PANAMA CITY, Fla. (WMBB) — During the 2021-22 school year, Bay District Schools’ graduation rate was lower than both the state average. 

Rutherford High School’s rate was 77.3 percent, one of the worst in the district.  

District officials are trying to improve those numbers, through a relatively new initiative using graduation coaches.

Every high school in the Bay District School System has a graduation coach whose sole job is to help students get their diplomas. 

“I’m going to do everything in my power to get them to graduate from this school,” Rutherford High School’s Graduation Coach Ashley Myatt said. “I’m going to give them alternatives, whether it’s a GED, whether it’s another dropout prevention technique. But my main goal is that they get a diploma no matter what.”

Rutherford Senior Ty Oates made the honor roll for the first time and attributes part of his success to his relationship with Myatt.

“She helped me stay motivated, like through testing and all that,” Oates said. “She pushed me every day to keep my grades up. I mean, I go to class to make sure I’m on time.”

Graduation coaches also help students plan for life after high school. 

“I’m going to the military.,” Oates said. “And I mean, she helped me get in touch with the Army recruiters here in Bay County.”

The school district can’t determine whether the position is having a positive impact on graduation rates. But students said the coach is having a big effect on their day-to-day lives. 

“She gave me tough love a lot. I mean, she’s a second mom to me,” Oates said. “So I mean, she helped me with that conversation. And she was there when I had the conversation with the army recruiter and stuff.”

Senior Bernyiza Tal said Myatt has helped guide her through the college application and financial aid processes.

“She was very there for me,” Tal said. “She was, like, willing to do anything to help me and make me thrive.”

The 2022-23 graduation rates will be released around the end of the year.