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Sunday 26th March 2017,

Door knocking campaign to re-enroll dropouts being recognized nationally

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WATERLOO | A door-knocking campaign to re-enroll Waterloo Community Schools’ dropouts is being pointed to as a shining example by a national volunteer service organization.

Atlanta-based Points of Light is recognizing those who volunteered for the one-day Reconnect to Graduate effort with its Daily Point of Light Award. Reconnect to Graduate is featured today on their website (www.pointsoflight.org) and social media channels.

Nearly 90 volunteers wearing blue T-shirts visited more than 170 homes the morning of Sept. 7 in search of district students who had dropped out of school. By Oct. 1, when an official count is taken, 60 students had returned because of the effort. This was the second year the door-knocking campaign was held.

“Reconnect to Graduate provides a clear example of something that works,” Delores Morton, president of programs for Points of Light, said in written comments.

As the world’s largest organization dedicated to volunteer service, Points of Light strives to identify efforts that can be replicated in other communities, she noted.

“This simple idea of community volunteers reaching out to disconnected youth is something that can be put to work wherever communities are struggling with declining high school graduation rates,” she said. “This local solution has possibilities for creating change across the nation.”

Ellen Vanderloo, the district’s mentor and volunteer coordinator, was contacted by the organization a week ago about the unexpected award.

“I was very surprised. It’s a huge honor to be recognized on a national level like this,” she said.

Reconnect to Graduate will receive a certificate signed by President George H.W. Bush, who founded the award 23 years ago, and a letter signed by both Bush and Points of Light’s president Tracy Hoover.

“Points of light” is what Bush called those involved in volunteer service. Morton said award winners “address the challenges we face as a society, and they are wonderful examples of what people can accomplish when they give their time.”

Vanderloo had some thoughts about what got the effort noticed. “I think they like the idea that everyone involved on that Saturday was a volunteer and that it was a broad-based community effort,” she said. “It wasn’t just school people.”

Participants worked in teams, each of which was headed by a district employee who volunteered to help. “As a community, we were coming together,” said Vanderloo. “We care about (the students who dropped out) and want the best for them. And we want them to come back to school.”

Most of the 60 students quit school at some point last year or didn’t return in the fall, but hadn’t been officially counted as dropouts by the district. That included 43 Expo Alternative Learning Center students and five each at East and West high schools. The other seven returning students had been counted as dropouts in the past, including five at Expo and one each at East and West.

Reconnect to Graduate is being recognized on the organization’s homepage under the headline “Nominate Your Point of Light” and on its blog.

To submit a nomination for the award, go to their website.

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