Back in 2010, Canadian County reported three of their high schools had dropout rates higher than the state average. The highest dropout rate was Union City at 14.8 percent. Fast forward to today, and numbers have significantly decreased. Union City High reported a zero percent dropout rate in the 2015-2016 school year, and trends continue throughout the county.
The sheriff’s department, along with the Children’s Justice Center and local schools are working together to crack down on truancy. Six officers have been assigned patrol routes traveling through various districts in the county. Their job is to check on kids who are repeatedly absent from class. Mother’s like Katherine Laverde says this program got her two daughters, ages 10 and 11 back in school. The girls have learn disabilities, faced bullying and were once living in a abusive home.
“God takes certain situations and turns them into miracles,” Laverde says.
Deputies who patrol the neighborhoods say they want these children to reach their potential, and strive for a better life. The program started in 2011, and now has six officers. Looking over the numbers it’s apparent the impact law enforcement has had on students in the county with regard to dropout rates.
“If the kids aren't in school,” Deputy Doug Gerten asks, "what are they out doing? Are they out burglarizing things? Getting into trouble? Some of them stay up all night and play video games. It's trying at times but when you have a positive effect on them, it's worth it.
Because of the support deputies have shown the two Laverde children, Katherine says she’s also going to go back to school. She never graduated from high school.
“When they go through their things,” Laverde says, "I am going to go through my things. We are going to work together as a team. I am going to get enrolled."
Funding for the program comes from a .35 cent sales tax that was passed back in 1996 for the Canadian County Children’s Justice Center. So far, Deputy Gerten estimates they’ve helped hundreds of children.