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Graduation Walk Aims to Reach Hundreds of Students At Risk of Not Graduating

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DES MOINES, Iowa  --  Des Moines Public School teachers spent the weekend knocking on the doors of students at risk of not graduating.

Classes within the district began on Wednesday, but hundreds of teachers and volunteers have their minds set on the end of the year, including Lincoln High School vice principal Adam Beckel.

"It breaks our heart. It’s one of the most difficult things to see, a student that falls behind or slips through the cracks. We take that personally. We want to make sure that we get kids on the right track, finish high school, and have a successful future after high school."

The Graduation Walk focused on supporting high school and middle school students who are behind in credits or have a high number of absences. Volunteers knocked on the doors of more than a thousand students.

"It's really about connecting with our students and with the south side and letting them know that we care both as community members and as a school," says Beckel.

Des Moines School District superintendent Tom Ahart says by going door to door, students and parents are better able to explain what is keeping them from excelling in the classroom.

"There are transportation issues, there are food insecurity issues, there are housing insecurity issues. Once we figure out what that issue is, we connect them with a community partner, and United Way has been wonderful in helping us make those links," he says.

Ahart adds lack of transportation is one of the leading causes for absences. The district partnered with DART to provide a special route free of charge for students who needed a way to get to school.

Since the program's start nearly 10 years ago, the district has steadily seen an increase its graduation rates. Last year, it rose by more than three percent.