AmeriCorps Launches Project in Tucson to Improve High School Graduation Rates

Starting this fall, eight Tucson high schools will get visits from more than 100 AmeriCorps members as part of a two-year project to improve graduation rates, and to make sure these students are aware of their higher-ed or post high school options—college, a job training program or even the military.

“I’m delighted that we were awarded this grant,” said Tucson Mayor Jonathan Rothschild in a statement. “I’ve focused on building a healthy community and this grant, and community schools, will help put students and their families in touch with the services they need to thrive.”

Tucson is the second community in the country to get this Operation AmeriCorps funding, which is administered by the Corporation for National and Community Service. In total, the investment in Tucson has a value of about $2 million.

The local high schools benefiting are: Catalina High School (TUSD),  Desert View High School (Sunnyside), Flowing Wells High School (Flowing Wells), Palo Verde High Magnet School (TUSD), Pueblo Magnet High School (TUSD), Santa Rita High School (TUSD), Sentinel Peak High School (Flowing Wells), and the S.T.A.R. Academic Center (Sunnyside).

These are schools that are located within "high risk neighborhoods," identified by the city's Commission on Poverty. They all have an average graduation rate of 63 percent compared to the national average of 81 percent, according to data by the Arizona Department of Education.

AmeriCorps members plan to help students and families access services such as tutoring, healthcare sign up and financial aid assistance. They'll implement graduation success programs, recruit and coordinate volunteer mentors, partner up with other local agencies and businesses, and bring college readiness programs and recruitment at the schools.

(Gov. Ducey's budget cut about $30 million from JTED, career and technical ed, and schools are in much need of anything that can provide students with a plan to survive once out of high school.)

Among the local partner organizations are TUSD, Flowing Wells School District, Sunnyside School District, the Tucson Urban League, the Pima County Joint Technical Education District, Casa de Los Niños and the Community Food Bank of Southern Arizona.

Nine other communities in the U.S. are in line to get this high school graduation rate help, too.