George Lucas Educational Foundation

Mentors Improve Graduation in Las Vegas

In a place where dropouts earn $50,000 per year parking cars, Clark County, Nevada, schools keep students on the diploma track.
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Narrator: Thanks to gaming and affordable housing, Las Vegas is still booming. But good news in the job market is bad news for the district's high-school dropout rate, one of the highest in the country.

Carlos: Las Vegas is different than anywhere I've ever been, because think about it, if you drop out of school here, people have jobs. And just think, you can earn between 40 to 80 thousand dollars parking cars here.

Okay, have a good night.

Carlos: So, you know, it's a very unique situation.

Narrator: To combat the high-school dropout problem, the district has organized an extensive network of community volunteers.

Man: What are they doing?

They're camping.

Man: They're camping.

Carlos: Everybody thinks that we're just this Disneyland that people come to and leave. No, we have over one-and-a-half million people in the Valley here. The community really is involved in the schools. The top CEOs come in and read to kids in our school district, mentor kids, and be good role models so that our kids feel that they're valued in our community.

Now, who helps you with your homework at home?

My calculator.

Your calculator. But does Mother help you?

Thomas: The more smart kids we have, the better our future will be. The more kids that are able to take care of themselves and provide for themselves, the better we're going to be. So I said, "Anyone who does not have a kid in the school, share. Just share what you have."

Narrator: While most dropouts occur in high school, the trouble usually begins in middle school, so the district's Stay in School Mentoring Project targets seventh-graders, like Chaniece.

Chaniece: We just talk about grades and stuff like that, how I'm feeling some days, and what I've been doing over the weekends and stuff like that.

Woman: So what else are you guys going to do after the concert?

Narrator: Volunteers like Mary Mitchell are trained by the district and committed to visiting their mentees at school once a week.

Mary: They may not even have a problem. They just need someone to just listen to them talk, you know, and actually hearing what they're saying.

Michael: What we tell the mentors is to do something with the student that you both enjoy doing, something that will facilitate conversation so that the mentor would have the opportunity to get a little better understanding of what might be going wrong with that child.

Chaniece: A or B?

Mary: Let's go with A.

Chaniece: Okay.

Mary: I got involved because I love kids, having children of my own, and it's just a joy. I do it for the pleasure of it. She loves music, and I think she's going to go far with it, but she says she wants to be an attorney. And I think whatever Chaniece sets her mind to do, I think she'll do it, you know, because she's very determined.

Chaniece: On the instrument, this is what you call a scroll.

Man: If I asked you, "What is 13 times 5," can you tell me?

Carlos: The good news is the other day the headline said that we've decreased our dropout rate, and we're really excited about the fact that the community has rallied to say, "You know, the most important thing are our children."

Man: 10 plus one more.

Boy: Is 11.

Man: Exactly. So we're going to write 11 down.

Narrator: For more information on what works in public education, go to

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Video Credits

Produced, Written, and Directed by

  • Ken Ellis

Associate Producers:

  • Roberta Furger
  • Miwa Yokoyama


  • Karen Sutherland

Camera Crew:

  • Rob Weller
  • Jeremy Settles


  • Kris Welch

Original Music:

  • Ed Bogas

Additional Footage Courtesy of

  • The KLVX Communications Group
  • Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority
Editor's note: Carlos Garcia moved on from the Clark County School District in 2005 to become superintendent of the San Francisco Unified School District. He is now retired.

Learn more about Clark County's Stay in School Mentoring Project.

View all our videos about Las Vegas:

Betting on Change: Growing Pains in Nevada's Boomtown
Las Vegas's booming economy challenges the area's schools.

Mentors Improve Graduation in Las Vegas
In a place where dropouts earn $50,000 per year parking cars, Clark County, Nevada, schools keep students on the diploma track.

Late-Night Learning: Alternative Scheduling for the School Day
This unique school caters to students with full-time day jobs.

A Community Collaborates in Education
C.P. Squires Elementary School harnesses parents, businesspeople, and retirees for academic and financial support and staff after-school programs.

Simulating Environments: Real-Life Replicas Engage Students A rain forest dome and a mock-up of a silver mine enhance science learning in Clark County, Nevada.

Comments (2) Sign in or register to comment Follow Subscribe to comments via RSS

Anonymous's picture
Anonymous (not verified)

Its astonishing to learn of this fact, that in Las Vegas, without an education you can very quickly get a job that earns vast amounts of money which requires no higher thinking or understanding and no real vocational value.
I commend what this school and district are doing to combat this phenomenon and hope that politicians and other educators look up and take note that schools/education are not simply designed to create workers for the job market. It would appear that, especially in Las Vegas, they do not require an education to get a high paying, but low status job. If this continues and the concept that education is purely for jobs remains unchallenged, what would be the use of education at all?

HiFIKIDS's picture
HiFiKIDS Corporation

This is an interesting fact about Las vegas. Similar thinking is seen in amny parts of the world where kids before graduating jump into job as they want to earn money than earning degrees. In many countries due to poorty or because families cannot afford for the education kids are forced to do the job and leave the education. We at thoughtfully designed a system where kids can generate their passion by submitting their interested educational topics and develop their own passion even if kids are working or earling money while they learn in our system. is an another revolutionary way of motivating kids for studies or anything of their interests. We encourage kids to come up and present their topic of interests in front of the video camera by asking one single question at the end of their presentation with multiple choice answers (Remember "Who wants to be a millionaire" or "Who is smarter then 5th grader?" format but here kids act like an anchor of the's "WHo wants to be hifikids scholar?" program) and then upload the video presentation in our Virtual School. It comes for the approval to check if the contents are appropriate for that age and submitted parameters are appropriate. Once approved by the approver it then gets published for the similar age kids who are living around that place so that neighborhood kids can understand their language ascent very well. So the number of questions kids submit and the number questions kids answer correctly which is submitted by another same age kids are totalled which generates passion graph. In this public level program, we encourage kids to come up with the topics they love or they know the most or they enjoy the most and can comfortably present in front of the camera. This is how our passion graph accurately shows their growing passion and by doing this over the period will help teachers /parents to know their real interests or genuine skills. We are doing some small pilot programs in some schools in India and results are very positive. It is indeed motiviating kids and they are coming up with new new topics on their own. Some kids are very interested in poems, or some in maths or some in science experiments or some in history or some in geography. Some also presents sport activities. When they watch other's videos they get motivated and compete with each other to present more and more videos.
We also have a plan to expand this concept to make a full virtual school for the kids across the globe. Please check this video:
HiFiKIDS Admin

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