Fewer teens quitting school in the Tri-Cities

TRI-CITIES, Wash. -- Crowded high schools may be a positive thing this year, because fewer kids are dropping in the Tri-Cities.

"There were days when I was at school and I would lose motivation."

Alfonso Contreres speaks for many of the teens who struggle to enjoy school. Too often, the rough and tumble world of high school is too much, and kids like Contreres end up quitting school altogether.

KEPR asks Contreres, "People refer to you as a dropout... how does that feel?"
"It sucks," he says. "I'm going back to school to prove them wrong."

Contreres isn't the only teen who's discovered the value of education.

In the past year, Kennewick, Richland, and Pasco have all seen fewer students quit school. In fact, Kennewick's dropout rate has been cut in half since 2007.

The success comes as more programs aim to get dropouts like Contreres back into the classroom. Among them is the "Fast Forward" program: a local nonprofit that examines teen's interests and sends them to appropriate spots that will keep them motivated, like vo-tech schools.

"There's all sorts of schools that can help these dropouts but it's not one size fits all," says Jennie Hamilton, Director of Fast Forward.

Since Fast Forward began, more than 200 dropouts have decided to re-enter school, with more than 30 eventually receiving a diploma.

Contreres is on that path. He'll be re-entering high school next month, with the goal of eventually becoming a kindergarten teacher.

"It just sunk into my head that I should be in school," he says.

Fast Forward is paid for by the United Way and based out of the Boys and Girls Club.