Fifth-year seniors are common in college, but now Washoe County School District is encouraging it for some high school students.
More than 30 percent of Washoe County seniors aren't graduating, so district administrators are urging them to stick around for another year. Nevada law provides funding for certain students up until age 21, so there is no reason why high school seniors couldn't go back to finish in a fifth year other than the stigma related to being a repeat senior.
"In today's world, some of our children just need more time," WCSD Superintendent Pedro Martinez said.
Martinez thinks it's time to break the mold for high school education. He said the four year system doesn't always work for everyone, like Jaime Mira, who struggled with adversity inside and outside of school.
"I didn't want to be like that, kids like me are the norm," Mira said, "where you get kicked out of school, and you just don't get your diploma. "I didn't want to be that. I wanted to get my diploma, show that people like me can do it."
Mira is back for his fifth year, to finish up his credits at Washoe Inspire Academy, where he said he has found the support to keep going in school.
"I feel great," Mira said. "I have positive support. These people help me a lot, and it gives me the courage to do what I have to do."
Unfortunately, Mira's attitude is fairly uncommon among students who don't finish in four years. Many drop out to help their families earn money, thinking that they will just start their lives without a high school diploma.
"Frankly, those jobs are not out there," Martinez said, "and so, even if you leave us to go to work, you're not going to make a lot of money."
Martinez said the best thing they can do is stay in school, even if it means a fifth year. And the best thing Washoe County can do is make that process easier.
"If we don't bring them in and help them catch up, we're saying, 'You don't have a chance to rectify any mistakes or any outside influences that may have affected your performance,'" Washoe Inspire Academy Administrator Taylor Harper said.
Mira said once he gets his diploma, he might consider working in a field that will allow him to help others like himself. Martinez said WCSD is always looking for community mentors.
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