PORTLAND – The success of the school district’s first Amnesty Day for dropouts has school officials planning to make it a yearly event.

Sixteen people turned out for the first Amnesty Day, held May 22 at the Portland Boys & Girls Club on Cumberland Avenue.

“We weren’t sure anyone would show up, so we’re really pleased with the turnout,” said Beth Arsenault, alternative education director at Portland High School. “We will definitely do it again next year. I think it will become an annual event.”

Portland’s school completion task force organized the gathering to provide a more welcoming forum for students who were ready to return to school but needed a little encouragement.

The task force is planning several events, including a community summit in the fall, in an effort to push Portland’s school completion rate above 75 percent.

The task force chose a familiar but non-school environment so the event would be less intimidating for students who had negative school experiences, Arsenault said.

The three-hour event was designed to demonstrate that teachers and others care about students who leave school and really want them back in class, Arsenault said.

The task force sent personal invitations to 32 students who left school recently, some of them handwritten by the students’ former teachers. Notices advertising the event were posted around the city, telling people “It’s never too late” to return to school.

More than 20 teachers, administrators, social workers and others volunteered at the event, meeting with former students who wanted to know how they could return to high school or get their General Educational Development diploma.

The school district served lunch and gave away door prizes that had been donated by a wide variety of businesses.

Among the former students who attended the event, two have enrolled in summer school and are on track to return to one of the city’s three high schools in the fall, Arsenault said.

Nine others signed up to pursue their GEDs through Portland Adult Education.

One family attended the event together, including a mother in her 40s, a daughter in her 20s and the daughter’s boyfriend.

“That was really nice to see,” Arsenault said. “I think we can fine-tune a few things and bring in even more people next year.” 

Staff Writer Kelley Bouchard can be contacted at 791-6328 or at:

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