Operation Graduation Volunteers Change Lives With Education


Articles AISD 09-15-14(2)

A couple hundred Arlington teachers, administrators and community members gathered across seven high schools Saturday morning on a mission: help AISD students graduate.

“Today we have the opportunity to change someone’s life,” AISD Superintendent Dr. Marcelo Cavazos told volunteers at Bowie High School before they set out for the day.

As part of the powerful Operation Graduation program, volunteers drove to the homes of students who were enrolled in the spring but did not return to school in the fall. The purpose of the visit: listen to students’ challenges, explain what they need to do to catch up and make it clear that AISD will work with them – no matter the situation – to help them earn a diploma.

“Any obstacle they have, we break down,” Dr. Cavazos explained. “We also reinforce that their future doesn’t have to be their present, and their present doesn’t have to be their future. Education is key to that.”

Besides working with individuals, Dr. Cavazos said Operation Graduation helps the district adapt its programs to meet the needs of Arlington students.

Bowie Assistant Principal Michelle Trussell echoed Dr. Cavazos’ sentiments that education can be life changing. “Not graduating limits a kid’s possibilities in life,” she said, pointing out that many businesses won’t hire a candidate unless he or she has a high school diploma.

Trussell, who has participated in each of the five Operation Graduation events, also said many students are unaware of the district’s other learning opportunities, such as Venture High School, where students work at their own pace, and the Pregnancy, Education and Parenting (PEP) program that offers childcare and counseling, among other services to teenage parents. Part of Operation Graduation’s objective is to make students aware of every way AISD can work with them.

In addition to connecting with students who didn’t return this school year, volunteers reached out to students with high truancy rates and others who were just shy of graduation.

For instance, one student completed all his classes. The only thing standing between him and a diploma was a passing grade on a standardized TAKS test. Volunteers explained what he needed to graduate, gave him information about the district’s TAKS tutoring sessions, as well as the date he could retake the test in October.

Last year nearly 250 volunteers made 294 visits to the homes of students, and a dozen students began the re-enrollment process on the day of the event. Another 28 students committed to return to the AISD.