By Robbie Owens

DALLAS (CBSDFW.COM) – It’s crunch time for seniors in Dallas ISD. Too many are in danger of not graduating — and it’s not all academic.

“Even if you’re passing and you don’t have the attendance, you will miss the credit,” said Lincoln High School principal Johnna Weaver. “So, we were dealing with two things: the attendance piece, and the grading piece.”

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The situation has led to an all-out push to get as many students as possible back on campus to finish the fourth quarter. It’s called, appropriately enough, “Finish Strong.”

“At first, I was like, ‘oh I wish I had online school… I could stay home, wear what I want to wear,'” said Lincoln High senior Falesha Green. “I got it and was like this is not what it’s cracked up to be!”

Green is ranked number two in her graduating class — and says returning to campus has still made a big difference.

“For once, it didn’t feel like I was by myself struggling,” said Green, who is also a part of the collegiate program, earning an associate’s degree along with her high school diploma, “so I really appreciated that.”

Along with the teenage wisdom, there’s the influence of her powerhouse principal.

“We are competing with where they are now,” said  Weaver. “I have to make them understand where I want them to be later.”

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Weaver says Dallas ISD Supt. Michael Hinojosa has encouraged campus leaders to get creative to reclaim distracted seniors. At Lincoln, some 88% of them have opted to learn online… and then there’s COVID-19’s economic impact.

“Many of my students have picked up jobs during Covid, their parents may have lost their jobs… and they got a taste of money. They got a taste of a check with their name on it,” said Weaver. “I don’t put down them having jobs, I just ask them to talk to their manager. ‘I have to be at school… can you schedule me after hours? Can you schedule me on the weekend?'”

Weaver is even drafting students to encourage their classmates to return to campus — and promising a good dose of fun along with the academic support.

“At the end of the day, I have to get them across the stage because that’s the only thing that’s going to help change their lives, or even give them the opportunity to get in the game of life,” said Weaver.

Her campus staff now brimming with excitement over surprises planned for the coming week — tapping community resources to support students, now.

“Gift cards from Nike, Starbucks, McDonalds, Champs, Target… a plethora of places,” said Weaver with a huge smile. “We’ve hit every avenue… so when I say to these kids `come back,’ they’re going have something — because we are going to do things to reward them so they can see that education does pay off.”

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“We just all want to finish strong together,” said Green, “we don’t want to leave anyone behind.”