The founding collaborative partners of Graduate. It pays. began meeting when graduation rates were published for the first time for the 2005/2006 school year. School systems across the country tracked the 9th grade students entering high school in in 2002, the cohort, to determine how many graduated 4 years later. The answer, an average of 70% across the country, surprised most and highlighted a significant opportunity for improvement.
Graduate. It pays.' collaborative partners now number over 20. Our first order of business was to raise public awareness of the graduation challenge and build public will for addressing it. We need the entire community involved in the solution.
In September of 2007, the Winston-Salem Chamber of Commerce hosted an Education Summit for businesses and other community organizations, ministers spoke of the issue from the pulpit, and the United Way hosted events to educate their agencies and other nonprofits. The community became energized around raising our graduation rate.
One specifc opportunity was uncovered by the Winston-Salem/Forsyth County Schools and the Chamber of Commerce. We had over 220 high school seniors dropping out each year! They created the Senior Academy to connect Caring Adults in mentoring relationships with those seniors at risk of not graduating in the 2007/2008 school year.
In the 2008/2009 school year, Communities in Schools, already at work mentoring in schools and helping students in other important ways in the community, began matching Graduation Coaches with 10th and 11th graders in jeopardy of not graduating.
In the 2009/2010 school year, Big Brothers Big Sisters joined the effort and began matching Caring Adults in mentoring relationships with repeating 9th graders. BBBS is nationally recognized for their proven methods of one-to-one mentoring and this collaboration allowed them to add a new dimension to their Site-Based programming.
In all these programs, each year, 9 out of 10 of these students have advanced one grade, and in some cases two grades, or graduated!