Keeping kids in school

At every level of our educational ecosystem, considerable time and effort is devoted to addressing one of the most pressing problems facing our community: keeping kids in school. This is as it should be. High school completion is a fundamental prerequisite for a better life. Study after study has shown us that the economic and societal consequences of dropping out of high school are profound.

We know that dropouts are more likely to be unemployed than students who stick to their education and get a degree. We know dropouts earn less money and their chances of moving up the economic ladder are dramatically limited. We know they’re more likely to rely on public assistance, more likely to be single parents and make up a disproportionate percentage of our nation’s prison inmate population.

At Pima, we’re doing our part to address this issue through our nationally recognized Adult Education and GED programs. The students who come to us to realize their educational dreams come from all walks of life and all age groups. One of our recent GED grads had been out of school for 36 years!

Adult Ed will be front and center tomorrow when U.S. Assistant Secretary of Education Brenda Dann-Messier visits our El Pueblo Liberty Adult Learning Center. I’ll have more to say on this topic later this week.

But all of us can do more to stem the tide of students who decide not to stay in school. I was honored Monday to participate in the launch of the second phase of a Sunnyside Unified School District program aimed at helping high school dropouts get their diploma. GradLink2 will serve students between 17 and 21 years old and, unlike the first version of the program, will not have an AIMs or credit requirement.

The goal is to make it easy for students to come back to school and get their degree. Pima is proud to be among GradLInk2’s sponsors and I applaud Sunnyside Superintendent Manuel Isquierdo and TUSD Superintendent H.T. Sanchez for working together to give our kids the opportunities they need to get ahead.

According to the Alliance for Excellent Education, about 7,000 students drop out every school day and approximately 1.3 million students fail to graduate from high school every year. Those are astounding numbers. Addressing this problem in a meaningful way must be a priority for all of us and it must be a community effort.

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