A partnership intended to help every member of the class of 2020 graduate from high school launched today with an assembly of the students, now in fifth grade, at Central Medford High School.

A partnership intended to help every member of the class of 2020 graduate from high school launched today with an assembly of the students, now in fifth grade, at Central Medford High School.

The BIG IDEA is a partnership between United Way of Jackson County, Medford 549C School District and Evergreen Elementary in Cave Junction that strives to create 100 percent high school completion for the class of 2020

These 1,053 students, gathered from 17 separate elementary schools from Cave Junction to Shady Cove to Jacksonville, will receive help with basic needs and specific wishes, which range from caring for their medical and dental needs to supplying them clothing to YMCA memberships to one-on-one mentoring, said Julie Hill, principal of Ruch Elementary School.

"We can teach them reading and math. But this is the step that really counts," Hill said.

The students streamed out of the old high school gymnasium, blinking in the sun, their ears ringing with the poems, songs and words of inspiration from their fellow classmates.

They carried green bags filled with coupons and gifts as they grabbed a slice of pizza and an gathered for a mini-concert on the athletic field from local actor/musician and Southern Oregon University student Tanner Richie.

Today is the first time all of these young people gather together. It will not be the last, Hill said.

— Sanne Specht