Valley Student Gets a Wake-Up Call

July 25, 2008 9:08:12 PM PDT
Just ask one valley student who got his wake-up call last year he was only a few absences away from Juvenile Hall and now he's a model of perfect attendance.Xavier Zinzun admits that a year ago ... He put very little effort in school.

Xavier Zinzun, Student: "I didn't focus on doing no work in class ... I just focused on going outside with my friends.

His mom Linda says getting him to go to class every morning was a struggle.

Linda Gomez: "I tried to get him up but you can't sit there and grab him and drag him."

Teachers at Rio Vista Middle School in Fresno took notice.

Mittie Hinman-Garcia, Teacher: "I worried when I didn't see him because I knew he cared about his work. But not being there for the instructions and the assignments, he'd get behind."

Last semester school officials at Central Unified began paying surprise visits at home to chronically truant students.

Tim Swain, Rio Vista Principal: "We want our students to come to school. They learn they get involved, they become well rounded students and that is our overall goal."

Xavier's case was more serious he became part of the districts Truancy Intervention Program.

After the very first unexcused absence a school counselor calls home to find out why the student was not in class. If the absences continue, the vice principal contacts the family then comes a meeting between the student, vice-principal and the parent where consequences are discussed, from probation up to juvenile hall.

Finally, the child and parents face a review board, that includes a probation officer and an assistant district attorney more serious penalties are discussed which include fines and even jail time for the parents.

That meeting was Xavier's wake-up call.

Xavier: "I changed alot, I improved my grades ... I got to know my teachers better."

Xavier had missed 40 days of class in 7th grade and 25 days the first semester of 8th grade after the meeting he had perfect attendance 6 months in a row.

Mother: "There was a couple of days that I missed to alarm clock I got up to his room and he was gone."

His GPA shot up from 1.6 to 2.9 just below A B average.

Mittie Hinman-Garcia: "I noticed an improvement almost immediately because he's a very good student."

Xavier says he just didn't want to end up in a gang.

Xavier: "Yeah, I just don't want to be like the rest of my family. I want to go to Fresno State."

236 Central Unified students and their parents met before a review board last year.

The district says Xavier is one of many success stories.

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