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Archive for Sunday, August 27, 2006

Volunteers make home visits to enroll dropouts

August 27, 2006

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— Andres Torres, 18, is working to support his infant twin girls. Claudia Zavala, 15, gave birth on Friday. Diocelina Garcia, 18, is seven months pregnant.

All were high school dropouts when the sun rose Saturday. By noon, each had registered to go back to school. What made the difference was a visit from someone who cares that they return to the classroom.

"If the kids aren't going to come to us, we're going to come to them," said Roberta Cusack, the Houston school district's director of student engagement.

Houston is the largest district in the nation to take such a personal approach to encourage dropouts to resume their education.

Since starting the program two years ago, Houston volunteers and school officials have "recovered" about 800 dropouts in a district of roughly 250,000 students. In May, 250 of those ex-dropouts graduated, school officials said.

School officials in Dallas and South Carolina have shown interest in adopting the program for their districts.

"It's just common sense, so it's caught on," said Houston Mayor Bill White, one of the volunteers who went door to door in the predominantly black and Hispanic neighborhood of Sharpstown. "If something is not important, you write a letter. If something is important, you knock on doors."

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