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'American Graduate' Program Combats Dropout Rate



Wilmer Valderrama is just one of the celebrities supporting the American Graduate initiative.

The Corporation for Public Broadcasting (CPB) is taking aim at the nation’s high school graduation rates with a significant public media initiative to help them improve.

Recognizing a need to help students stay on the path to graduation, the CPB, with participation from PBS, America’s Promise Alliance and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, is announcing an innovative new program, American Graduate, to combat the dropout crisis in this country.

“Public radio and television stations are deeply rooted in the communities they serve, and they have demonstrated time and again that they are an important resource in helping to address critical issues, such as the mortgage crisis, at the local level,” said Patricia Harrison, president and CEO of CPB. “Through American Graduate, public media will ‘make it happen’ by helping communities take on a new challenge – high school graduation rates – to create a more promising future for our children, the economy and the entire nation.”

American Graduate expands on public media’s record of success in early childhood education to reach students in middle school, which experts say is a critical point when the disengagement that leads to dropping out in high school often begins.

Local public radio and television stations are at the core of the initiative and are uniquely positioned to educate and engage various stakeholders on the dropout problem, rally support and help coordinate efforts in communities, something proponents say is crucial to a solution.

These stations, located in 20 community “hubs” where the dropout crisis is most acute, will provide their resources and services to raise awareness, coordinate action with community partners, and work directly with students, parents, teachers, mentors, volunteers and leaders to lower the dropout rate in their respective communities.

CPB will initially grant $4.4 million to the 20 market hubs, which serve as the core of community interest and activity around high school graduation rates. As many as 40 more markets will receive grants through the National Center for Media Engagement.

While 92 percent of high schoolers believe they will graduate, only seven out of every 10 actually do. That figure falls to fewer than six out of every 10 when it comes to African-American, Hispanic, Native American, low-income and urban students. Every year, more than a million students drop out of high school. If that trend continues, over the next 10 years, it will cost the nation more than $3 trillion in lost wages, productivity and taxes.

The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, through support to CPB’s Teacher Town Halls and the StoryCorps National Teachers Initiative, will give teachers a way to share their perspectives and experiences with helping all students graduate high school prepared for college and careers.

CPB has created an American Graduate Facebookpage to generate supporters. The page features celebrities such as Wilmer Valderrama who are stumping for the cause. Other celebrities openly supporting the initiative include America Ferrera and Hill Harper.