Volunteers to invite back Kennewick school dropouts

Leonor de Maldonado said it can be embarrassing for students who dropped out of high school to attempt to finish their education.

"Many have 'ah ha' moments, but they don't know how to go back," said de Maldonado, director for Columbia Basin College High School Academy.

She and other educators in the Kennewick School District said they are hoping to ease those fears by approaching dropout students where they're most comfortable -- at home.

About 10 educators and volunteers are expected to knock on doors Saturday in Kennewick looking for 50 dropouts at their last known addresses.

Officials said they don't expect to find all of the former students, and they don't expect that everyone will want to try to finish school, but the effort needs to be made.

"Even if we can get 10 of them, that would be great," said Lorraine Cooper, spokeswoman for the school district.

Cooper said she recommended the campaign, called "We Want You Back," a few weeks ago as a means to help improve the district's graduation rate.

The district has focused on getting as many kids through high school as possible -- leading to the creation of Phoenix and Legacy alternative high schools and online programs -- in order to appeal to students who don't do well in the typical high school environment.

"When you get into a big traditional high school, it's easy to get lost," said Assistant Superintendent Ron Williamson.

The CBC program began last spring to serve dropouts who are at least 18 but still young enough to get a regular high school diploma instead of a GED.

Williamson said many students mature after dropping out, realizing how important it is to have their diploma, but don't see how to get back in school.

De Maldonado said she believes at least some of the dropouts approached will at least be curious about the prospect of returning to school. Her program served 30 students this spring, and she wants to have as many as 100 enrolled this fall.

"I'm hoping to get a good boost from this door-to-door venture," de Maldonado said.

Officials continue to look for volunteers to go out and knock on doors Saturday morning. Interested individuals should email Cooper at lorraine.cooper@ksd.org by noon Friday to register.

Volunteers will meet at the district's administrative building on Fourth Avenue at 8:30 a.m. Saturday. There will be a half-hour of training before people are sent out in groups with maps and other information.

-- Ty Beaver: 582-1402; tbeaver@tricityherald.com