TUCSON - Scores of Tucsonarea high school students will be paid up to $25 a week to attend classes by a nonprofit group hoping to cut dropout rates.
The 175 students from Rincon and Amphitheater high schools were randomly chosen to participate in the pilot program funded by retired New York civil rights lawyer Lou Barsky, who moved to Tucson in 1990.
The program, called the “First Job Project,” is designed to help children from poor families remain in school, Barsky said. The nonprofit he founded and funded, Youth Education Security, chose students who live in low-income areas to join the program. Barsky has committed $1 million of his family’s money to the effort.
“A student who might have had to choose a job over going to school might now be given the hope to stay in school because of this program,” he said. “I’m not trying to say $25 is $1 million, but that’s not what is important. What’s important is the hope we’re giving to students who are living in poverty.”
No funds will come from the Tucson Unified School District or Amphitheater Public Schools to support the program.
The first group of students are 100 Rincon juniors and 75 juniors from Amphitheater, said Roger Pfeuffer, superintendent with the Tucson district. The students will continue to be paid when they move into their senior year and another group of juniors will then be selected.
In addition to the weekly stipend, students who maintain at least a 3.0 GPA and have perfect attendance will get a $100 bonus, Barsky said. The stipend will decrease for unexcused absences, suspensions or failing classes, he said.
The students will remain anonymous, even to their teachers. They will be set up with checking accounts at Wells Fargo Bank, where their stipends will be deposited biweekly, like a paycheck from a job. Maintaining the accounts will be part of the program, and “financial literacy” will help the students become more responsible with money, said Sean P. Murray, assistant vice president of Wells Fargo’s Tucson Business Banking, told the Tucson Citizen newspaper.
The state’s top school official said he supports the effort.
“It’s always heartening to have philanthropists help us and our kids out, especially because we can’t always get everything we need from the Legislature,” Tom Horne, the state schools superintendent, told the Arizona Daily Star.