The headline in the July 17 issue of the Hesperia exclaimed, "Hesperia has fewer dropouts than county, state averages." At first, readers may think that's cause for celebration. After all, not only was Hesperia's dropout rate better than the county's, but the HUSD also beat out Victor Union and Apple Valley schools.


But lower is relative, especially here. While ours is lower than the 29.9 percent county dropout rate, HUSD's 22.1 percent rate certainly is nothing to get excited about.


To put it into perspective, more than one out of every five high school-aged teens walking down Main Street likely is a high school dropout. Altogether, 389 Hesperia students dropped out in the 2006-07 school year. That's nothing to be proud of. That's a cause for concern.


But who is to blame? For some, the knee-jerk reaction would be to blame the school board. Certainly the school board has the power to make key decisions that affect our students and their future. But they shouldn't shoulder the blame here, at least not all of it.


There are many reasons a teen drops out of school. Many teens say school isn't interesting. Others have fallen behind in their classes. Some leave school to get a job to help support their families or take care of a relative. Some teens leave school due to a pregnancy.


But whatever the reason, it's imperative that all students be encouraged to stay in school. And the persons with the biggest influence are students' parents.


Parents need to do whatever they can to help their students with their studies. For many of us - and certainly this is made more difficult for those whose primary language is not English - helping our children with homework is a difficult task. Subjects like math or science seem especially foreign to many adults who last cracked open a text book decades ago.


But merely expressing interest and just being there covers a multitude of academic shortcomings a parent may have. While your student studies, how about reading a book? At least you're sharing the studying experience with your child.


Many otherwise intelligent students need tutors. Find one. If your family can't afford to pay for one perhaps you could find a tutor who would be willing to trade. How about offering to wash the tutor's car?


There's just too much at stake. One study says that a person who earns a bachelor's degree will make an average yearly salary of $51,554 compared to $28,645 for one with a high school diploma. But a high school dropout earns just $19,169. That doesn't pay for many tanks of gas nowadays.


Let's all work together to help keep Hesperia students in school and on track for college or a well-paying vocation or trade. Next year let's get our dropout rate below 20 percent. While that won't be reason to stand up and cheer, it will be the start of a trend we can all start smiling about.