This year if you were to visit a class of 40 students, on average by the end of the year ten of those 40 students will have dropped out of that school. In a school of two thousand students, that would be five hundred dropouts. Frightening numbers, aren’t they?
General Colin Powell founded America’s Promise Alliance over a decade ago. In 2010, America’s Promise launched the Grad Nation campaign to fight back against the dropout trend. According to the America’s Promise Alliance website:
Grad Nation is a large and growing movement of dedicated individuals, organizations and communities working together to end America’s dropout crisis. Grad Nation goals include achieving a 90 percent graduation rate nationwide by 2020, with no high school graduating less than 80 percent of its students, and regaining America’s standing as first in the world in college completion.Grad Nation is a 10-year initiative focused on mobilizing Americans to end the dropout crisis and ensure that young people have the supports they need for college and a 21st century career.
The above numbers are an average because the nation’s lowest-performing high schools actually account for about 50 percent of all young people who drop out of school. Grad Nation concentrates special attention on the communities surrounding these schools.
What Grad Nation found was that students who have five things, or five promises, fulfilled in their lives have a greater chance of finishing school, of making good grades and of contributing to their communities and avoiding violence.
The five promises important for the success of high school students are caring adults, safe places, a healthy start, effective education and opportunities to help others. Young people must experience these critical supports in their families, at schools and out in their communities throughout their lives for success.
I find it insightful that one of those supports is about helping others. One of my favorite quotations is by Antoine De Saint Exupery that “When you give yourself, you receive more than you give.” It’s so true.
Grad Nation has worked to find Promise Places to provide these supports for students. Promise Places include schools, churches, community organizations, businesses or any other place that provides all five promises to young people.
America’s Promise and AT&T have also begun an alliance of young leaders from across the nation called Impact Network which unites and empowers youth to take action to address the challenges facing their communities. These young people have the opportunity to put their ideas into action using Idea Grants funded by AT&T.
At the beginning of this year, ReadyNation joined America’s Promise to expand support for early childhood as a key starting point in improving high school graduation rates and delivering the Five Promises.
All of these programs are useless without participation from organizations and individuals. If you are concerned about dropouts in your community, I urge you to contact America’s Promise and see what you can do to help. It’s impossible to ignore the seriousness of this problem when one fourth of all students are not graduating from high school in America. Think about it at the beginning of this school year.