New KSD position helps kids graduate on time - NBC Right Now/KNDO/KNDU Tri-Cities, Yakima, WA |

New KSD position helps kids graduate on time

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KENNEWICK, Wash.--  At the beginning of the school year, Kennewick School District hired three new positions to help students graduate on time: Success Coordinators.  One has been in each high school since the fall.

We checked in with Laura Jepsen, the Success Coordinator or Graduation Support Specialist, at Endemic High School.  Each school adapted the position differently, but at Kennewick High, they've created ASAP- the After School Assistance Program.  Seniors who are failing multiple classes or with a high  number of unexcused absences and are in danger of not graduating are required to go. 

Danny Monroy, a senior at Kennewick High, has been in the program since the fall.  He says, "I was skipping school and failing three classes."  He admits he likes skateboarding better than school and says no one had ever talked to him about the severity of skipping class and getting F grades.  That's where Jepsen came in.   "I'm pretty honest with you that if you continue to do what you're doing now, you're not going to be graduating," explains Jepsen.

Monroy says, "She pretty much just kicked me in the butt- like said you need to get your grades up and come to school." 

Jepsen meets one on one with about 80 students to break down what they need to do to graduate.  A team of teachers also meets with the students after school to tutor them.  Jepsen checks students' attendance daily and works with the teachers to figure out how to get students back on track, which can be quite a process for some.

Danny for example is on a pacing schedule. "He has a lot to do for graduation.  It would be overwhelming for anybody that has to do as much as he has to do," says Jepsen.

Part of the ASAP Program's success is that the coordinator can hold a student accountable immediately.  Jepsen says it's "more immediate than a parent could deliver because they're not in the building and a teacher is dealing with one class and I look at it holistically- I'm going to talk to you about all 3 classes you're failing."

Danny says he simply needed someone to track him down and tell him he was failing and tell him that it's not okay to fail.  Now, he's back on track to graduate on time.  "I'm passing all my classes, I have perfect attendance.  I'm tardy here and there once in a while, but it's not a big issue."

Jepsen admits it hasn't been so easy with some students, but looks at every student she's helped as one more who might not have graduated without her and the team of teachers who works with ASAP.

Kennewick School District hopes to see the graduation rates improve this spring.  As of right now, KSD says there is funding for the positions in next year's budget.