Dubuque dropout re-engagement program marks one year, successes - KWWL - Eastern Iowa Breaking News, Weather, Closings

Dubuque's dropout re-engagement program marks one year and big successes

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Recent high school dropouts in Dubuque, beware. There's a program that wants to get you back on the track to success, and two men have made it their personal mission to see that happen.

Tom Kershner is Dubuque's first-ever re-engagement coach. His job is to track down the district's high school dropouts and get them back on the track to their diploma or GED. However, he does more than just help with school work.

"Hanging out with them and bringing them over here," Kershner listed, sitting in the learning center at Northeast Iowa Community College's Dubuque center, "getting their Social Security card, getting their driver's license, helping them apply for a job so they can start feeling good about themselves and get some cash going."

Dubuque's Re-Engagement Center is a partnership between the Dubuque Community School District, Northeast Iowa Community College and Project Hope.

The program launched one year ago with the goal of re-engaging 25 percent of dropouts.

Kershner far exceeded that goal.

"We're at 85 percent re-engaged," he said.

The program has been so successful, the district hired a second re-engagement coach, Temwa Phiri, a recent graduate of the University of Dubuque.

"We've helped a lot of students that are pregnant or they dropped out because of drugs or different friends or anything else like that, but with that, we found a solution," Phiri said.

20-year-old Gage Imhoff was at NICC's learning center in Dubuque Wednesday, taking a pre-GED test. He dropped out of high school his senior year, but Kershner found him and got him back on track.

"It pretty much saved me," Imhoff said, of the Re-Engagement Center. "Without this program, I wouldn't be getting into the military. I wouldn't be able to pursue any career that I actually want to pursue. I'd be stuck as a drop-out without any credit or recognition."

In its one year of existence, the center contacted 123 dropouts and managed to re-engage 105 of them, or 85 percent, meaning those students are doing the work necessary to obtain their high school diploma or GED. Of those 105 students, 33 have received their GED and 16, their high school diploma.

"I'm glad this is here. I'm really glad I got the opportunity to get myself back on track," Imhoff said.

As Kershner and Phiri say, failure is not an option. These men want to change students' lives - for good.

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