Mayor Jonathan Rothschild, left, Superintendent Manuel Isquierdo, at lectern, and school board member Louie Gonzales provide details.


Tucson Mayor Jonathan Roths- child is teaming up with the Sunnyside Unified School District to recruit dropouts into a program to get their high school diplomas.

Rothschild and Sunnyside Superintendent Manuel L. Isquierdo on Thursday announced GradLink, an online graduation program that aims to enroll 100 recent Tucson-area dropouts into online classes.

GradLink meets a goal of the Mayor's Education Task Force, which is to improve high school graduation rates, said Rothschild at a news conference at his office.

"A high school diploma is a necessity in today's job market, Rothschild said. "Without one, it's hard to get hired at a job that can support a family. The bottom line is that the way out of poverty is through education."

He and Isquierdo, who sits on the Mayor's Education Task Force, said they will work with other school districts to recruit youths for the program.

Isquierdo said GradLink has the support of the Pima County Superintendents Collaborative.

GradLink, which is open to students living in surrounding school districts, is based at Sunnyside's alternative high school campus, STAR Academic Center at 5093 S. Liberty Ave.

The district hopes to graduate GradLink students by this summer, Isquierdo said.

Isquierdo said eligible students must have:

• Dropped out of high school within the last two years.

• Be ages 17 to 21.

• Need up to five credits to graduate.

• Passed at least two portions of the AIMS exam.

The program would provide students with a free, loaner laptop computer, and students would take their classes online at their own pace, Isquierdo said.

Students would have online access to curriculum, teachers and staff, or could learn online in a classroom setting, Isquierdo said.

He also said GradLink could also help undocumented youths who qualify for the federal government's Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program.

Isquierdo said there are no startup costs associated with GradLink because the district is refurbishing computers it has for the students; it has teachers and staffers who can handle the additional students; and a company called FlipSwitch is offering the Internet service at no cost.

FlipSwitch is a service that assists schools in creating and managing online learning programs.

If the district enrolls the 100 part-time students this spring, it would receive about $3,000 in funding per student from the state, Isquierdo said.

For more information about enrolling in GradLink, call 261-4723 or go online to

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Contact reporter Carmen Duarte at 573-4104 or