A quiet meeting room on the third floor of Minute Maid Park became a command center of dialing phones on June 28 and 29 as HISD employee volunteers rallied to contact unenrolled students and encourage them to come back to school in the fall.
Every year, the Dropout Prevention and Recovery Department hosts a phone bank event to reach out to students who left school before having the opportunity to graduate. This year, supported by the Houston Astros, 30 volunteers from the Student Assistance Department gathered for a two-day marathon of phone calls.
“Years ago, pre-pandemic, the Astros were champions for us and our Homeless Department, so when we inherited the Dropout Prevention Department, we brainstormed and came up with ideas for how the Astros Foundation could be a champion for [dropout students] as well,” said Carl Green, Manager of Student Assistance with HISD’s Community Partnership Department.
“The Houston Astros Foundation is proud to support the HISD Student Assistance Program helping to put graduation within reach for students,” said Astros Foundation Executive Direction and Senior Vice President of Community Affairs Paula Harris. “Providing the space and technology for the district to reach out to thousands of students helps us to play a part in the success of the students and the Success of HISD.”
The Astros Foundation, the official 501(c)3 non-profit charity of the Houston Astros, has historically been committed to partnering with HISD, and this is the third year in a row that they have helped to make this yearly phone bank successful.
There are many reasons why students might veer off the path to graduation. At-home schooling during the COVID-19 pandemic changed the learning dynamic for an entire generation of students, and some struggle even now to regain the structure of a classroom environment and discontinue their education, instead. Beyond that, students with difficulties at home might have trouble making school a realistic priority.
This is where the Student Assistance Department comes in. Student Assistance is a parent department which includes multiple avenues for student assistance outside of school, including Dropout Prevention and Recovery, Students of Incarcerated Parents, Homeless and Foster Care, and more. With the blanket goal of putting graduation within reach for all HISD students, regardless of their circumstances at home, Student Assistance aids families in accessing to resources they need to be happy and healthy and to be able to stay in school.
“Parents just want to be contacted,” said Green. “They want the opportunity to tell us what’s wrong, and we can help them. “If we don’t have the answers, we do what we can to get them answers, whether it’s in district or through our community partners.”
The Astros Foundation, along with Chevron, wrapped an enrollment van that sits outside of and draws attention to HISD’s Re-Engagement Center, a multi-purpose hub located in the former Brock Elementary School. The Re-Engagement Center houses all of the sub-departments of Student Assistance as well as a fully stocked food pantry, an available assortment of school supplies and hygiene items, and qualified Student Assistance employees who can direct parents to emergency housing, domestic violence and mental health resources, and much more.
Thanks to the support of the Astros Foundation, Student Assistance volunteers reached out to 1,182 students, made contact with 392, and were able to confirm the recovery of 180 students who will now be returning to HISD schools in the fall.
The next push for re-enrollment will come at the start of the 2023-2024 school year with the annual Grads Within Reach Walk, which sees volunteers visiting the homes of students who have not returned to school and providing support and resources to encourage them to continue their education.
To read more about the Astros Foundation and other ways that they support the Houston community, visit their website.
To contact Student Assistance or learn more about their work and resources, visit their website or drop in at the Re-Engagement Center at 1417 Houston Avenue.