obama_with_hs_students.jpgDo you remember the commencement speaker at your high school graduation? Well, this year the event will be absolutely memorable for one lucky high school class when President Obama climbs the podium to offer inspiration to the national winner of his President’s Commencement Challenge.

The White House and the Department of Education announced last week a new contest, inviting public schools across the country to “Race to the Top”, and show how they are making strides toward personal responsibility, academic excellence and college readiness.

(Right: White House photo by Pete Souza)

Interested high school students will submit a two-minute video or written essay demonstrating how their school is helping prepare students to meet the President’s 2020 goal of having the highest proportion of college graduates in the world.  Applications will be judged based on the school’s performance and dedication to providing students an excellent education that will prepare them to graduate ready for college and career choices. Apply for the Commencement Challenge here.

The Obama Administration took additional steps to address the drop-out epidemic this week, beginning with a pledge of $900 million in grants to states and education districts that agree to drastically transform or even close their worst performing schools.

Only about 70 percent of high school freshmen go on to graduate, and the problem affects blacks and Latinos at particularly high rates. In total, more than one million students drop out each year.

obama-black-boy-suit.jpgThe president’s plan would seek to help 5,000 of the nation’s lowest-performing schools over the next five years.

The $900 million for School Turnaround Grants is part of Obama’s 2011 budget proposal, reported the AP yesterday. “That money is in addition to $3.5 billion to help low-performing schools that was in last year’s economic stimulus bill.”

The administration also is putting $50 million into dropout prevention strategies, including personalized instruction and support to keep students engaged in learning — with the goal of making sure that 90 percent of today’s fourth-graders graduate from high school on time.

One of those initiatives is being led by a former Sec. of State, Gen. Colin Powell, who is founder and chairman of America’s Promise, an alliance started in 1997 that joins corporations, nonprofits, faith-based organizations and advocacy groups in boosting childhood success.

colin-powell-wife-amcs-promise.jpgGen. Powell and his wife Alma joined President Obama and Secretary of Education Arne Duncan to announce on Monday a new 10-year campaign, called Grad Nation, that will mobilize Americans to help end the high school dropout crisis.

“For the past two years, America’s Promise Alliance has been traveling the country, raising awareness about how high dropout rates and low readiness for college and work undermine our nation’s future,” said Gen. Powell. “In nearly all 50 states and 55 cities, we have convened high-level Dropout Prevention Summits that brought together nearly 30,000 mayors and governors, business and community leaders, school administrators, students and parents, who are now committed to concrete action plans to improve graduation rates in their states and communities.”


school-lockers.jpgThe White House is backing an effort by the Ad Council to give you the chance to inspire specific kids to stay in school.

BoostUp.org is the website — founded in ’06 by the US Army and the Ad Council. It allows people to send a few encouraging words to a student who may be having a hard time in school, or is thinking of dropping out.

Read stories and see photos of real teens throughout the country with struggles caused by jobs, family, or peer pressure. Send them a text, an email or just a pat on the back.

Give a boost to a student right now — your words may be just the nudge to help steer them away from becoming one of the 7,000 kids on average who drop-out on any given day.


  • Click to volunteer in your community. Donate books or tutor students. Students who meet regularly with a mentor are 50% less likely to skip school.
  • Click to b part of a career exploration program.  In Florida, Manatee County’s career exploration program for at-risk youth helped the community raise its graduation rate from just 50% to 75%. 
  • Subscribe to America’s Promise Alliance Bulletin to stay informed about the work of the Alliance.
  • Help young people in foster care. You don’t have to be a foster parent; click here to find out how you can help.

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