By Nicole Anderson, Executive Director of Philanthropy
This week, I’m in Washington, D.C. for one of my favorite events of the year, The Building a GradNation Summit. This Summit is the annual focal point of the GradNation Campaign, a large and growing movement of dedicated individuals, organizations and communities pulling together to empower more young Americans to graduate from high school on time and ready for college and careers. The campaign was launched in 2010 by America’s Promise Alliance with an ambitious goal: achieving a 90 percent high school graduation rate nationwide by 2020.
My boys won’t enter high school until after 2020, so it’s important to me to do this work now so they can throw their graduation caps in the air with ALL their classmates. This issue is important to AT&T because each year approximately 25,000 new hires come through our doors, and it is critical that each one is able to hit the ground running with the skills necessary to succeed.
That’s why AT&T has committed $350 million through Aspire to help more kids graduate. We engage our employees in the effort, and partner with like-minded organizations such as America’s Promise Alliance, the Grad Nation Campaign, and countless others. Together we can focus our energy to reach the goal of a 90 percent graduation rate by 2020.
Since we embarked on this journey with Aspire in 2008, we’ve used the annual Building a Grad Nation report as our invaluable roadmap. It helps us take a look at where we’ve been, what we’ve accomplished, and most importantly, which insightful solutions we should consider as we move forward.
Today, we celebrate a very important milestone from this year’s report. For the second year in a row, America is on track to reach the 90 percent graduation goal by 2020, and for the first time in our history, we passed the milestone of 80 percent of young Americans graduating from high school. You may want to re-read that last sentence, especially where it says for the FIRST TIME in our history!
We can’t let this moment pass without acknowledging the significance of this achievement; but we also can’t get distracted. The task ahead of us remains ambitious, and it’s time to push the pedal to the metal. Ninety percent is in sight. But it’s that last 10 percent that needs our greatest effort yet.
Thankfully, this year’s report provides us with invaluable guidance on what to do next. And it helps funders, like us, identify where our support can have the greatest impact. It means focusing on closing the opportunity gap for low-income students, and particularly those students in big cities who still often have graduation rates in the 60s. It means focusing more attention on students with disabilities, and utilizing technology and innovative approaches to help them succeed.
It’s going to take all of us working together – parents, educators, students, non-profits, and the business community to keep driving forward. That’s why we’re working with America’s Promise to convene 100 Grad Nation Community Summits across the country, which kicked off this past fall and will continue through 2016.
What we love about sponsoring these summits is that they bring all parties to the table around this critical issue. By sharing with one another, we can leverage the most effective ideas and best practices for students at risk of dropping out.
This new video provides a glimpse into the great work happening in these summits from coast to coast. You’ll hear from students and community leaders who are unwavering in their commitment to increasing graduation rates in their communities.
The next six years, just like the last six will be full of detours, times where we need to change our direction, and times like today where we can stop for a moment and be grateful for how far we’ve come. I am confident that if we continue to work together, we’ll reach our goal and I look forward to celebrating that milestone with all of you!