DALLAS (CBSDFW.COM) – Dallas ISD leaders are looking to close the book on online learning, at least for seniors.
“We don’t have anyone to wake us up to like get online,” says Lincoln High senior Heaven Jackson, while admitting she missed the structure of in-person learning. “We’re laying in our beds with a computer next to us.”READ MORE: Man Sentenced To Life For Murder Of Sara Hudson, Who Was Found In Burning SUV In Dallas
Across Dallas ISD on Monday, April 12, high schools launched an effort called, “Finish Strong,” encouraging seniors to return to campus for the year’s final quarter.
School leaders say the freedom that accompanies online learning has led to attendance and academic struggles that could get in the way of graduation.
“We do have some that have been successful online,” says Lincoln’s principal Johnna Weaver, “but the majority need a little extra support and that’s why we’re here.”
So, at Lincoln High School, there was a fourth quarter launch party with a purpose, with fun, prizes, and support to help students earn that diploma.
“It’s a game changer,” says Weaver. “We know, just from the statistics, that if our kids don’t get a high school diploma, there’s no way they can make it out. At least if they have that high school diploma, it touches my heart.”
Touching students’ hearts, a balloon release that was more than symbolic. It was an invitation for seniors to recenter, after months of struggling online.READ MORE: Rolling Away -- Texas Motor Speedway President Eddie Gossage Announces Summer Retirement
“It felt like a weight off my shoulders,” says Kelbie Lewis, a senior in Lincoln’s collegiate academy. “I said a quick prayer. I know God heard me.” Lewis, who is on track to earn an associate’s degree along with her high school diploma, says she wrote ‘procrastination’ and ‘lack of self-confidence’ on her balloon. Although managing the academics, she says the isolation was taking a toll.
“Because we are a family,” explains Lewis, “and we need everybody: a body needs all the parts to work, so finishing strong means finishing with everyone.”
Her mother, nurse Debbie Wilson-Lewis agrees, saying with the family now vaccinated against Covid-19, she felt more comfortable allowing her daughter to return to campus.
“That’s where she needed to be,” explains Wilson-Lewis, adding that campus leaders reminded her that although Kelbie was on track, “‘other students might need her help, so send her here’. And I was on board.”
After all, who could say “no” to the always enthusiastic principal, Johnna Weaver.
She’d been collecting donations from community members and local businesses and has amassed several thousand dollars in gift cards to give them to students as rewards in academic games and other incentives.
“I am excited because my prayers were answered,” says Weaver, about the increase in seniors on campus “and at the end of the day it is not about me. It’s about these kids, and if I can’t do for these kids what I’m supposed to, then I shouldn’t be here.”MORE NEWS: Uber Driver Stabbed, Carjacked By Passenger In Grapevine, Police Say
And then quick as a flash, the seriousness of the moment gave way to a bright and happy smile, adding “it’s a great day!!! A wonderful day in sunny South Dallas!”