By Illiana Luna

EDINBURG – Sweat, tennis shoes, packed folders and a proud ECISD polo mean one thing; dedication.

Edinburg CISD has launched Project Gateway 2019, a five-week recruitment drive organized by parental involvement assistants at every Edinburg high school. Their mission began nearly 10 years ago in efforts to recruit non-returning students back into the school district.

“Parental Involvement Assistant staff go out for five weeks door to door looking for students who have not come back,” said Sandra Rodriguez, coordinator for parental involvement. “The students are sometimes leavers, dropouts and migrant students.”

ECISD’s starting number was 1,182 combined from all middle schools and high schools. The parental involvement staff has recovered 820 of those students since school started.

The staff is currently pending verification on 365 possible non-returning students for enrollment.

“A lot of the times it is the basic needs that keep them from coming to school such as clothing or school supplies,” Rodriguez said. “Other times they're teen parents or they work and need the money.”

The involvement staff sees visiting neighborhoods as the most effective way to reach at-risk students.

“Making that contact, showing that we care for these students encourages them to go back to school,” she said.

However, door-to-door recruitment can be difficult for staff due to long hours in the heat, dirt roads in the colonias, or even the possibility of being chased by stray animals.

The fifth week ends Sept. 27 but ECISD counselors, visiting teachers and social workers continue to follow the recruited students. The staff provides assistance and educational help so students can graduate.