Central Unified School Districts Project 720

January 29, 2013 1:08:40 PM PST
At the beginning of the school year the Central Unified School District started a unique mentor program to keep nearly forty students from slipping through the cracks and dropping out of school. With the school year coming to an end, we wanted to go back to the district to find out if the program worked.

Phil Rusconi and Kris Estrada may seem like an unlikely pair of friends.

Kris Estrada said, "We got our trust by talking about sports and he's always talking about school."

Phil Rusconi said, "I'm very proud of him."

Rusconi is Estrada's mentor. The two met through the 720 Program designed to help Central Unified's at risk students stay on track to graduate.

"Project 720 changed my life," said Estrada.

As a freshman, Estrada had poor grades and never told his teachers about problems with his vision.

"In the beginning of the year I sat in the back of the classroom and the side and I had trouble seeing the projector and overhead," said Estrada.

He says having the extra support and encouragement has been enough to motivate him to improve his grades. They both say communication has been the key.

"We do talk. He does tell me exactly what is bothering him, what his needs are," said Rusconi.

Central High School West Vice Principal Jack Kelejian says 720 students typically have attendance or behavior problems, or high CST scores with low GPA's. He says all of those areas have seen significant improvement since the program began in January.

"When students are connected to school more than just academically their achievement scores go up," said Kelejian.

Now Estrada's grades are good enough to get him back into athletics.

"Play soccer for school ... and probably go to college," said Estrada.

His mentor plans to be there every step of the way.

"I want to be around when he graduates. That's my goal to see him graduate, and I know he can do it," said Rusconi.

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