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TUSD extends contract with UA program, offering mentorship to Native middle and high school students

The Tucson Unified School District is extending and expanding a mentorship program meant to increase graduation rates and college enrollment among Native students.

The program connects high schoolers with students at the University of Arizona.

At a meeting of the district's governing board, members approved a new five-year agreement with UA’s Native SOAR (Student Outreach, Access and Resiliency) program. 

Felisia Tagaban Gaskin directs the program at UA. She said it’s a course that undergraduate students enroll in where they’re partnered with Native middle and high school students.

“What we’re trying to do is reach Native students through the support of other Native students and hopefully it also helps the students to be encouraged that they can actually pursue postsecondary education as well," she said.

The program is funded in multiple ways through state grants and annual funding from UA’s Office of the Provost.

“Our hope is really to bring in more K-12 students to experience what it’s like to be a college student, not just at the university, but also just experience what it’s like to go to college and really pursue their dreams beyond high school graduation," Tagaban Gaskin said. 

Senior field correspondent Bridget Dowd has a bachelor’s degree from Arizona State University’s Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication.