Socorro Independent School District educators walked the district’s neighborhoods to reconnect with students who left school before graduating during the 6th annual Walk for Success event on Saturday, September 14.
“We started our first year with 300 students, this year we’re looking at bringing back about 123, so the number is decreasing … that number continues to go down because of the passion and commitment from our amazing team,” said SISD Superintendent José Espinoza, Ed.D. “With that attitude and mentality that we treat, and we educate those students as if they were our own children, that’s how you can earn an ‘A’, that’s how you become the only district in El Paso, the largest district in the state, to earn a post-secondary readiness distinction.”
The superintendent, board trustees, administrators, counselors, and some librarians, teachers and other staff visited SISD neighborhoods to talk to students and their parents/families, hear their situation case-by-case, and present solutions to their academic barriers.
The day started with all the educators coming together to hear from SISD Superintendent José Espinoza, Ed.D., board trustees Paul Guerra, Eduardo Mena and David Morales, Justice of the Peace Ruben Lujan and El Paso Community College President William Serrata.
Justice of the Peace John Chatman and Justice of the Peace and EPCC board chair Brian Haggerty also attended this year’s Walk for Success.
“It was a great event. We made contact with all of our students,” said Derrick Brown, assistant principal at Eastlake High School. “Students and parents were ready to hear the information and one parent almost cried. Our team is getting ready to formulate a plan so we can recover that student and help them graduate.”
The impact that the SISD educators are making on students is significant. Having a principal, counselor, or teacher personally tell the students that they can come back to school and graduate is often the step in the right direction that they need.
A former SISD student Arleen Roa was visited by Americas High School principal Patricia Cuevas and other administrators from the school. Roa had left Americas after a former boyfriend convinced her to drop out and to try the Job Corps. But she said that didn’t work out for her, she fell on hard times without enough shifts at work to make enough money, and no motivation to go back to school.
“Today, Ms. Cuevas came to my house on a Saturday and told me my options. She told me that they were here for me. She and my teachers were always supportive,” Roa said. “They told me they knew I could succeed and that made me feel good. So, I’m going to do it. I’m going to get it done.”
Erica Olivas, coordinator at Pebble Hills High School, visited a student she had helped in the past. Olivas said it’s a good feeling to know the student is aware that the school employees care and they want what is best for him.
“We always kept in contact with him and his mom,” Olivas said. “Reaching out to him today was special. It is us providing extra support and extra reassurance so they know that we want them back and we want them to graduate so they can succeed.”
Students and or their parents received information on how to return to their comprehensive high school, or transfer to Options, the district’s alternative high school, which provides students a flexible schedule in a competency-based learning system. Another option for students is the district’s adult education program, which pairs students with workforce development opportunities and a GED.
If students or families were not reached at the home a door hanger with information was left so they could call the district and or school back. SISD educators also plan follow-up calls and visits to ensure they continue trying to get every student back.
“The student we tried to visit was not there, but we met with her parents and got information that will allow us to follow up,” said Andrew Halatyn, assistant principal at Socorro High School. “Now that we know when she’ll be home, we can meet with her and talk about the options and benefits of being a student at Socorro.”
Since the inception of Walk for Success in 2014, SISD has recovered more than 320 students and helped dozens graduate. The district’s graduation rate has increased to 91.5 percent, the highest in the region and in district history.
“We are the only district that has consistently run this program for six years,” said Cory Craft, SISD’s academic and compliance officer. “Not many people want to give up their time on a Saturday, but we do because we value our students and we see the results.”