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Maier a 'Pledge to Graduate' winner

Lake Middle School student Jeff Maiers (center) is pictured with his parents Rachel and Corey Maiers and (from left) Assistant Washington County Attorney Betsey Urbas, Lee Behrens of Sam’s Club, Woodbury police Sgt. Omar Maklad, Washington County Attorney Pete Orput, First Assistant Washington County Attorney Brent Wartner and juvenile division chief Tony Zdroik of the county attorney’s office. Submitted photo

Washington County Attorney Pete Orput recently announced the 2017 winners of an annual "Pledge to Graduate" program designed to reward students who commit to graduate from high school.

Jeff Maiers of Woodbury, a Lake Middle School student, won an iPad from Sam's Club, a contest sponsor.

A second program award winner was Shayla Stewart of Oakdale, who attends North High School. She won an ID necklace from Jostens.

The Washington County Attorney's Office has placed a high priority on school attendance, education and graduation for all students living in the County. Washington County has a three-level truancy program that involves addressing poor school attendance. Assistant County Attorney Betsey Urbas runs the program, along with staff from Washington County Community Services. Both agencies work in partnership with school officials from eight school districts serving Washington County students.

When a child has 3-5 days of unexcused absences from school, they are referred to the county attorney's Office. The students and their parents are sent a letter urging them to attend an Attendance Intervention Meeting where they hear from the county attorney the importance of school attendance and obtaining a high school diploma. During the 2015-2016 school year, 506 invitations were sent to students along with their parents to attend the meetings.

Students who continue to be truant from school are then asked to meet with school and county officials to develop a diversion contract, which is designed to address the specific reasons for absences, provide services and avoid the court process. If these additional efforts are unsuccessful, the student and their parents are petitioned to court.

"We know that if we don't educate our children, we will end up incarcerating them down the road," Orput said in a statement. "Seventy-one percent of our inmates in Minnesota have dropped out of high school. If we can make a difference in just one student's life and convince them to graduate from high school, our efforts will be worth it."

This was the fifth year the Washington County Attorney's Office partnered with Sam's Club and Jostens on the program.

Scott Wente

Scott Wente has been editor at the South Washington County Bulletin since 2011. He worked as a reporter at other Forum Communications newspapers from 2003 to 2011.

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