Central Standard

Thursday, March 05, 2015 - 13°F

A new school year and even more students on-track to graduate in Chicago!

Chicago is seeing sustained gains in the number of students successfully attaining their high school diplomas. Only a decade ago, nearly half of the high school population in Chicago Public School dropped out of the system. Now, thanks to earlier educational interventions, and the dedication and support of countless education professionals, parents, caregivers and community members, Chicago has seen its most dramatic high school graduation rate of 65.4%, a nearly 4% increase over the previous school year and an over 15% increase from just a decade ago. CPS also says 82% of all high school students are on-track to graduate. This steady growth in the number of youth successfully completing their high school education demonstrates that progress can be made. We can make it happen!

No matter the circumstances, all children deserve a chance to make the most of their lives. A high school diploma is a big first step in the right direction. While the increase in high school graduates is encouraging, over 30% of Chicago's high school population still will not earn a diploma. There's a long way to go. But with improved strategies to reach educationally at-risk students earlier and with the consistent guidance of caring, supportive adults, all of Chicago's youth can be American Graduates.

Increasing Chicago high school graduation rates

 American Graduate Day Saturday, September 27, 10:00 am - 5:00 pm (CT)

American Graduate Day is a seven-hour multimedia event highlighting the people and organizations working to encourage students to commit to staying on a path to high school graduation. The goal of this event is to bring attention to the work being done in communities nationwide and inspire more people to get involved.

As part of the national broadcast, WTTW shares the stories of local organizations who work to create positive outcomes for youth and their families in Chicago. Brandis Friedman, a correspondent for Chicago Tonight, conducted the interviews. The following are just a few of the American Graduate Champions making a difference in the lives of youth in Chicago.

Ounce of Prevention Fund
The Ounce of Prevention Fund goal is that all American children, particularly those born into poverty, have quality early childhood experiences in first five years of life.  The Ounce serves over 4,000 children and families at multiple sites in Chicago and through home visiting programs.   The Ounce provides professional development opportunities and advocates for state and federal funding for early childhood services.   In addition, the Ounce designs and develops models, curriculum, materials and programs that help prevent the academic achievement gap and the social problems it can create, including low graduation rates.

Gads Hill Center
Gads Hill Center serves families in the west and southwest communities of Chicago with programming that provides early childhood education, academic support and enrichment, social-emotional development and family support. Programs include home visits for pregnant mothers and young children, center-based early childhood education, after-school academic support, middle school mentoring and STEM-focused college readiness for high school students.  Gads Hill Center relies on volunteers to supplement the services provided by staff.   

Chicago Literacy Alliance
Chicago Literacy Alliance (CLA) is an association of over 60 agencies operating in and around the city to help meet literacy needs for people of all ages and backgrounds. CLA is passionately committed to fostering cooperation and collaboration with a mission to help people receive the critical literacy support they need. CLA member organizations work with CPS schools in nearly every neighborhood in Chicago hosting Literacy Nights and donating more than 1.5 million books to children and their families each year.

Chicago Youth Centers
Chicago Youth Centers (CYC) is a nimble, innovative organization with a 58-year legacy of impact in the city of Chicago. CYC prepares children for lifelong success by surrounding them with transformative social capital: deliberate and intentional programs, family support, and community resources. Through eight centers on the south and west sides of Chicago, a residential camp in Michigan, and numerous partner sites throughout the city, CYC provides critical academic, social, and emotional support for children ages 3-18.  Ultimately, impact is realized by empowering families to break the persistent cycles of poverty and violence and helping bridge the employable skills gap. CYC believes in our future together because we realize the potential in every child. 

Youth Guidance’s Becoming A Man (B.A.M) program
Youth Guidance creates and implements school-based programs that enable at-risk children to overcome obstacles, focus on their education and, ultimately, to succeed in school and in life.  It serves over 14,000 at risk youth in 70 Chicago Public and charter schools.  Becoming A Man (B.A.M) program is a dropout and violence prevention program for at-risk male students in grades 7-12. 

City Year – Chicago
City Year is an education-focused nonprofit organization that unites young people of all backgrounds for a year of full-time service to keep students in school and on track to graduation. In 21 schools across Chicago, teams of highly-trained corps members serve full-time as tutors, mentors and role models. By focusing on attendance, behavior and course performance, which identify students who are at risk of dropping out, corps members are uniquely able to help students and schools succeed.

United Way of Metropolitan Chicago
United Way of Metropolitan Chicago serves as the backbone organization generating, convening and coordinating resources across funders, service providers, government and civic leaders to deliver large-scale, measurable and sustainable impact across our region.  Visit their website to learn more about the on-the-ground programs they support and the volunteers they need to succeed.

Brighton Park Neighborhood Council
BPNC is a community based, nonprofit organization serving the Brighton Park neighborhood of Chicago.  

Central Standard: On Education
Central Standard: On Education is a groundbreaking 9-part documentary series co-produced by WTTW Chicago and Scrappers Film Group, in collaboration with PBS Digital Studios.   It focuses on education in Chicago and the surrounding region as seen through the eyes of five 8th grade students attending five very different publicly-funded schools as they strive to make it into one of the region’s top public high schools.  A goal of this series is to give voice to real people in the system – to provide insight into the causes of educational disparities and an on-the-ground perspective. 

Aspire of Illinois
Aspire CareerLink is a work training enterprise that utilizes real-world work environments and a specialized curriculum to prepare adults with disabilities for meaningful careers.  

Young Chicago Authors
Young Chicago Authors (YCA) transforms the lives of young people by cultivating their voices through writing, publication, and performance education.    All programs are free and provide bus passes and snacks for participants.  YCA also provides workshops and short-term residencies for many Chicago Public Schools and community partners.   While YCA welcomes participants of all ages, they generally serve youth ranging from ages 13-24.  It is the non-profit home of Louder Than A Bomb, the largest youth poetry festival in the world.

Communities In Schools of Chicago
Communities In Schools (CIS) of Chicago is a non-profit organization that provides Chicago public school students with the supports they need to learn, stay in school, and prepare for life. The organization partners with schools and community organizations to support about 60,000 students a year with social-emotional, academic enrichment, physical and mental health, and other types of programs targeted to address students’ needs. For students most at risk of falling off-track for graduation, CIS of Chicago provides individualized, case-managed support. 

CPS Office of Student Support and Engagement in College & Career Success
Chicago Public Schools is committed to putting every student in every neighborhood on a path to graduate ready for success in college and career.  To that end, in February 2013, the District launched three community-based Student Outreach and Re-Engagement (SOAR) Centers in Garfield Park, Little Village/Pilsen, and Roseland; three communities in which a significant population of youth are currently out-of-school or have become significantly off-track to graduate high school. The mission of SOAR is to lead direct outreach to youth to re-engage them in their education.  Student Engagement Specialists at SOAR support students in making long term goals and preparing for re-entry in school, while also providing continued support post-enrollment to make sure students stay on-track. Currently, CPS is one of the only urban school districts across the country that prepares students for school reentry through a two week workshop focusing on reflection and helping student build self-advocacy skills.  Many students who have either dropped out or have not been successful in traditional schools find success in the District's options schools, which provide the opportunity to re-enter and graduate with a high school diploma.  Last year alone, more than 1,700 students enrolled in SOAR Centers.         

One Goal
As the nation's only teacher-led college persistence organization, One Goal identifies, trains and supports the teachers to lead underperforming high school students to reach their full potential and graduate from college.  Learn more about One Goal’s work in Chicago schools and what you can do to get involved at their website.  

YMCA of Metro Chicago
The YMCA of Metropolitan Chicago develops strong children, families and communities through academic readiness, character development, violence prevention, fitness and healthy living. The Y's Achievers Program gives youth the chance to develop the career development and life-planning skills that are essential for future success, adults the opportunity to serve as role models for future leaders, and companies the opportunity to invest in the youth of today and build tomorrow’s workforce.

About the American Graduate Initiative

American Graduate: Let’s Make It Happen! is a public media initiative funded by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting to help local communities across America find solutions to address the dropout crisis. This initiative builds on public media’s long-standing commitment to education.

WTTW, along with CPB and America’s Promise Alliance, are working to raise awareness and community engagement around the dropout crisis. Through informative television programs, resources on this website and special segments on our flagship nightly news magazine Chicago Tonight, we will build awareness of what individuals and organizations are doing to help increase positive outcomes for Chicago's youth. We will work with entities within the community that are dedicated to educating, empowering and supporting bright futures for young people to dispel the myth that this problem is too big to solve and bring people together to help students stay on the path to high school graduation.

View a list of WTTW’s American Graduate Community Partners

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