Over 600 Volunteers Participate in HISD’s Grads Within Reach Walk

Hundreds of volunteers spent Saturday morning knocking on more than 1,300 doors across the city encouraging students who have not returned to school this academic year to re-enroll.   The outreach effort was part of the ninth annual Grads Within Reach Walk, which led to 45 HISD students deciding to return to school immediately and many more promising to give school another try.

HISD Superintendent Terry Grier kicked off the walk at Austin High School by motivating dozens of volunteers and administrators.  “We know the factors that drive these students to make the difficult decision of dropping out of school vary,” Dr. Grier said. “That’s why we’re here today — to let them know about the programs HISD offers to help them graduate.  But more importantly we want them to know HISD cares about them and wants to help them get back in school.”

Dr. Grier later led the volunteers as they knocked on the homes of various students at Austin High School.  HISD Board of Education Trustee Juliet Stipeche and Austin High School Principal Jorge Arredondo were among those volunteers encouraging students to re-enroll.

“I’m excited we have the opportunity to reach out to these students to help them get their diploma,” Stipeche said.  “We want them to know HISD is going to do whatever it can to help them succeed.”  Principal Arredondo said he is invested in this effort, and it’s his privilege to be involved with the Grads Within Reach Walk.  “We know this community. We are from this community, and we deeply understand its challenges,” he said.  “We also realize as adults who work with the youth of Houston, we are very often these students’ last best chance.”

Among their successful visits was Imelda, 18, who only needs credit for one course to graduate and says she is now going to re-enroll.  “My dad has been encouraging me to finish high school,” said Imelda. “I do want to complete my course work so I can get my diploma, especially since I’m only one credit shy of graduation.”

Moises,19, has also taken and passed all sections of the state-required TAKS test and only needs a few credits to graduate.  His mother says for a while he hung out with the wrong crowd, but on Saturday Moises said he would re-enroll in Ausin High School.  “Last year I wasn’t motivated, and I didn’t want to go class, but my mom has encouraged me to come back to school,” said Moises “So I’m going to put a little extra work into my studies and try to get my diploma.”

Several students expressed an interest in pursuing career and technical education programs.  So the volunteers told them about the new Houston Innovative Learning Zones at 6 area schools which gives students an opportunity to receive career training from professors at Houston Community College while earning career certifications and a college associate’s degree.

The students also learned about the Grad Labs online credit recovery program and the Twilight High Schools around the city which offer flexible night and weekend hours.   HISD Board members Harvin C. Moore and Greg Meyers participated in similar walks this morning with Lee and Sharpstown high school students.  HISD currently boasts its lowest dropout rate ever of 11.8 percent for the 2011-2012 academic year.  Additionally, the number of graduates has risen strongly from 7,645 in 2007 to more than 9,000 graduates in the Class of 2012.