Updated: Tuesday, 22 Jan 2013, 8:43 PM EST
Published : Tuesday, 22 Jan 2013, 8:43 PM EST
NEW HAVEN, Conn. (WTNH) -- Progress is being made, but there's still a lot of hard work to be done. That's the bottom line from school officials in New Haven who say more and more high school students are leaving with diplomas in hand.
Surrounded by Wilbur Cross high seniors, Mayor John DeStefano was eager to talk up the district's academic improvements.
"Over the last three years we've seen a change in the graduation rate, going from 58 percent graduating to just over 70 percent," said Mayor DeStefano.
They are kids like Kareem Gentils, the oldest of four children who is heading to college this fall.
"Everything is in place at Wilbur Cross helps me to do that such as AP programs and the honors programs alike," said Gentils.
According to the city almost every high school has seen an increase in its graduation rate over the past year including 8 percent improvements at both Cross and Co-Op.
Administrators say educating students goes way beyond the classroom.
"We've tried to collectively involve parents, we've tried to promote and help parents understand the importance of supporting and pushing and motivating studetns at home," said Wilbur Cross Principal Peggy Moore.
The establishement of New Haven Promise, a program that helps motivated students pay for college if they attend an in-state school is also a factor.
Now in its third year 220 students Elm City Promise kids are studying 17 local colleges and universities.
"Our students get it, they get that they need money to go to college and they're very passionate about what they can do with it," said Patricia Melton of New Haven Promise.
Shea Connors is well aware of the Promise program and its benefits. She's a straight A student who has a twin sister, which means paying college tuition will be an issue for her family.
"Having the opportunity to receive money since I will have the one hundred percent will be a really good opportunity," said Connors.