AUSTIN (KXAN) - It is 8 a.m. on a Thursday and 16-year-old Hannah Hoffman is getting ready for school.
A couple of months ago, the junior at Crockett High school would still be in bed at this hour on a weekday.
"I'd wake up at 8:30 and have to get to school at 9 like almost everyday," says Hannah.
She has never been an early riser. Like clockwork, Hannah says she would walk into class a couple of minutes late.
"Mornings -- they were a nightmare," said Shelly Hoffman, Hannah's mother. "It was us standing at the door going 'let's go, come on' and her going 'OK, OK. I've just got one more hair to straighten or my mascara to put on."
Getting with the program
Hannah never thought much of it until she was called into the school cafeteria before Christmas break and told her tardiness was going to land her in court. The alternative, she was told, was that she must agree to carry a GPS device and check in with a mentor on a regular basis.
"I had straight A's and I was freaking out," said Hannah. "I thought they thought I was a bad kid."
She agreed to enroll in the program run by AIM Truancy Solutions. She now gets a wake-up call at 7:15 a.m. and hits a certain button on the GPS device if she is going to school. Hannah has to hit it two more times before she steps foot in class -- once on her way out the door and again when she gets to school.
With the new routine, Hannah has only been late a couple of times. She says it is not the device that has changed her ways, but rather the mentor she calls once a week who tracks Hannah's progress. The mentor is a college student and Hannah feels like she can relate to her.
"I just feel like I'm letting her down if I'm not on time," said Hannah.
Hannah's mom says the relationship with her daughter has improved.
"It's someone else saying 'why are you doing this?' You now accept responsibility, it's you that has to be there on time, it's you that wants to graduate, you that wants to go to college," said Shelly.
Another student's story
A few miles down the street, at Akins High School, another teenager is also getting a second chance.
"I was hanging out with the wrong people and skipping and not doing what I was supposed to do," said Marisol Castro Soto. "And my grades were falling apart."
The 16-year-old says she would skip class, but stay on campus roaming the halls. Now, the device helps her say no.
"She doesn't have to be the bad guy with her friends, said Bertha Cherry, the Akins High School Dropout Prevention Specialist. "She can just say 'I'm being held accountable,' and that's a reason it's worked for Marisol."
Marisol and Hannah have to stick with the program for the rest of the school year, and then they will be on their own.
Both are confident they will succeed on their own.
"I'm tired of the way I used to be," said Marisol.
Why it matters
They are just two of 820 students participating in the program. Aim Truancy Solutions says they enroll more and more kids each week. It is voluntary and both the student and parent must agree to participate.
The AISD school board approved the contract with the district that allows them to try and help up to 1,000 students at nine different high schools. The select schools have the lowest daily attendance rate in the district.
Since the program launched at the beginning of the school year, Aim Truancy Solutions says attendance on those campuses is up 2 percent.
Average daily attendance for the students participating in the program is up 12 percent.
Before, they were missing an average of 48 days of school a year -- that's more than two months of school. Now, those same students are down to 27 absences a year.
The numbers measure more than just how many classroom seats are full. For every day one student is absent, the school district loses $45 from the state. So a student who misses a week of school costs the district $225. If 50 kids miss a week, the cost tops $10,000.
if the district's attendance rate was 100 percent, it would mean up to $60 million more a year for the district.
But not every story is a success.
Marisol's older brother joined the program at the very same time for skipping class. He could not turn things around and is now heading to court.
Aim Truancy says it works for about 95 percent of students.
Austin ISD is doing their own evaluation of the program. By the end of this school year they will not only know how much it has helped attendance, but they will know if grades and discipline improved.
More than 100 trees covered in lights now shine bright throughout Zilker Park. The Trail of Lights is open for another season.
A 10-year-old was killed while standing outside of a vehicle which lost control during the icy conditions, DPS said.
Travis County non-profit Center for Child Protection will benefit next March from an all day fundraiser at the Circuit of the Americas that will see plenty of donors racing on the track.
Travis County District Attorney Rosemary Lehmberg heads to court this week as a defendant in a civil trial that could oust her from office.
Santa visited Austin early on Sunday, joining hundreds of motorcyclists for their annual Toy Run.
Late Saturday night into early Sunday morning, a light band of freezing drizzle traversed the I-35 corridor eastward. With sub-freezing temperatures, even the light precipitation created major problems.