Lindsay Peyton
Highline superintendent Susan Enfield asked a line-up of third grade students what they want to do after they graduate from high school. Brayden Chhay, left, said he wanted to be a hero.

Graduate! Highline kick-off rally brings together community in effort to support student success

By Lindsay Peyton

A whole different type of pep rally was held in the Matt Griffin YMCA gym at noon today.

Instead of getting a student body pumped up for an upcoming game, the goal of the event was to ignite passion in the community members for a cause.

The movement is called “Graduate! Highline” – and the mission is to boost the number of students who leave the district with diplomas.

J.D. Hill, executive director of the Matt Griffin YMCA, serves as the community leader for the program.

“It’s a movement driven by the community to push highline graduate rates sky high,” he said. “I represent a team of community members, business leaders, parents, grandparents, friends and advocates, who came together a year ago to see how we can help.”

Hill posed a single question to the audience. “What if the entire community rallied around one goal?”

He outlined the mission -- to promote student success and provide guidance on a path toward graduation and careers beyond the high school years.

“It’s up to all of us to help them succeed,” he said. “When kids are fully supported, they will succeed. We have had many successes in Highline, but we know we have much work to do – and we know the district cannot do it alone. We know our students deserve it, and we know that it’s urgent.”

The program is modeled after Graduate! Tacoma, which increased graduation rates in the city from 55 percent to 82.6 percent in five years.

Roger Levesque of Seattle Sounders FC, high school student Maikol Alvarado and Alaska Airlines’ lead event sponsor Shaunta Hyde also spoke in support of the program.

“Today is about the future, the future of our kids and the future of our community,” Hyde said. “The timing has never been better. We’re in the business of creating future leaders – and they’re right here in Highline.”

Superintendent Susan Enfield delivered a “State of our Schools” presentation – explaining that the goal is to have a minimum 95 percent graduation rate in three to five years.

“Our first focus is on early learning and making sure our students get a strong start,” Enfield said.

She said this year’s third graders are the first class to have all access to tuition-free pre-kindergarten. “They’re already outperforming any class before them,” she said.

Another main component, Enfield said, is to create a smoother transition to middle school.

“Middle school is such a critical time – and it’s a hard time,” she said. “This year we started a bridge program.”

To reach the 95 percent goal for graduation, Enfield said it will take a village.

“We cannot do it alone,” she said.

Enfield implored community members to ask Highline students, “What are you going to do when you graduate?”

“Then stop and listen, let them tell you what their dreams are and then encourage them,” Enfield said. “It’s about helping our kids make their dreams a reality – and in doing so making Highline a better place to live.”

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