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Come Back Kids 

The San Joaquin Valley has a dropout problem. It is true that local statistics mirror statewide averages, but in Stanislaus County alone over 900 students drop out of high school each year. There are a variety of reasons why students drop out, including teenage pregnancies, volatile home environments, and boredom. Regardless of the reasons, the consequences are always the same: Higher rates of unemployment; higher rates of poverty higher rates of crime and incarceration and higher rates of single parents.

In an effort to tackle the dropout rate head on, Come Back Kids launched two years ago in connection with SCOE’s Destination Graduation initiative. The goal of the multi-year initiative is to increase the percentage of students in Stanislaus County who graduate with a high school diploma. Initially, it was hoped that 25 students would be interested in coming back and earning a diploma. After only three months, 150 students were enrolled. To date, this program has produced over 350 graduates. Currently, there are more than 450 students enrolled in Come Back Kids and that number increases daily.

As a mother of two, 22-year-old Maria Arriaga had some reservations about enrolling. She already had a busy schedule and transportation was a problem. After meeting with her teacher, she was confident she could make it work. “My teacher is amazing. I can work at my own pace and he gives me the opportunity to come in once a week,” she said. “I can also email him if I have any questions.” Maria wants to expand her educational horizons and knows a high school diploma looks better than a GED on a resume. “My goals are to attend college and get a better job,” she said. “I want to show my kids that they can do it and to never give up.”

Come Back Kids serves two purposes – to give students a second chance at earning a high school diploma and to assist them in pursuing their education and/or career. Students are enrolled in online coursework and meet with their instructors weekly to go over completed assignments and tests. A variety of course-specific workshops are offered on a regular basis to help students. More after hours opportunities are now available that include tutoring and childcare.

Juan Mendoza (21) enrolled in the program this summer. “I decided to come back and get my diploma because I want a better future for myself and I want to provide for my family, get a good job, and maybe in the future a college education,” he said.

Qualifying students wishing to find employment can take advantage of job internships and placements as well as apprenticeship programs. Weekly career readiness seminars are offered that build career skills. Students learn about interview tips, resume writing, filling out applications, and creating a portfolio. Local business partners participate in these weekly presentations and provide insight about what they look for in the workplace.

Come Back Kids has experienced a large amount of success in a very short amount of time. The program continues to grow rapidly and new locations are being added. Students are currently served in Modesto, Turlock, Patterson, Oakdale, and Ceres. Enrollment is ongoing and new students can start at any time. A copy of the student’s high school transcript is needed and will be reviewed to create an individual graduation plan. Students will pick up where they left off and will complete only those requirements needed to graduate. If you are interested in learning more about the program, call the Stanislaus County Office of Education at 238.8650 .

“My goals are to attend college and get a better job… I want to show my kids that they can do it and to never give up.”

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