(click the pic for a full photo album from the day described in the article below)
STUDENT RECOVERY DAY AT LAUSD
“There’s an idea that students who’ve left school don’t care, but there’s an overwhelming truth that every student cares. They all want to graduate”
Board Member Steve Zimmer
“She was there with a cap and gown at the front of the school. This lady had flowers. She actually cared. I cried like a baby.”
LAUSD graduate Norya Benitez, former drop out.
It was an emotional press conference in the library of Hollywood High School as former dropouts went up to the podium to share their experiences, some through tears. They shared the anxiety of what it’s like to be behind in school, the hopelessness that leads to dropping out, and the excitement that accompanied their re-entry and realization of their dream diploma.
Board Member Steve Zimmer initiated LAUSD’s Student Recovery Day in 2009, to address the issue of over 20,000 students appearing on the potential dropout report every year. On this day, District employees and volunteers join in the effort counselors undergo daily by visiting the homes of students who are chronically truant or who have dropped out. Today representatives knocked on doors in the area of these high schools: Venice, Narbonne, Reseda, Hollywood, Manual Arts, Washington Prep, San Fernando, East Valley, Huntington Park, Franklin, Jordan, Roybal Learning Center and Roosevelt
“We have come together as a community to embrace all of our students and everyone they represent,” explained Board Member Steve Zimmer. “Today is about bringing the resources to let these students know, you are not alone!”
Superintendent John Deasy shared encouraging statistics, pointing out that last year’s goal, of 66% of students attending at 96% or better, was exceeded. “We launched new programs, such as the Attendance Improvement Program, to support 51 elementary and 26 high schools throughout the District to improve attendance in kindergarten and ninth-grade,” said Dr. Deasy. “This year, we are raising the bar and expect more students to improve their attendance!”
Dr. Deasy then explained the “I’m In” School Attendance Challenge. From October to May, LAUSD students who come to school on time every day, qualify for prizes including iPads, bicycles, amusement park and movie tickets, and much more! Student prizes will be awarded monthly with grand prizes at the end of the year. Two Seniors will have the chance to win a brand new car! Click here to learn more!
Following Dr. Deasy’s presentation, LAUSD graduate and former dropout Norya Benitez spoke about her experience. Benitez said she was one of those students who really didn’t car, and said when she was 18 she thought the best thing to do was drop out. “Then, I realized I needed a diploma to go somewhere,” she said. “My counselor was an angel to me. I never knew my story would matter to anybody and this lady was calling and asking me about my life.” Ms. Benitez says she wasn’t able to graduate with the rest of the class, but picking up her diploma at the school was a moment she’ll never forget. “She was there with a cap and gown at the front of the school. This lady had flowers. She actually cared. I cried like a baby. I was so emotional that it was over and I could start my life and follow my dreams.”
Current Senior and former dropout Marlene Pedraza was next. “My advice to people is just focus in school, do your best, and don’t give up.” Then, while preparing to explain what she missed out on during the time she stayed away from school, Ms. Pedraza broke down in tears. After encouragement and a hug from Board Member Zimmer, she bravely choked back her tears and said into the microphone, “I missed out on my graduation because I couldn’t concentrate. I failed all my senior year classes. But, I’m glad I am back. Hopefully by the end of the year I can get my diploma.” Her presentation and courage received loud applause.
Student Recovery Teams, which included the Superintendent and his executive team, then visited homes and apartments throughout Los Angeles to encourage dropouts to return to school. The Director of the Office of Government Relations for LAUSD, Edgar Zazueta, visited 20 homes. He was particularly moved after convincing a seventeen year old couple, new parents, to return to Jordan High School. “The father told me that he was planning to go back to school but couldn’t right now because of his child,” said Zazueta. “We told him that we would help him, and that there are many programs available for student parents. We also told him to do it for his baby, and I think that might have been what convinced him to go back.”
Pupil Services Director Debra Duardo was once a dropout herself. She often shares her story and the courage it took for her to return to school and graduate after having children at a very young age. “I’m proof that with enough support and dedication, you can finish school and you can achieve your dreams,” said Duardo. “We’re here to hold your hand and to remind you that you are smart, we believe in you, and you don’t have to go through this alone.”
Since the first Student Recovery Day in 2009, 3,296 students have been recovered.