GRAND JUNCTION, Colo. (KKCO) - District 51 says it's making great strides to get dropouts to come back to school and officials say numbers released by the state Wednesday will prove their success.
Jose Pabon never got his high school diploma. "I went to Grand Junction High School for a two week period," he says.
Like many others who haven't finished high school, he had trouble balancing classes with responsibilities at home. "It was kind of a rough time period for me. I didn't really have a place to live and had to go to work. So I ended up being employed at a very young age," says Pabon.
Now that Jose is 30 he sees himself in many young kids around Grand Junction, who are struggling to get a diploma.
"I see a lot of little kids, even my little brother, having a hard time staying in school and having to help out family," says Pabon.
Pabon says when he was a student, the District made a good effort to keep kids in school, but it wasn't enough for him. "I was one of those kids that needed a whole lot of help," says Pabon.
Now District 51 is taking it up a notch to find high school dropouts and asking them to return to class. "We actually have people that do home visits and find them and say lets work out a program for you," says Steve Schultz, superintendent for District 51.
And the efforts have paid off. "For the second year in a row, our graduation rates have improved this year by 3.2. percent," says Schultz.
The state is even praising District 51 for increasing not only graduation rates, but decreasing dropout rates. "Basically, we graduated about 40 more kids than a year ago," he says.
Schultz says 70 fewer students ended up dropping out this year. "The District is working hard to build a system that adapts to what students needs are, as opposed to them adapting to our," says Schultz.
He says the numbers may not seem like a lot, but it's still a huge success for the District. "We're building a system that we believe will be world class to support our kids in Mesa County," says Schultz.
Something Pabon hopes kids will take advantage of since he says he's learning a little too late in life just how priceless a high school diploma can be.
"The economy is bad right now, but it will get better. But education will take you further," says Pabon.
The state will officially release the dropout and graduation rates for District 51 Wednesday.