Steps to Success

Author: Collaborative Communications Group

September 16, 2016

At the Arizona Mayors Education Roundtable - an initiative of WestEd -  15 mayors from across the state convene to discuss the policies they can implement to ensure all Arizona students are college and career ready. In all of these discussions, members refer back to a set of key goals:

The first goal: support grassroots initiatives, driven by community-wide collaboration, that can improve educational and workforce outcomes in Arizona’s cities.

Last month, we saw one of those initiatives, Steps to Success, reach new heights in Tucson and expand to Phoenix for the first time.

The event, launched in 2014 through a partnership with Mayor Rothschild and the Tucson Unified School District, brings communities together to engage with drop out students and those at risk of dropping out right at their doorsteps. With the continual support of  America’s Promise Alliance, Pearson and the Roundtable, volunteers—from the mayor and superintendent to basketball players and faith-based leaders—guide youth through the re-enrollment process and provide them with the wrap-around supports that they need to excel in the classroom.

Take David Forster, a former high school student in Tucson, who dropped out after his father’s sudden death to cope with the grief. Forster was one of those students who answered the door a few years ago; he has since graduated high school and now is one of the city’s firefighters. 

Four walks and two years later, we have re-enrolled 384 students just like David in Tucson; at last month’s event alone, Mayor Rothschild and company knocked on 194 doors and engaged with 118 students. At the inaugural Steps to Success in Phoenix last month, Mayor Stanton made strides to continue the program for years to come.

  That brings us to the Roundtable’s second goal: the need to expand the knowledge base for our mayors and offer them the tools to make a difference in their communities. Over the course of the next several months, we hope to use the impact of Steps to Success in both Tucson and Phoenix as a framework for how they can reach disconnected youth in their own cities. And mayors across the state recognize the need for this approach.

Consider: one in five young people in our state do not receive their diploma. A recent report by the Roundtable highlighted that over 18,000 students in Arizona dropped out of high school in 2012, resulting in a total loss of $7.6 billion to our cities over their lifetimes.

As our mayors place an emphasis on college and career readiness, we have to ensure that our students can get there by graduating high school. While the dropout rate continues to fall nationwide, we must still focus on the disconnected youth in our inner cities and rural areas. Through the cross-sector partnerships and commitment to family engagement at the core of Steps to Success, we can effectively serve students’ academic and social-emotional needs—and guide them back to success in the classroom.

And that may be the Roundtable’s most important goal of all: inspire mayors across the state, and across the nation, to embrace grassroots initiatives that can make a difference for our at-risk youth.

Pictured Right:  Superintendent Dr. H.T. Sánchez, right, talks with Dalton about why he should go back to school and graduate on time on Wednesday, Aug. 3, 2016 in Tucson, Ariz. (Rick Scuteri/ AP Images for Pearson)

Pictured Left:  Superintendent Dr. H.T. Sánchez, left, Chancellor of Pima Community College Lee Lambert, right, and Mayor Rothschild speaks with the mother of a student that dropped out of school on Wednesday, Aug. 3, 2016 in Tucson, Ariz. Her son, who was working at his job, wants to go back to school and the Steps to Success team members planned to revisit her home to encourage him to re-enroll.” (Rick Scuteri/ AP Images for Pearson)

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