Reach Out Walk Set for Saturday

Administrators, teachers and volunteers on Saturday will be visiting the homes of high school students in Benton and Washington counties who didn’t return to class as part of a weeklong Reach Out NWA effort.

The program, piloted in 2011 by the Siloam Springs School District and the Northwest Arkansas Council, will involve high schools in the two counties this year. For the first time, the career coaches in the University of Arkansas Razor C.O.A.C.H. program will be overseeing Reach Out NWA.

Reach Out NWA, which is modeled after Reach Out to Dropout programs in cities such as New Orleans, Houston, Dallas, San Antonio and Des Moines, allows administrators, teachers and community volunteers to contact high school students in their homes to determine why they didn’t come back to class this year. The goal is to identify and then overcome obstacles that may be keeping the student from being in the classroom and finishing high school.

The Razor C.O.A.C.H. program last year put 15 University of Arkansas students who are pursuing master’s degrees in Northwest Arkansas high schools where they worked with at-risk students. They assisted more than 320 students, helping them define their paths toward high school graduation and determine what they’ll do after earning a diploma.

 “Because the Razor C.O.A.C.H. program is meant to assist at-risk high school students in determining what they’ll do after high school graduation, it made perfect sense for us to be involved with Reach Out NWA,” said Rhiannon McKee, a former Razor C.O.A.C.H. who is coordinator of the Reach Out NWA program. “If we can identify these students and help them get back in school now, that’s what we want to do.”

Saturday’s walk is the culmination of a weeklong effort to convey to students why it’s important to finish high school. Throughout the week, telephone calls are made to students who weren’t in class on the first day of school. The students who aren’t reached by phone will be contacted on Saturday.

Reach Out NWA is an important part of achieving objectives in the Greater Northwest Arkansas Development Strategy. One of the objectives in the five-year strategic plan first made public in January 2011 was to “continue to improve high school graduation and matriculation rates.”

“Through the Razor C.O.A.C.H. program, we know there are students who don’t immediately appear to be candidates to attend college, but with the right tools, good resources and motivation, they can reach the goal of attending college,” said Josh Raney, director of the Northwest Arkansas career and college-coaching program at the University of Arkansas College of Education and Health Professions. “Reach Out NWA is one more opportunity for us to engage with high school students, help them graduate and assist them with being successful afterwards.”