America’s Promise expands dropout prevention efforts with launch of Grad Nation Community Summit Series

04 Apr 2013 | AT&T

Tagged: Possibilities, Aspire,

Summits will be Centerpiece of Alma J. Powell Community Action Fund and Focus on Accelerating Local Efforts to Reach Grad Nation Goal of 90 Percent Graduation Rate by 2020

America’s Promise Alliance today announced it will work with community partners to convene 100 Grad Nation Community Summits across the country over the next four years.  These Summits will be supported by the Alma J. Powell Community Action Fund, a campaign to raise $75 million over the next eight years to support efforts to dramatically increase high school graduation rates.  The first 15 Summits will be held in 2013 and confirmed locations include:  Birmingham, AL; Jackson, MS; Minneapolis/St. Paul, MN; Providence, RI, Toledo, OH and Tucson, AZ. The Grad Nation Community Summits will be supported by Premier Sponsor AT&T, the Mike & Gillian Goodrich Foundation, the Apollo Group, and the DeVry Foundation.

The Grad Nation Community Summits will bring together leaders from all sectors to examine local data, identify what’s working and where there are challenges and explore promising practices and proven solutions to support young people in and out-of-school . Communities will also prepare a plan to accelerate this work to help meet the Grad Nation goal of a 90 percent graduation rate by 2020 and find ways to better integrate the Five Promises into this work.  Identified by researchers as the essential resources all young people need to be successful, the Five Promises are:  caring adults; safe places; a healthy start; an effective education and opportunities to serve. 

America’s Promise also announced today that the Grad Nation Community Impact Fund, first launched at a White House Education Roundtable in July 2011 would be renamed the Alma J. Powell Community Action Fund as a living and lasting legacy to the leadership of Mrs. Powell, the current board chair of America’s Promise and one of its co-founders. 

Both announcements were made today at an event at Social Venture in Birmingham, AL, Mrs. Powell’s hometown and the site of one of the first Grad Nation Community Summits this fall. The event featured remarks from Mrs. Powell, Birmingham Mayor William Bell, Pulitzer Prize Winning Author Diane McWhorter, President of AT&T Alabama Fred McCallum and Mike Goodrich of the Mike & Gillian Goodrich Foundation.

“It’s often said that education is the civil rights issue of our day. As I stand here in Birmingham on the 50th anniversary year of the civil rights movement, I know this is true,” said Mrs. Powell. “The civil rights movement was about eliminating barriers so that all Americans could have access to the American dream.  We’ve made great progress but there is still much we need to do to and nowhere is this more evident than in the opportunity and education gap facing our youth. Every child deserves the opportunity to succeed. That’s why we created America’s Promise. Real change happens at the local level and that is why this Fund and these community Summits are critical to our work.”

A critical element of each Grad Nation Community Summit will be the development of a multi-year action plan that adopts metrics and outlines a process for communities to hold themselves accountable for progress.  As part of the Grad Nation Summit initiative, communities will be asked to identify their greatest challenge(s) and the groups most impacted and solutions that use the Five Promises and meet local needs. The communities will also commit to becoming a part of the Grad Nation movement and adopting the 90 percent goal and to sharing best practices from their work for inclusion in the forthcoming Grad Nation Knowledge Center, an online platform that will feature information on the most effective research assessed programs around youth for communities and individuals to access.  

“Recent news that for the first time we are on the right path to reach a 90 percent graduation rate by 2020 is a testament to the work Mrs. Powell and America’s Promise have spearheaded,” said Charlene Lake, senior vice president of public affairs and chief sustainability officer at AT&T.  “The business community has a huge stake in this issue, and working with educators, parents and nonprofits at the local level is the best way to ensure we stay on track.  Our collective future depends on it, and it will take all of us working together to achieve it.”

The Grad Nation Community Summits initiative is part of the Grad Nation Campaign, a large and growing movement of dedicated individuals, organizations and communities working together to raise the national high school graduation rate to 90 percent by 2020, with no school graduating fewer than 80 percent of its students on time. These Community Summits build on the work initiated as part of America’s Promise Alliance’s Dropout Prevention Campaign, which brought together more than 33,000 people in all 50 states and the District of Columbia to learn more about the dropout crisis and begin a dialogue on solutions around it. Conducted between 2007-2010, the campaign was the first large scale dropout prevention summit effort of its kind and is widely credited with helping drive an increase in the level of national and local awareness of the high school dropout crisis. An analysis by Duke University found those Summits helped increase political, financial and public support and collaboration around this work as well as spawned new programs and initiatives to lower dropout rates. 

Resources from the Fund have already supported community work in New Orleans, LA; Houston, TX; Jackson, MS and the Mississippi Gulf Coast and technical assistance and some financial support to Grad Nation Communities around the country.  The Fund will continue to support community level dropout prevention work with the focus of these efforts anchored with the Grad Nation Community Summits.

The 2013 Building a Grad Nation report found that for the first time the nation is on track to meet the goal of 90 percent national graduation rate by the class of 2020. The report found the national high school graduation rate increased 6.5 percentage points since 2001 with an average growth of 1.25 percentage points each year from 2006-2010 to 78.2 percent.

This content originally appeared on the America's Promise Alliance Website.

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