TUHSD knocks on doors in ‘We Want You Back’ Initiative
You wouldn’t expect the Tempe Union High School District Office to be full of people on a Saturday.
But on the chilly morning of January 7, 2017, the place was packed and the air was bursting with energy and excitement. Dozens of people showed up with one mission in mind – to visit the homes of students who have left the District and encourage them to return to school.
The TUHSD We Want You Back Initiative was launched in partnership with the Mayors’ Offices of Tempe and Guadalupe and the message is simple, “We care about you, we want you to come back, we want you to graduate, and we are here to help you do that.”
Among those joining forces to pound the pavement in neighborhoods across Tempe and Ahwatukee, were TUHSD Governing Board Members Sandy Lowe, DeeAnne McClenahan and Michelle Helm, Superintendent Dr. Kenneth Baca and the Executive Team, Tempe Mayor Mark Mitchell, Vice-Mayor Robin Arredondo-Savage, Councilmember David Schapira, Guadalupe Mayor Valerie Molina, Representative Isela Blanc, Pascua Yaqui Tribal Councilmember Antonia Campoy, along with other representatives from the Yaqui Tribe, and principals, assistant principals, counselors, dropout prevention coordinators, and others from all seven TUHSD schools - Tempe High, McClintock, Marcos de Niza, Corona del Sol, Mountain Pointe, Desert Vista and Compadre Academy.
As the teams of people spanned out across Tempe, Guadalupe and Ahwatukee, it’s safe to say everyone was a little nervous about that first door knock, thinking “Will someone answer the door? Will they slam it in our face? Can we really make an impact?”
They quickly discovered the students want to come back. Many understood the importance of education but believed there were challenges standing in their way. They shared their stories and their obstacles which ranged from school credit deficiencies to family, financial and other personal challenges. The teams, which included counselors from CARE 7, the City of Tempe’s social services and crisis response program, offered support options and pledged to provide connections to additional resources.
Many of the teenagers and their families expressed surprise, but also immense gratitude in learning the community cares enough about them to send groups of people to their doorstep on a weekend morning to invite them back. Hugs and tears were shared from both sides of the doorway.
Some 66 volunteers visited 77 homes. Not everyone was home and some families had moved away. So far, eight students have returned to Tempe Union and re-enrolled in school, two more are in the process of re-enrolling, and another three said they want to finish out the year at the programs they are currently participating in but indicated they plan to re-enroll at TUHSD for the 2017-18 school year. School representatives will follow up with them and continue to encourage them to come back.
Tempe Union’s We Want You Back Initiative was planned and organized by TUHSD Extended Education Coordinator Dora Samson. It is modeled after Tucson Unified School District’s Steps to Success program, which began in 2014. TUSD has organized five walks which have resulted in 64 graduates so far. Ms. Samson is already planning future We Want You Back events.