Oakland Community Gathers For GradNation Summit, Forges Path To 90 Percent Graduation Rate By 2020

by LP Green, II

America’s Promise Alliance and Oakland Unified School District’s Office of African American Male Achievement today convened Oakland’s first GradNation Community Summit, with major support from AT&T Aspire. The conference focused on increasing graduation rates for boys of color, and will produce a community action plan outlining steps to achieve that goal.

The Oakland GradNation summit is part of a national effort of 100 summits co-sponsored by America’s Promise Alliance through the GradNation program, a large and growing movement of dedicated individuals, organizations and communities working together to raise the national high school graduation rate to 90 percent by 2020, with no school graduating fewer than 80 percent of its students on time.

Over 120 community officials, business leaders, educators, parents and youth participated in the Oaklandsummit, engaging in breakout sessions such as “Don’t Call Them Dropouts” and a youth leadership-led panel from students across the district highlighting their experiences and ideas to keep kids engaged and focused on a path to college or career.  Representatives from the Oakland Unified School District Board of Education, numerous local high schools, Summer Search, 100 Black Men of the Bay Area, and many other community groups participated in the summit.

Rep. Barbara Lee (D-Oakland) highlighted the event, lending her support to the community groups’ efforts to address the dropout crisis in Oakland and offering her expertise in the policy area.

“The dropout rate amongst young men of color remains far too high. We need to ensure that our education system allows every student to achieve while opening opportunities for good-paying job or higher education after high school,” said Congresswoman Barbara Lee. “Today’s summit started a larger conversation about addressing this crisis. OUSD’s Office of African American Male Achievement is doing great work to put students on a path to success but we must continue to do more. As a member of the Appropriations and Budget Committees, I will continue to fight for the federal resources and policies that will help every student succeed.”

The premier sponsor of the national GradNation Community Summits campaign is AT&T, whose support is part of AT&T Aspire, the company’s $350 million commitment to graduate more students from high school ready for college and career.

“We know that graduation rates go up when students are enrolled in programs that expose them to college and career opportunities – that’s what the AT&T Aspire program is all about,” said Ken McNeely, President of AT&T California. “Oakland is one community that is addressing the dropout crisis head on, particularly for students of color, and we’re proud to be a part of the effort.”

America’s Promise Alliance recently released the 2013 Building a GradNation report, which found that for the first time, the nation is on track to meet the goal of 90 percent national graduation rate by the class of 2020. The report found the national high school graduation rate increased 6.5 percentage points since 2001 with an average growth of 1.25 percentage points each year from 2006-2010 to its current rate of 78.2 percent.

“The progress we are seeing toward the national goal of raising graduation rates is based on communities coming together to support and insist on better outcomes for young people,”  said John Gomperts, president and CEO, America’s Promise Alliance. “Summits like the event in Oakland are rallying points for communities.  America’s Promise is delighted to support this effort and work with the leaders in Oakland and communities across the country to help advance this campaign.”

For more information and to learn how to get involved visit www.americaspromise.org.

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