Superintendent of the Yuma Union High School District Toni Badone says that area high schools have an 85% five year graduation rate, which is significantly higher than the national average. The district also boasts an annual dropout rate of just 2.1 percent. Badone credits these numbers to the hard work of educators, but also says it is important to make it clear to students how valuable a high school diploma is when it comes to starting a professional career. “We want to make sure that the classes in our schools are rigorous and challenging, but with support, and that the professional relationships our students develop with each other and with our teachers help them network and prepare them for success in college or their careers,” she says. Badone also believes giving high schoolers the opportunity to experience college level courses as well as technical education courses helps them make their own decisions about their futures. “We’re less concerned with how quickly students graduate; we’re more concerned with the quality of what they’ve learned, so that when they graduate they can be successful in college and their careers. Our goal is to have every student take a college level course during their time in high school, as well as technical education courses that are in line with their goals.” Badone also says a key to their success is creating an atmosphere where students really want to learn and be in school, and it appears to be working, as the district boasts a 96% student attendance rate.