably well on their own, are tracked by a field worker on a regular basis. In the event that their situation deteriorates, an effort is made to bring them into the Center for further assessment and intervention. Those with more severe problems (and the program targets the most severe cases) are assessed, counseled, and directed towards specific resources and activities. In each case, the field worker provides guidance, direction, and follow-up. Support groups are created to encourage development of self-esteem and to increase motivation. Whenever possible, parents are involved in these support groups.