By Cindy Hsu

NEW YORK (CBS 2) — Teachers and parents do all they can to keep students from dropping out of school, and now a group of local comedians has joined the fight.

At a comedy and improv class at the Preparatory Academy for Writers, middle and high school students are “laughing it out” as part of a new educational program, reports CBS 2’s Cindy Hsu.

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Students like Adam Mahieddine say the class is a stress reliever like no other.

“In here, you have to get your humor,” Mahieddine said. “Those are your school supplies: your humor, your voice and your energy.”

The weekly class, taught by comedians, is all about interaction and communication, skills that are helping students speak up in all their subjects.

“Even in other classes, like history and English, I can just be confident in my work and I can just go out there and do it,” ninth grader Brianne DeVille said.

The Department of Education says New York City’s high school graduation rate is at an all-time high of 63 percent, and Preparatory Academy for Writers Principal Charles Anderson says creative courses like improv are keeping his students engaged and excited about school.

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“Our high school attendance rate is hovering a little above 85 percent,” Anderson said. “We see these students going almost 10 percent better than that, around 95 percent.”

DeVille said at first, getting up in front of her classmates was like hitting a brick wall, but she’s now broken through.

“Once I go to improv and I feel more comfortable with it, it took me out of my comfort zone, and now I feel I can do anything,” she said.

Kadeem Spencer said he’d always been on the shy side, but the classes have shattered that shell.

“Just making people laugh just makes me feel better, so I feel good all the time,” he said.

Along with the students, teachers are also using improv games amongst themselves. Principal Anderson said that’s helping his staff get along better than ever, and they’re having a lot of fun.

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The program is funded through grants and private donations. So far it’s been implemented in three New York City public schools, and may expand to 20 by next fall.

Cindy Hsu