Volunteers join initiative to help kids get back in school - Tucson News Now

Volunteers join initiative to help kids get back in school

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TUCSON, AZ (Tucson News Now) -

Members of the Tucson community went door to door to try to get young people who dropped out of school to go back for their diplomas.

An Arizona mayor's round table just uncovered the cost of dropping out; It costs about $387,000 per dropout in lost taxes and social costs.

Local school leaders say the Steps to Success program has the potential to change lives and the community.

“All of the energy in the room-- this is exciting,” TUSD Superintendent H.T. Sanchez said. “This very exciting, so thank you all for being here.”

Dr. Sanchez welcomed community volunteers who teamed up with the district to knock on doors and meet face to face with young people who dropped out of school, or may be at risk, and encourage them to return.

“As opposed to hoping they come to us, we're going to go to them,” Dr. Sanchez said.

Nearly 50 teams set out to find more than 500 young people. Some are just one or two credits from graduating and others have more of a challenge. They are 7th through 12th graders and are getting a strong message.

“The kids will know, the parents will know that people care about kids coming back to school and being educated,” Steps To Success Volunteer Bernie Arico said.

From the mayor to the basketball star, the volunteers set out to make a difference.

“Growing up I had a couple of friends that stopped going to school,” Steps To Success Volunteer Rondae Hollis-Jefferson said. “I kind of thought about it a couple of times, but I just had a lot of right people in my ear. So it's kind of personal to me.”

“You're too young to give up. You're too young to quit,” said Mayor Jonathan Rothschild, a volunteer.

It's a message of encouragement with some sobering facts behind it. TUSD says 75 percent of inmates in the Arizona state prison system are dropouts.

The volunteers visited with young people and parents about opportunities.

“A lot of the students were receptive,” Aparicio said. “They were grateful for somebody wanting to know about their academic goals and other aspirations as well.”

“We have people on our department that maybe didn't graduate the normal way, but went back, got their GED, because you can still succeed. You just have to get those basic building blocks in place,” Tucson Police Chief Roberto Villasenor said.

TUSD’s superintendent wants to make Steps to Success a twice-a-year event. It was not difficult to get volunteers.

“And I just love kids and I know they're our future and our hope. And I said ‘Yes, I'd like to do this,’” volunteer Carla Livak said.

Starting Monday, TUSD's Success Center will be open through August 15 to help students get back into school and get that diploma.

The center hours are Monday through Friday from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m., and Saturdays from 9 a.m. to noon at Catalina Magnet High School at 3645 E. Pima Street.

For more information, call (520) 232-8411.

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