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Community-based Organization Battles Chronic Absenteeism in Queens

On a cold and drizzly morning, children who attend elementary school Public School 104 in Far Rockaway, Queens wait for the #NoExcusesBus to take them to school on Dec. 12, 2016.

Meaghan Holley, director of Rockaway Rising, plays with a student while they wait for her older sister to finish getting ready. Holley started the #NoExcusesBus in March 2016 when she learned that nearly 70 school-age who lived in one apartment complex were defined as chronically absent, which means missing two or more days of school a month.

Two students who ride the #NoExcusesBus wait for Holley to finish a conversation with their mother. Rockaway Rising's approach to chronic absenteeism is to combat poverty as well, and attend to the needs of the children's families in whatever capacity they need.

A student waits for the #NoExcusesBus to leave for P.S. 104. The bus sometimes makes three trips in the morning. On this particular day, they drove nearly 75 children to school.

Holley talks to a student about her behavior on the #NoExcusesBus, Dec. 5, 2016.

Students play a game with Holley while waiting for more students to get on the bus.

Holley greets a student who's come out to get a ride to school. In this particular district, students above the second grade who live less than a mile from school are ineligible for the city school bus, which has an affect on attendance and chronic absenteeism.

A student adjusts his hood in the drizzling rain outside school. Before the #NoExcusesBus, children who were ineligible for the city's public school bus and had to walk to school would sometimes miss school if it was raining or snowing.

Holley hugs a student while waiting for the #NoExcusesBus that runs from an apartment complex on Dix Avenue in Far Rockaway, Queens, to elementary school P.S.104.

A student waits to disembark the #NoExcusesBus on Dec. 5, 2016.

A student takes a ride on the #NoExcusesBus on Dec. 5, 2016. This particular morning, the bus made three trips between the apartment complex on Dix Avenue and the elementary school.

Holley gives a hand to a reluctant student on the #NoExcusesBus on Dec. 5, 2016.

A Rockaway Rising employee tries to cheer up a student by hand-delivering him to the front door of the school on Dec. 5, 2016.

Text and Photos by Becky Holladay

“Good morning, Love Bugs, it’s a beautiful day!” Meaghan Holley sang through the door of an apartment. “Psych. It’s actually really gross out. But we still have to get up and go to school!”

Holley, a 30-year-old community worker who runs Rockaway Rising, which works with youth and families in Far Rockaway, Queens, personally escorts to school kids who would otherwise be absenteeism statistics.

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