Reach Out to Dropouts a Success

Des Moines Public Schools, United Way of Central Iowa, and corporate partner Aviva USA have completed a successful Reach Out to Dropouts event.

On Saturday, Sept. 25, 2010, teams of volunteers from the school district and the community walked door-to-door to visit more than 460 high school students who had not shown up for school during the first weeks of the academic year.

“468 home visits were made, and out of the 25 students who decided to visit their schools the day of the event, 11 re-enrolled and 10 were referred to GED or other educational options,” said Dr. Nancy Sebring, superintendent of Des Moines Public Schools. “In an urban district such as ours, student mobility is an issue, and students we were seeking at 103 of the addresses provided no longer lived there.”

In addition, 62 students requested a follow-up from the high schools, 63 students are pursuing or received a GED, and 195 students were not home.

Modeled after a similar event established in Houston, Texas, in 2004, Reach Out to Dropouts is just one prong in a series of initiatives spearheaded by United Way of Central Iowa and Des Moines Public Schools called Destination Graduation.

“It has been a collective effort by many organizations in our community to provide various services and programs to ensure we have fewer at-risk kids dropping out of school,” said Sebring. “Among the other Destination Graduation initiatives are academic support labs; an early indicator system (EIS) that identifies at-risk students as early as elementary school; and Communities in Schools, a nationally-renowned coordinated approach to social and human services needed by at-risk students and their families.”

More than 260 volunteers recruited by United Way and the school district participated in Reach Out to Dropouts, including groups from Aviva USA and other local corporations, individuals interested in education and many more. Following the home visits, Aviva USA provided a community celebratory lunch.

Aviva USA is part of Aviva plc – the world’s sixth largest insurance group. Around the globe, Aviva is spearheading a program called Street to School  – an effort to get children off the street and back into school. In the U.S., Aviva seeks opportunities to keep children engaged in school throughout their life. The Reach Out to Dropouts Walk aligns perfectly with this mission of helping teens return to school and graduate on time.

The Des Moines Independent Community School District is Iowa’s largest provider of public education serving the individual needs of more than 31,000 students in 66 schools with more than 5,000 dedicated teachers and staff. For more information about Des Moines Public Schools visit

United Way of Central Iowa is working to advance the common good by focusing on the three key community priorities of education, income and health. United Way believes the best way to help the most people is by addressing underlying causes to our community’s most serious problems. We invite you to be a part of the change. LIVE UNITED. For more information about United Way of Central Iowa, please visit