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Leaders Worry About State Funding For School Mentoring Group

By Marianne Martinez, CBS 11 News
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Students interact with their teacher during class. (credit: John MacDougall/AFP/Getty Images)

Students interact with their teacher during class. (credit: John MacDougall/AFP/Getty Images)

DALLAS (CBS 11 NEWS) - Texas ranks 43rd in the nation when it comes to high school graduation rates.  Only 61 percent of students earned their diplomas in 2009.

One organization has found a way to improve that statistic, but there’s concern state funding may decrease because of the budget crisis.

Communities in Schools is a nationwide organization.  The Dallas Region works with about 12,000 students in ten school districts across North Texas.

Daniel Alvarez is one of their success stories.  He is a senior at Bryan Adams High School in the Dallas Independent School District.  Last year, he didn’t think he would graduate.

“I had a feeling, you know, school is just not for me. I’d rather just go do something else,” he said.

Daniel often misbehaved in class and had so many truancies that he ended up in court.  A judge ordered him to get involved with CIS.

“All of a sudden, it was an overnight thing,” Daniel said.  “I figured that to get somewhere you need school.”

CIS provides one-on-one mentoring and tutoring to at-risk students.  The case workers even make home visits to find out exactly what a student needs to be successful.

“They’re here for support, like a backbone,” Daniel said.

The result: CIS’ graduation rate is 86 percent.  The organization spends about $500 per student, per year.

“What a deal,” said Sandy Chavarria, the CEO and President of CIS Dallas Region. “Because those are the kids, a high percentage, will end up on the social welfare rolls. They will end up in prison. They will end up in the streets committing crimes in our neighborhoods.”

About $1.5 million of CIS’ $6 million budget comes from state funds.

“In a worst-case scenario, we are looking at a significant cut, perhaps 50 percent,” said Chavarria, who is lobbying legislators to keep funding the program.

As for Daniel, he hopes CIS will continue to help students like him.  He is preparing to graduate in May, and is already taking college courses.  One day, he hopes to open a drug rehabilitation facility in his former neighborhood, Pleasant Grove.

“I want to go more into school and help people out like me,” he said.

Click here to explore our interactive map showing the expected funding cuts for every school district in DFW.

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