Grads Within Reach Walk successfully brings students back to school

After a brief hiatus, Milby High School senior Flor Villatoro is back in the classroom this week and ready to get to work, thanks to volunteers with HISD’s annual Grads Within Reach walk. 

Flor, along with 27 other students, have returned to school after more than 320 volunteers canvassed the city on Saturday to encourage students who had not returned to school this year to continue their education.  

“I am ready and excited,” Flor said. “I can see myself graduating.” 

Interim Superintendent Grenita Lathan, Milby High School Principal Ruth Ruiz and a team of volunteers walked the neighborhoods around Houston’s East End, knocking on doors and talking to former students like Flor about returning to school. The volunteers across the city knocked on 813 doors and chatted with about 250 people. 

“This is about reaching out to those students to inspire and empower them to continue on their educational journeys,” Lathan said. “We want our students to know that there is no obstacle that we can’t overcome together.” 

Volunteers talked about the different types of programs the district offers, letting them know that a traditional classroom isn’t the only path to graduation. The district also has grad labs that offer tutoring and online coursework, and schools with non-traditional hours for students who need to work during the day.  

“We want to talk to them about the importance of going back to school, but also giving them the support that need to come back,” Principal Ruiz said. “We are willing to do whatever it takes to get them back in.” 

Participating HISD high schools include: Austin, Bellaire, Chavez, Furr, Heights, Kashmere, Lamar, Madison, Milby, North Forest, Northside, Sharpstown, Sterling, Waltrip, Washington, Westbury, Westside, Wheatley, Wisdom, Worthing, and Yates high schools, as well as Sam Houston Math, Science, and Technology Center High School.   

On Monday, Flor returned to Milby to begin preparations for the Biology portion of the STAAR test, the only barrier to her graduation. 

“With support from the school staff I can reach my goals,” Flor said. “I can accomplish my goal to graduate high school so I can continue with college.” 

September is Attendance Awareness Month. A student is considered chronically absent if they miss two or more days of school per month, and grades can be withheld if a student misses more than 10 percent (17 days) school per year. For information about the district’s attendance policies and the importance of attendance, click here