New Report from America’s Promise Highlights Efforts in Tucson, Arizona

Author: Helios Education Foundation

April 16, 2019

Today, America’s Promise Alliance’s Center for Promise released a new report, More Than a Village:  Perspectives on Re-engagement in Tucson, which highlights the critical role that positive and supportive relationships play in re-engaging youth who have left school.  The report includes interviews with 14 individuals from the Tucson Unified School District Dropout Prevention Team and the collective impact initiative, Youth On the Rise, who are partnering together to lead youth re-engagement efforts in Tucson, Arizona.

More Than a Village is the second study by the Center for Promise on the re-engagement efforts in Tucson. The first, I’m Going Back - The Re-Engagement Experiences of Tucson Youth, was released in January, and focused on the experiences of 28 young people across Tucson overcoming barriers to re-engage with their education. Both studies found that as the underpinning of successful re-engagement, supportive relationships not only establish trust and better understanding of young people’s needs, but also connect young people to additional supports in the community and help them access these supports for themselves and their families. The interviews revealed that the adults leading re-engagement efforts in Tucson are in alignment with the young people they are working with.  In fact, both the youth and the adults identified roadblocks - such as familial instability, financial constraints, inflexible scheduling, and an unwelcoming school climate – that held them back from re-entering school. 

Across the country young people are experiencing these roadblocks: the national graduation rate stands at 84.6 percent, below the national goal of a 90 percent graduation rate (as of 2017).  The graduation rate in Tucson currently stands at 70 percent, well below the Arizona Education Progress Meter goal of 90 percent.  One important way to increase the graduation rate and put more young people on a path to adult success is to bring back youth who leave school, many of whom are not far from being on track to graduate.  The collective insights highlighted in More Than a Village and I’m Going Back can help program designers and managers cultivate a more comprehensive understanding of how re-engagement efforts are designed, implemented and experienced. 

“The efforts currently underway in the Tucson community can serve as an example to Arizona and the nation on how to help students re-engage in school,”  said Vince Yanez, Senior Vice President, Arizona Community Engagement.  “Arizona has set some ambitious goals to increase our graduation rate and our postsecondary attainment rate over the next decade and efforts like this are critical to help ensure we reach those goals.”  

Among the most compelling of the report’s findings are the commonalities adults working on re-engagement in Tucson share in their approaches to working with young people, which include:

  • Relationships come first: All adults interviewed recognized that building and maintaining relationships characterized by trust, care, and connectedness are foundational to supporting young people who have disengaged from school.
  • Working to address young people’s complex needs on a daily basis often requires connecting young people to additional support in the community or showing them how to access support for themselves or their families.
  • Enhanced collaboration accelerates positive policy change: Across the city, adults highlighted success in their efforts to coordinate support at the school and district levels and to spur policy change based on the needs they saw or heard directly from young people.

“Reports like this one are helping to focus both state and national efforts on increasing the high school graduation rate which is a core initiative of America’s Promise Alliance,” said Paul J. Luna, President and CEO, Helios Education Foundation and America’s Promise Alliance Board Member.  “It provides the opportunity for communities to learn from one another and ultimately create more opportunities for students to visualize a strong and productive future for themselves.”  

Click here to access the full report and learn more.   


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