In one Saturday morning, you can help a young person make the most important decision of his or her life:
to graduate from high school.


One in six students drop out of high school.

That one decision can have compounding effects, including fewer opportunities for employment and higher rates of incarceration.

At United Way of Central Iowa, our annual Graduation Walk encourages students teetering on the edge to recommit to school. And we need your help again this year.

This year, Graduation Walk was held in October, allowing us to use real-time data to visit middle and high school students who have missed at least five days in the first month of school.

Students miss school for many complicated reasons, including:

  • Chronic health conditions
  • Housing instability
  • Transportation challenges
  • Mental health problems
  • Taking care of younger siblings
  • Part- or full-time employment

Research shows that poor attendance in the first month can predict chronic absence for the entire year. This early intervention will help United Way and Des Moines Public Schools support students toward improved attendance, so they can thrive academically.

Graduation Walk volunteers embark as a team a team, including a Des Moines Public Schools staff member, and visit the homes of middle and high school students with poor attendance. You’ll connect personally with the student and their family, collect information on their challenges, explain the community support systems available, and  and encourage them keep going to graduation.

When students attend today, they achieve tomorrow. We hope you'll share your wisdom and life experience with a young person who could benefit from a caring adult reaching out.

Want to learn more about chronic absenteeism? Check out our blog
5 Myths About Missing School.

During registration, you will select which middle or high school you would like to volunteer with:

  • Callanan Middle School
  • East High School
  • Hiatt Middle School
  • Hoover High School
  • Lincoln High School
  • North High School
  • Roosevelt High School
  • Scavo School
  •  Weeks Middle School

Everyone Deserves a Chance to Graduate

What can I expect as a volunteer?


Did you know?

High school dropouts are 3x more likely to be unemployed than college graduates. Source: Educational Testing Services Research and Development, 2012


By sixth grade, chronic absence becomes a leading indicator that a student will drop out of high school. Source: Baltimore Education Research Consortium, 2011


Poor attendance in the first month of school can predict chronic absence for the entire year. Half the students who miss 2-4 days in September go on to miss nearly a month of school. Source: Baltimore Education Research Consortium, 2014

An Iowa high school graduate, throughout their lifetime, earns an average of $700,000
more than a high school dropout. Source: National Center for Education Statistics


73% of all U.S. jobs are in occupations that typically require a high school diploma for entry. 
Source:  U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Occupational Employment Statistics, 2013


32% of high school dropouts between the ages of 16 and 24 are unemployed. Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, 2017

Why middle school?

It is important to connect with middle school students early before they solidify bad habits that could lead to dropping out. By sixth grade, absenteeism is one of three signs that a student may drop out of high school. Missing just 10 percent—about 18 days—of the school year can drastically affect a student’s academic success.


Sponsored by:


Over six years, Graduation Walk volunteers have visited over 9,046 homes,
making over
2,800 connections that can impact the educational and life success of these students.