George Little

Getting creative about attendance

“They’re building relationships, growing as individuals and improving their attendance.”

By building relationships and participating in exciting activities and discussions, Duquesne City Elementary School witnessed a change in their students’ attendance rates. United Way’s Be There initiative helps kids understand the importance of showing up every single day.

“Our partnership with United Way has helped the kids see how important – and fun– it can be to come to school every day,” said George Little, attendance improvement coordinator and truancy administrator at Duquesne City Elementary School. “We are helping the kids build character through mentorship. We’ve seen a lot of success with the Be There Buddy Project.”

Through one-on-one mentoring and discussions, students who are struggling with attendance pair off with staff and faculty in their school for support. At Duquesne City Elementary, the buddies meet with each other twice a month – once over breakfast and once as a group.

The program helps kids connect with adults in the building they might not otherwise ever get to know or learn from. “We have kids paired up with principals, other grade-level teachers, cooks, secretaries and more, so they are learning from a lot of different people,” George explained.

In addition to these bi-monthly gatherings, George plans activities throughout the year for the kids in the program. He hosts two graduation ceremonies – one at mid-year and one at the end of the year – to congratulate the kids who have increased their attendance to 95%. The kids who have reached this goal, along with their buddies and families, get invited back for a fun picnic event in May.

The program has proven successful at Duquesne City Elementary. George Little from Duquesne Elementary has achieved the lowest chronic absence rate in Be There history at a number of 0.04%. This means that almost all of the kids that attend the Buddy program have increased their attendance rate and are no longer chronically absent.

“Attendance is just so important, and I think this program helps the kids first, get excited about coming to school, and second, really understand why they need to be here,” George shared.

To get your school involved with United Way’s Be There program, visit