Alma Powell

Official Announcement of 'Grad Nation' Campaign

delivered 1 March 2010

Audio AR-XE mp3 of Address


[AUTHENTICITY CERTIFIED: Text version below transcribed directly from audio]

Thank you, Colin -- Thank you, Colin. It is really a great pleasure for me to be here this morning and I'm very excited about our announcement today.

When people ask me what America's Promise means to me, I think about all the young people in the world, and what they need to succeed. I think about my own children. We have had the sheer joy of raising three young people to adulthood who now, in their own way, are giving back to their communities. But "to whom much is given, much is expected."1 And so our attention and our efforts turn to the young people of America.

Over the past two years, since we announced the Dropout Prevention Summits, our Alliance has convened Dropout Prevention Summits in every state, and 55 cities, bringing together all sectors of the community to address this urgent problem. Later this year, we will issue a report on the progress that was made since our collaborative dropout prevention work began.

But now it's time to turn awareness into sustained, concerted action. I'm excited to announce to you today the next phase of our work: We are undertaking a 10-year campaign to mobilize this nation to reverse the dropout crisis and ensure that our children are prepared for college and workforce.

This campaign will be called Grad Nation. Just 12 percent of our high schools account for over half of all dropouts. So Grad Nation will focus on these two thousand lowest performing schools and their neighborhoods.

Through our national alliance partners and their networks of local affiliates, we are are harnessing the power of community partnerships in places where the need and the potential impact will be the greatest -- especially in these 2000 neighborhoods. We will bring the power of the Five Promises into the lives of more children in ways that change the odds and change futures.

This effort would not be possible without the generosity of our partners and the support of the over 300 alliance partners that we have around the country. I want to specifically thank Brian Gallagher and recognize him and United Way -- Brian Gallagher, President and CEO of United Way. As a member of our Alliance's board of directors and trustees, Brian has helped to shape our work; and the entire United Way network is pursuing our shared goals. In these partners, and so many others, we see leaders who recognize that all of us must be part of the solution. And we have made a goal of enlisting 100 new business partners to join the Grad Nation campaign.

What we have to understand in this effort, and as we go forward -- and what I try to do is I raise awareness of the problem -- is we have to understand that there is no "they." In facing this problem, and working to alleviate it, there's just us. Just us. And so, we have to think of that, whether it's keeping young people in school, bringing them back to school, or making sure that they graduate with the skills for college and a career.

There is almost no limit to how organizations can help. For example, [unrecognized term at 3:39] has launched an initiative that focuses on at-risk young people falling off the track for graduation. Citizen Schools is engaging volunteers and afterschool education programs for middle schoolers. The First Tee is expanding its national schools program for students in grades K-5. And 4-H is reaching five million young people each year with learning experiences in science, engineering, and technology projects. 

But we all know that there's so many things that individuals can do; and each one of us has to ask everyday: What's my part in this? What can I do?

- Well, for starters you become more involved in the education of your own children and those that are their companions. Help connect them and others with the resources that they need for success.

- Tutor students after school.

- Be a mentor. Did you know that students who meet regularly with a mentor are 50 percent less likely to skip school? That caring adult who's always looking for them and welcomes them with a smile or a shoulder to lean on when they have a problem. It doesn't take a lot of effort do that -- just the will.

- You can be a part of a career exploration program. This is a proven way to keep students engaged and motivated.

- We can donate books to children. But more importantly, read to children. There are so many opportunities to do that around us everyday.

- Urge your school district to participate in our Gallop Student Poll, which measures some of the most reliable indicators of whether students are ready for the future. School districts and communities across the country are already using this poll data to determine new ways to help students succeed.

In all of these ways and more, we need individuals and organizations to be involved. We, with your help, have to mobilize all Americans.

I am very encouraged because often I turn on the radio and I hear these discussions. Just the other day on NPR, they were holding a town meeting at a school here in Washington [D.C.] where parents and educators that come together to talk about what it is these statistics mean and what we need to -- to do to change that. And that's good. We're glad that we have people talking about it; but now we want them to act on it.

Our campaign is more than a -- like a marathon than a sprint. We're not going to become a grad nation overnight, but working together we will be a grad nation; and we will secure our future as a great nation.

Since taking office just over a year ago, President Obama has made the education of our young people a key priority, even amid all the urgent priorities that I -- that he has. He and Secretary Duncan know, and fully understand, the challenge that we -- challenges that we face. They know that this must be our goal.

This is our goal here at America's Promise. This is what we are dedicated to. And we want everyone to understand and accept the role that all of us must play in this crucial issue. And I am happy that our President embraces this need and is committed to making a difference.

Book/CDs by Michael E. Eidenmuller, Published by McGraw-Hill (2008)

1 Luke 12:48

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