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400 S'side fifth graders to be adopted this fall

Students' parents asked

to attend June 17 meeting

Adoption proceedings are in the works for approximately 400 Sunnyside youngsters who will be in the fifth grade at Chief Kamiakin Elementary School this fall.

No, the parents of these 400 or so youths aren't farming their sons and daughters out to new families. Rather, it will be more of a "joint custody" type arrangement.

The Sunnyside's Promise group has decided to "adopt" the 10 and 11-year-olds to ensure they all are given access to the organization's five promises. Those promises are intended to help reduce risk factors and support the youngsters as they work toward graduating from high school.

The parents of all the kids who will be fifth graders at Chief Kamiakin this fall are being asked to attend a meeting this Thursday, June 17, to help address what needs to be done to keep their children in school and prospering. The open house meeting will be held from 7 to 8:30 p.m. at the Sunnyside Community Center, at South Hill Park. The administrative assistant of Sunnyside's Promise, Lisa Fairbairn, said child care services will be provided that evening. Free food and prizes are also being offered to those who attend.

Sunnyside's Promise is a grassroots coalition of individuals, business people, educators and representatives of social service and faith-based organizations. The group has adopted an initiative to bring the five promises to Sunnyside's young people.

Fairbairn said the goal is to remedy the high dropout rate and disturbing trends toward tobacco, alcohol and drug use.

"It's a fact," said Fairbairn, "that 25 percent of our students in Sunnyside will not graduate from high school."

That means of the 400 or so youths who will be sitting in fifth grade classrooms at Chief Kamiakin Elementary School this fall, 100 of them will not finish school before graduating.

Fairbairn said the Sunnyside's Promise group is committed to working with parents to change that statistic.

Part of the problem, said Fairbairn, is that the rate of alcohol, tobacco and drug use in this area of the state is higher than in other regions.

She said at the urging of Sunnyside Police Chief Ed Radder, who chairs Sunnyside's Promise, the group will adopt the 400 or so fifth graders. Plans are to work intensively with the youngsters throughout their next eight years of school to give them every chance to graduate with the SHS class of 2012.

Fairbairn pointed out that based on surveys and research, it has been determined that the fifth grade is the best time to implement positive youth development strategies. She said every year the class of 2012 will receive special age-appropriate prevention and educational services.

The Sunnyside group is asking that the parents of these youngsters become part of the solution, and attend Thursday's meeting to help develop strategies that will ensure all 400 fifth graders graduate from high school.

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