At Richmond High School, nearly one-third of the seniors didn't graduate with their class last year, but a non-profit group has stepped up to mentor students there, to help make graduation and going to college a reality for many.
Gerardo Mendoza beat the odds. He's a freshman standout on the St. Mary's college soccer team, at a four-year school, something he and his friends at Richmond High never dreamed they could attend. "I think we were all in the same boat. It was about the money, and we were scared of going somewhere where we didn't think we could make it," he recalled.
Gerardo graduated last year from Richmond High where just 71 percent of Hispanic students joined him in 2012. His younger brother Luis is a freshman there. Both boys participated in a non-profit program called "College is Real."
The program is made up of professionals, like Danville's Mark Schratz, who volunteer as mentors to kids at Richmond High, to help keep them on the path toward graduation. "I, as a mentor, am just there as kind of a sounding board, have a relationship, maybe go to lunch once a month just to see how things are going, make sure their grades are good," Schratz told ABC7 News.
According to the California Department of Education, in 2012, 78.5 percent of high school seniors graduated with their class. For Hispanic students, the rate was 73 percent. For African Americans, it was less than 66 percent.
At Richmond High, the graduation rates are considerably lower, but Gerardo Mendoza proved he could do it. And with the help of his devoted mother and his mentor, Luis plans to follow in his brother's footsteps. "I would love to follow in my brother's footsteps because at first, like we didn't think we could make it because we had a big problem in our life, but now we're trying our best to succeed," he said.
California saw a small improvement in graduation rates last year despite still being 49th in the country in per pupil spending. Mentoring programs can certainly help. Click here to learn more about the College is Real program.